By late 1923, Smedley's »revolutionary marriage« was disintegrating, even though in many ways Chatto was a better match for her than Ernest Brundin. She shared Chatto's revolutionary goals; they agreed to make political work, and not childrearing, their cementing concern. Both had been married and had come together only after separately establishing their credentials within the independence movement. Emotionally, both were intense and moralistic, with a burning need to exert themselves in the larger body politic. But Chatto's jealous rages over Smedley's »premarital affairs« had finally shattered her self-esteem. In letters to Karin Michaelis and Florence Lennon, she tried to generalize about her predicament:
I assure you, Florence, that when you marry your desired man, you will suffer tortures of which you do not today dream, at the hands of your husband, because you have dared use your vagina before you met him. Before you marry him, he will talk of freedom, of liberty, and [your equal right] to have lived and loved. But wait until the sense of property enters his head after marriage!...
Before I met my husband I had had relations with other men. I had been married once. All this I told my husband when we were married [so] that there might be no misunderstanding. He also had lived with many women and was not only once married but is married to this day—his wife is an English woman and lives in England... [But] after one month, my husband began to accuse me of being a woman of weak character because I had had sex relations with other men. And he said that he »got the leavings« from other men. Now when a man strikes at a woman like that, in view of the fact that he is also »the leavings from other women« it is not only unethical, it is contrary to all the laws of decency and fair play. But I was sick and I felt guilty. He also locked me up from the Indians, and refused to let me go into the Indian work, [saying that] the Indians would learn of my sex life and ruin him because of it. For three years he refused to let me write... He was hostile and bitter because I wanted to write and said it was only a desire to »show off.« And if I wrote I was to write only the things he told me to write, in order that he might see whether or not they were correct. So I did not write at all. Each month I became sicker and sicker until I began to have serious nervous attacks, something like epileptic fits, in which I would lose control of my body and mind, fall to the floor and tremble for five or ten minutes. I lost all ability to sleep and for ten months became a drug fiend, taking stronger and stronger sleeping powders. Then I would try to rebel, or when I would talk back to my husband about these things, he attacked me physically. Three times he choked me and bit me, and after these attacks I fell to the floor in these terrible fits.
I will never forgive him... When any other human being strikes at the spiritual and intellectual life of a person, he may as well drive a knife into his heart and be finished with it.
Hampered by her poor command of German, Smedley's political community in Germany was mainly a small circle of anarchist-syndicalist friends like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Goldman's admiration for Smedley's courage in seeking her out in Moscow had been their initial link. Her lifelong friend and former lover Alexander Berkman found Smedley all the more interesting when he learned that part of her childhood had been spent near Ludlow, before the massacre of 1914. Goldman had passed through Denver just after the strike and was upset when labor leaders rejected her offers of support. Berkman did much to publicize the massacre and is alleged to have been the chief strategist in an aborted attempt to place a bomb on the Rockefeller estate, in protest. By 1923, Smedley and Chatto were regularly attending study group meetings with Goldman, Berkman, and some of the leading anarchist thinkers in Europe, including the German Rudolf Rocker and the Italian Armando Borghi, a former associate of Mussolini's. Although working with and intellectually exploring anarchist-syndicalist ideology, to Lennon in New York Smedley portrayed herself as holding back from total commitment:
Miss Miller [a friend in New York] is romantic. She thinks that if there is a Monarchist Reaction here I would suffer. Not at all. I know some of the most prominent Monarchists and some of them are very interesting and cultured people. I don't agree with their political opinions, but I render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. If I were in trouble from the Monarchists, I'd go to such people and ask them what they mean. Similarly with the Revolutionaries. Of course, I work with the Syndicalists and Anarchists, [so that] if the Communists came [into power], I'd perhaps get my head chopped off, for of all people most hated by the Communists, the Anarchists and Syndicalists stand in the first rank, even ahead of Hitler and his gang.
