At 24, Voltairine de Cleyre appeared before Philadelphia’s Unity Congregation to deliver a lecture, provocatively titled “Sex Slavery.”
She appealed to the assembled crowd: “Let woman ask herself, ‘Why am I the slave of man? Why is my brain said not to be the equal of his brain? Why is my work not paid equally with his?’ ”
The year was 1890.
It was a time of rampant income inequality, stifling social roles for women and church-mandated morality, and many in the growing American middle class were ready for change.