You need not worry yourself thinking if there is a revolution that I'll run out on a barricade and dare them to shoot me. Thanks. I've decided not to die for a time yet. And if I do, it won't be in Germany. [February 16, 1924]
Not surprisingly, given this company, Smedley expressed her feelings about her personal problems by continuing her assault on marriage as an institution. Arguing with Florence Lennon on the nature of man-woman relationships, she had written on November 12, 1923:
You say... that although girls should not be feebleminded, they should not attempt to take the place of men in nature. I answer this: I do not know just what woman's »place in nature« happens to be, except sexually—that »place« is quite clearly marked out. But as to socially, I do not know but that nature has been mauled over the head by men, and woman has been forced to occupy positions for which she is not fitted by nature, but which she is forced to fill only because it pleases the vanity of men. I think the development of the human species in the future is going to see woman occupying a place other than she occupies today. Your line of argument is dangerous: the old-time gentlemen used such arguments when they said women should not enter churches, when women could not sit in anti-slavery congresses because of their sex, when they were not able to vote because of their sex, when they were forced out of the medical, legal, and every other profession because of their sex. To the old reactionaries—may their souls roast forever—women were trying to »take the place of men in nature.«
I have no objection to a man being a man, however masculine that may be. I hate female men. But I see no reason why a woman should not grow and develop in all those outlets which are suited to her nature, it matters not at all what they may be. No one yet knows what a man's province is, and how far that province, as conceived of today, is artificial. There are many men—such as those often to be found among the Indians—who are refined until they have qualities often attributed to the female sex. Yet they are men, and strong ones. I am not willing to accept our present social standards of woman's place or man's place, because I do not think that present society is rational or normal, either as regards men or women or the classes. I bow to nature, but I don't bow to a social system which has its foundation in the desires of a dominant class for power. That system perverts the very source of life, starting with the home and the schools. Thousands of women are crushed and [made] inarticulate by that system and never develop as their natures would force them to develop were they in a decent environment.
I do not know whether you have me in mind when you say that a »trained nurse or a revolutionary may abnegate his or her personal happiness and re-productiveness for what seems to him a larger cause, but for that reason he need not limit himself with the niggardly attitude of sour grapes.« I believe that I am a type of many revolutionaries. And to us, our work is our personal happiness. Personally I have no objection to women having as many babies as they want. What I do hate is for men, particularly, to think that a woman who does not have a bunch of children hanging around her skirt is damned forever more. Furthermore, happiness does not lie [only] in ^productiveness... As for sex, I shall certainly help myself to it when I feel that I need it. But as for children, there are too many women today who merely breed without purpose. To my manner of thinking, to give birth to a child is a terrible thing unless you think you know the meaning of life and why you are bringing new life into existence...
You say: »My point is this: each of us is strongest when functioning along the lines he was originally intended for.« That sounds to me as if you have accepted the idea of God, and that this gentleman »originally intends« us to be or do something. To me, life is a development only, and there is no intention about it. Because I am born a woman does not mean I can only do certain things and nothing else. Physically only do I admit that.
Nor do I deny what you say about the influence of love. But I can't place love too far in the foreground of life today because I see [for] myself that love is usually divorced from reason, and that it can be perverted and warped. To me now, as always before, love is nothing but sex in action... And to my point of view, intelligence is of equal importance in the universe; to me it is far more important... because it is such a child in the scheme of the universe. Emotion is as old as life, but the intellect is so young that it must be cherished. And it is precious enough to cherish.
Writing in this vein may have brought Smedley some temporary relief, but her friends were alarmed by her personal situation and urged her to seek help again, this time from a woman psychoanalyst. Smedley agreed. Backed into a corner by Chatto, who derided psychoanalysis as priestcraft and superstition, she felt a desperate need for a breakthrough. As she told Florence on December 8, about a month after beginning work with a new analyst: »I prefer death to these spells and to sleeplessness... Upon my analysis my life depends; there is not a shadow of doubt in my mind now.«
Smedley's new analyst was a middle-aged woman, Frau Dr. Elizabeth Naef, an associate of the Berlin Psychoanalytical Institute.*
(* Little is known of Naef except that she was jewish and a Socialist; her father, named Rosenbaum, was an official in the Lithuanlan legation in Berlin in the twenties; and she was married and had children. After she died in 1933, Ernest jones eulogized her as follows: "Berlin has suffered the loss of Frau Dr. Naef, a woman whose striking personality gave her an influence much greater than strangers might suppose from her writings. I first met her in Zurich in 1907 and always esteemed her as a valued colleague" (Ernest Jones, "Report," International journal of Psychoanalysis 15 : 516).
At this time, the Institute was building an international reputation as the world's most important psychoanalytic training center. Loosely affiliated with the University of Berlin, it departed from Freud's Vienna group in promoting research into the social causes of emotional disturbance and requiring all its practitioners to be medical doctors. Its early members included Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, Melanie Klein, and Wilhelm Reich.
When Smedley began analysis with Naef in late 1923, the issue of the development of the feminine identity was being hotly debated among members of the Institute. Horney, among others, was challenging Freud's theories of the »castration complex« and »penis envy« and was also questioning the ideal of monogamous marriage. Dr. Naef, however, was apparently a more orthodox Freudian than Karen Horney. After three weeks of analysis, on November 27 Smedley wrote to Florence: »I am too young in the analysis business to tell you what is wrong with me. But you may be interested to know that I have a deep castration complex which colors all my relationships. I gained the earliest impression that I was made into a girl by my penis having been cut off! Someday I'll be able to relate many interesting things to you. You may, however, get some light on my contempt for women as a sex and at the same time my bitter feminism. Likewise my lifelong man-ishness.« Two weeks earlier she had written: »My doctor is wonderful. Aside from the real help I get from analysis, I find it frightfully interesting as a study. When I find the origin of things which hurt me, I'm so interested that I forget to be hurt. Really, it is quite an uncanny business.« Recovering her sense of humor, she also offered Florence a »comic-supplement« of »Babuisms,« the efforts of »half-baked Indians trying to write English poetry.« One example was: »On the trodden sands of time / I saw the footprints of a vanished hand.«
As her self-assertiveness returned, Smedley wrote the first article she had published in almost two years: in »Starving Germany,« for the November 28 issue of the Nation, she reported on the desperate situation caused by inflation and rising unemployment. She had resolved to earn her living by writing, but when this article brought her a check for only $17.50 from the Nation, she had to reconsider, for her analysis alone cost $62 a month. Florence had sent $20 in two letters in November and had promised to send $30 more, but she also reported that she had been unable to sell the rather gaudy sari and broken string of pearls that Smedley had sent her. Smedley advertised for typing work, and when the American Embassy answered to invite her for an interview, she went—at great risk, because she had no passport to show. After extended questioning, an embassy official told her that no typing job was available. But in her determination to become self-reliant, she refused to confide in her »husband.« As she explained to Florence on November 12: »I have never told Chatto about the arrival of the money [you sent] or about the money I pay my analyst. He is so bitter because I am being analyzed that there is little communication between us.«
On December 1, Smedley decided to quit analysis until she could pay for it herself. But after only five days without Dr. Naef, her throat convulsions returned and she sank into a suicidal depression. In response to Florence's urging that she return to the United States, she said that she intended to return, but only after analysis was completed. On December 8, she wrote again, pleading for money: »Please try to understand. You have done more than your share for me. I feel it an imposition even to write this to you. I have no right. Yet I have no one else.« As Smedley later admitted, she was turning once again to »sleeping powders« or drugs to help her face life without analysis and combat new convulsions. Florence Lennon and Josephine Bennett quickly responded by sending her enough money to pay her doctor's bill.
As she told Florence on December 20, she was trying to fight her way toward some sense of purpose: »During the days I try to do things— work, sing, beat the piano—to bring myself back to a realization of reality; I try to bring back the illusion (you say I'm cheated if I don't have it) of life. So I try to bury myself in trivial things.« But by January 3 she had to report a serious two-day attack: »I have been sick. I had hallucinations that Chatto was locking my door and was going to murder me. Yet I was awake and not dreaming and I found myself screaming in the middle of the night.« During this crisis, with Smedley threatening to leave immediately for America, their landlady telephoned Dr. Naef, who began treating Smedley again on January 3 and agreed to carry her bill until she »could afford to pay.« Chatto, terrified by this episode, finally acquiesced in her continuing analysis.
Smedley welcomed Dr. Naef's support in her battle to rebuild a positive image of herself as a writer. By contrast, she resented the »realistic« suggestion of her former sister-in-law, Thorberg Haberman, that she seek financial help from Chatto's upper-class relatives so that she could return to New York and open a Hindu restaurant. On January 19, after noting that she had recently sold articles to Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Berlin's largest newspapers, Smedley wrote to Florence: »As for starting a Hindu restaurant (!), I'd about as soon start a Thompson's lunch room! If I return, I go as a reporter or writer on the New York World, on which I am practically assured a good position. That prospect draws me continually.... I love Thor, and I'd do anything for her—but start a restaurant. I can't cook, and I hate it; I can't buy; I can't add two and two together, so as a bookkeeper I am out of the question. I have but one work: writing. I'd rather starve and write than make a good living in a restaurant.« She went on to imply that she was successfully working through her writer's block
I realize that I speak better than I write. Why, I don't know. I hope analysis will free my mind from my idea (of very early origin) that anything in books represents the god-like, and that [anything] in myself represents the vile. I need time, is all. When I have a good day I feel equal to anything... As my doctor says, I am more or less dominating and masculine in mind and character. [She] says I have forced my way through three generations of culture in 31 years, and in the process I have hidden, repressed, and suppressed every tendency which seemed to belong to a... lower characteristic of human nature. Even with her I fight for days and days before I will admit a fact which has always seemed base to me. Even she seems mechanical in her interpretations at times. I admit the love of my father—it was an early recognition and I didn't oppose it at all—and I admit a dislike of my mother. All such things I admit freely and without conflict. They are simple things compared to spiritual cravings.
Nor do I agree with you that my castration complex [means simply] that »I have wanted a penis and have made Chatto suffer because he had it and I did not.« The psyche is not so simple, as you must know, Florence. It has not been a »want of penis,« it has been the impression that I have been left a half-person, and I have tried to make up [for that] in other ways.
In the same letter, she said that Dr. Naef's willingness to fend off Chatto was proving crucial to her recovery. For example, when Emma Goldman obtained an invitation for her to lecture on Gandhi's ideas in February before the English Department at the University of Berlin, Chatto opposed the idea, but Dr. Naef ran interference for her: »My doctor called Chatto the past week and talked with him for an hour or two. She has asked him to restrain himself from opposing me in every wish which does not come from himself. For instance, he called me an idiot for wanting to speak at the University—not because it was the University, but because my subject was India. He can't endure anything which doesn't come from himself. He crushes me. She has told him 'hands off' if he wishes me to recover at all.« The result was salutary. She wrote Florence on February 16:
Nothing more was said until yesterday before my lecture, when [Chatto] asked me if I had any objection if he came to hear me. I permitted it and even he, who is a hostile critic of such things, said I did well...
My doctor was a wonderful person about it all. Had it not been for her urging me to accept the invitation [and] her help in analyzing my emotions about an audience, I could never have pulled through. It was a very strange thing for me to stand on a high platform and see a thousand [educated] people looking to me to tell them something they didn't know—and to be able to look each one of them in the eye without the shrinking I have always felt.
I worked night and day both on my lecture and on myself. It meant a great deal to me, since it was my emergence from my long years of illness, it was the first time I had ever appeared as a lecturer before a University audience, and the subject I had was such a broad one.
February was also a good month financially. Although still dependent on her parents for money, Florence promised Smedley $25 a month for analysis as long as she needed it. Smedley herself felt self-confident enough to take a job with an Indian commercial magazine, and with Germany's currency now stabilizing, she gained a taste of financial security. More important in her mind, she continued to sell articles on India to all kinds of newspapers and journals—Irish, French, Indian, German, and American.
By early March, however, the strains of analysis and the tensions of living with Chatto were becoming intolerable. And when their landlady completely incapacitated herself with a drug overdose, Smedley's patience snapped. She left Chatto and moved into a maid's quarters in a friend's house—a small room with one bed and one chair. Chatto followed her there and quickly collapsed, from exhaustion and an illness for which the doctor prescribed morphine injections. For the next two weeks, Smedley became a day-and-night nurse to the man from whom she had been running away. Chatto begged Smedley to remain with him and promised his full support, and at the end of the month they found new quarters together.
In the spring of 1924, Smedley worked with Dr. Naef to discover how her attitudes toward women and sex had been formed. In two remarkable letters to Florence Lennon, she described the insight she had gained from this effort. On April 1 she wrote:
When I was a girl, the West was still young, and the law of force, of physical force, was dominant. Women were desired, of course, but the rough-and-ready woman made her place, and often the women of the West, the mothers of large families, etc., were big, strong, dominant women. A woman who was not that was scorned, because the West had no use for »ladies.« And the woman who could win the respect of man was often the woman who could knock him down with her bare fists and sit on him until he yelled for help. At least this was so in my class, which was the working class. Of course my mother, being frail, quiet, and gentle, died at the age of 38, of no particular disease, but from great weariness, loneliness of spirit, and unendurable suffering and hunger. She wasn't big enough to hammer my father when he didn't bring home the wages, and so we starved, and she starved the most of all so that we children might have a little food. And my father, a man of tremendous imagination—a Peer Gynt—lived in a world of dreams; the minute he had a little money, he went on a huge carouse in which reality played no part, in which he dreamed of himself as a great hero achieving the impossible, etc.
Now, being a girl, I was ashamed of my body and my lack of strength. So I tried to be a man. I shot, rode, jumped, and took part in all the fights of the boys. I didn't like it, [but] it was the proper thing to do. So I forced myself into it, I scorned all weak womanly things. Like all my family and class, I considered it a sign of weakness to show affection; to have been caught kissing my mother would have been a disgrace, [and] to have shown affection for my father would have been a disaster. So I remember having kissed my mother only when she went on a visit to another town to see a relative; and I kissed my father but twice—once when he was drunk, because I read in a book that once a girl kissed her drunken father and reformed him and he never drank again!
Another thing which forced me into a masterful attitude toward life was my ugliness. My hair was thin and all the other girls had long hair and took great pains with it. Because hair, of course, is a sex allurement. My grandmother—a huge, black-eyed woman who whipped her grown sons if they didn't obey her—used to laugh at my thin hair and compare me with her daughter who had lovely hair. Her laughter wounded me from the time I was a child. So as a child, and as a girl, and later as a young woman, I was never attractive to the boys. I looked like a scarecrow in dainty dresses, and laces [only] accentuated my yellow complexion and my awkwardness. So, of course, I copied my father in living in a world of imagination in which I was attractive. And, of course, I tried to compensate for my physical unattrac-tiveness by developing my brains, imitating my father... Of course, I was useful to my father when he had accounts to make up, and this brought me into contact with more and more men who worked with or for my father. And I was treated by them almost as a boy, and they had respect for me because I was »smart« —that is, I knew a lot. And I thus got huge influence over my father, and my mother used to deal with my father through me; if she wanted anything done, she asked me to have my father do it. Of course, father didn't always do it, because what she wanted done wasn't romantic enough; she only wanted bedsheets, a new bed, a new table, etc., while he dwelt in more romantic heights. And so instead of buying the things she needed, he got drunk and imagined he had a palace filled with the riches of the earth. And I admired my father in my heart, because I believed his stories, and I had contempt for my mother! But outwardly I acted as if I loved my mother and didn't care much for my father.
With such conflicts most people have to [deal], of course. But you can perhaps not know the long years of uncertainty, of indefinite struggle, which marked my life until I was twenty years of age. I hungered after something, but what, I didn't know. It forced me to oppose all things, to fight for many things. Nothing gave me happiness, nothing gave me peace...
One more thing before I close: My attitude toward sex was primitive. [Before marriage] I had often been tortured by a vague dissatisfaction, physically, but when men had approached me in a sexual manner, as many had done in my wanderings, my terror of the sex act, my ignorance regarding it, forced me into an attitude of horror of everything concerned with sex relations. And even after I was married, I had relations with my husband only after we had been married eight months. I considered the sex act a horrible, degrading act, particularly degrading for the woman. My attitude toward this question was responsible for the destruction of my first marriage. I was so ashamed of myself because I was called »Mrs.« that I could hardly look people in the face, and this secret shame forced me into a sick attitude toward my husband, [so] that he could never broach the subject to me. When I was divorced—divorce is very easy in the West—I felt clean once more; I felt like a bird with wings, I felt very very friendly to my husband, and felt that I could take him by the hand and run and dance with him from pure joy and friendship. For the first time I regarded him as my friend and my relationship to him as a clean one.
You must also realize that in America, children are taught that the sex act, or anything connected with sex, is a shameful, disgraceful thing, and every time the subject is broached a wave of horror or silence spreads over an audience. It is a shameful subject! The word »sex« itself is enough to throw »proper« people into a fit of stony silence, and the person who mentions it is an outcast for the rest of the evening. Now imagine what it means for a child, when her whole attitude toward life is formed in this period, to have the foundation laid in this manner. Then imagine a young woman with this attitude, suddenly married. Two minutes before, she is supposed to think that the sex act is a degrading, debasing, shameful act; then she is married with a few words; and society tells her that now she may have sex relations every hour of the day if she wishes. Of course, an attitude formulated during the early years of her life cannot be changed in two minutes by the words of an official or a priest. There is a terrible conflict over this question; it is enough to disrupt the life of a nation. It develops hypocrisy at the best. I believe it finds outlets in a thousand other ways, terrible outlets. If the woman is sensitive, she becomes psychologically if not physically ill. An honest woman brought up in such a manner has no choice before her but to remain an ascetic all her life—or if she departs from the ways of asceticism, to be broken in health. I often wonder if this national attitude of prudery in America does not find outlet in the lynchings of Negroes, the racial hatred, etc. I don't know.
In her other letter to Florence, dated two days earlier, Smedley wondered how she could ever come to terms with the kinds of deprivation and suffering she had known as a child:
Let me tell you, I long for my own kind very often. Next year if you do not come here I am returning for a visit to America. And I hope to have money enough to go to New Mexico to see my father before he dies. I think one has the right to look upon one's creator once before he dies. The only thing which holds me back is the emotional strain upon me. I shall not only see my own father, but I shall see a poverty which I cannot improve. The memories of my childhood will perhaps be understandable by the time I return, but they will be dark ones, nevertheless. I often wonder what course to take. I have left a world of misery, a world of poverty, of prostitution, of ignorance, of dirt. Shall I go back and look upon it once more without being able to help? And then once more go away, with the wounds reopened, with the pain sharper than ever? I cannot forget, and yet I cannot rationalize such things, which were the earth in which I grew.
Continuing in this vein, she compared her own efforts with those of women friends in Germany—social reformers, writers, and artists, many of them rich or famous:
Karin Michaelis [the Danish novelist] has written [to ask] me to meet her tomorrow, with Emma Goldman, and to go with her to see a kitchen for poor artists opened by an Austrian woman physician friend of hers... And I am invited by the Austrian physician to come to her home in Austria for the summer. And 1 repeatedly wonder, »Shall I go on in this life meeting and knowing people who are doing things in the world of thought, looking upon kitchens which they [set up] for poor artists, and ignore the vast sea [of people who] live always in poverty and hunger, the sea from which I came?... My nice new house [with Chatto] is a mockery for it seems empty of something, and I think that something is achievement. I feel that I should live in a house which corresponds to my mind and my achievements. And it would be then one little bedroom, with no pictures on the wall and with only one bed, one chair, one place for my clothing. And my clothing just two things—a change while the other things are being washed. Then I should feel in harmony with life. Now I do not.
On March 17, Smedley wrote to Florence that her fragile state of mind had led Dr. Naef to suggest that the two of them take a three-week summer vacation together, so that the analysis could continue without interruption.
In April, Dr. Naef left Berlin to attend the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Austria. The day before she left, Smedley had another attack. She told Florence in April: »[The attack] prostrated me completely for four hours. Since then I've been ill and she's been away. I don't know what to do, Florence. I need analysis for my very life... I have come to look old and ugly, and have no desire to improve my appearance in any way. I have interest in no thing and I become actually physically and mentally ill at the least occurrence... Always I remember your phrase that a person who hasn't the illusion that life is worthwhile is being cheated. I wait and hope that analysis will give me that illusion back.«
Florence had spoken of coming to visit Smedley in the summer, but now she said she would not be able to come until February of the next year. (Her parents disapproved of her relationship with Smedley and insisted that she graduate from college before traveling to Europe.)
By May, Smedley again felt overwhelmed by the burdens of everyday life and petty debt. In search of a loan, she turned first to Karin Michaelis. Michaelis declined, saying that her young husband was spending all her extra money, but suggested a famous Austrian woman physician who might be able to help. Smedley contacted this woman, but found no help: she refused to grant a loan, told Smedley that analysis was worthless, and advised her to go back to the United States. In response to this setback, Smedley began to reveal the extent of her emotional problems to friends in New York other than Florence Lennon and Josephine Bennett. She wrote first, on May 9, to Margaret Sanger: »You also have lived through such a life as mine. And I believe you have known the meaning of petty debt. I have at last written you because I know your life in the past has drawn you into contact with women of means who were able to help you when you passed through deep water... I know that such people know your work to have been of greater social significance than mine in the immediate present, yet I approach you.« Sanger responded by promising to pay Smedley's analyst $50 a month for a year, while at the same time urging her to return to the United States.«* (*During the fall of 1924, Smedley recelved another loan of $1,000 for six months through Robert Morss Lovett, who appealed to the Garland Fund in New York on her behalf. See Smedley letters to Sanger for 1924.)
This renewed contact drew Smedley back into birth control work. In June she sent Sanger a detailed set of instructions on how best to introduce birth control information in India, along with a list of Indian doctors who might be willing to help. She enclosed a letter of introduction to Chatto's sister, Sarojini Naidu, the most prominent woman politician in preindependence India. But from bitter personal experience, she also offered this advice:
It is better not to stress the woman's freedom viewpoint until you have a foothold. India is more reactionary than you think. But from the national and racial betterment viewpoint, and from child hygiene viewpoints, you can make headway. Even the elevation of the working class plays no great part in India now.
You should mention also the [birth control] centers in Japan and China, and the reception given [to them] by the Japanese government. Bear in mind that India tries to emulate Japan—the one independent spot in Asia. We can't very well stress »Western« viewpoints regarding social subjects, but we can go hard on what Asia is already doing.
In India everything depends on the personality of the person who presents this subject.
Despite frequent complaints that her analysis was »moving at a snail's pace« and that her writing output was low, Smedley's letters over the spring and summer of 1924 suggest a period of real growth and development on many fronts.
In May she spoke of reading Rebecca West's The Judge and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage and One Little Boy, sent to her by Florence, and Evelyn Scott's Escapade, given to her by Emma Goldman. Inspired by these works, she told Lennon on May 23: »Someday when I am out of purgatory, financially and mentally, I'm going to write something creative. Now I can write only things that sell at once, from day to day. My doctor is constantly astonished at my energy and the way in which, in one or two days, I come from the depths of melancholy to a level on which I write for hours.«
In June, after a brief reunion with Lajpat Rai, who was on his way back to India after petitioning the British Parliament for an increase in pace in setting up Indian self-rule, Smedley wrote her most successful article of the summer, »Akali Movement,« published in the Nation in July. It described another massacre by British soldiers in the Punjab, in which the victims were members of the Akali, a Sikh reform sect that had been protesting British attempts to seize its lands. In an August letter, Sanger praised the article and remarked on the improvement in Smedley's writing style.
Driven by the desire for more education, Smedley still planned to enter the university, and by June she had maneuvered indirectly toward that goal, strengthening her position by developing a personal connection with a professor of English at the University of Berlin. On the seventeenth she wrote to Lennon:
A damned German Prof from Berlin University is on my trail. He thinks I'm a Miss and I am! He is arranging for [me to give] a course of English lessons in Berlin University. So he, as a true German, invites me to lunch with him every Tuesday at 1:30! We talk literature and 1 try to prevent myself from saying, »As my husband was saying yesterday...« The Prof is a bore, such a bore I can't even hate him. Today is Tuesday and I telephoned him [to say] I was spending a week in Potsdam! My life has become such a burden with a suitor who is a bore—such a bore as I have never seen in my life. And I know some day at 2:45 he'll take out his handkerchief, spread it on the floor, kneel on it in the proper attitude and ask me to accept his hand! Oh I know I'll yawn and tell him I'll let him know next week at 2:45. He's the sort of man who writes a Doctor's thesis on why a period was in a certain place in a Greek manuscript and then after he has his degree [he'll find] the period to be a fly-spec. He's a philologist who traces the evolution of »a« into »o.« It all is a reflection upon me. I'm 32 and drab and unbeautiful. The only sign of life left in me is my swearing and cursing.
But by August 25, she told Lennon, quite emphatically, that because Chatto also had problems with his attitudes toward sex, she had struck a bargain with him—they could remain together only if he started analysis:
Chatto enters the analysis on the first of September and is being taken free of charge by the most important analyst in Germany [Max Eitingon, founder of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute]—all because he is such a wreck and is a Hindu, whom they wish to study. It will be very hard for him, for he is 43 and his habits are bands of iron. Yet I could never live with him unless he were analyzed. He is almost ruined. And he ruins me daily because of his pressure upon me. It is a great relief to know he is going into analysis.
Am I married, you ask. Yes, to my sorrow, and I'll be for another six months at least; I'll wait for Chatto to lose his baby dependence on me through the analysis before I do anything else. If you mean sexual marriage, I may say I'm seldom married! I'm sick of being bound. I want a vacation. Do you remember Ibsen's Lady from the Sea? Well, that's me, with the exception that I'm partly the Lady and partly Peer Gynt. And the Lady's psychology is mine. I want to go because someone tries to hold me.
In a dramatic reversal of her mood earlier that summer, Smedley no longer described herself as old and ugly and unattractive to men:
You say you repel men and are beginning to despair of the possibilities of a love-life. Ayah, my dearest, I wish I could go halves with you in my own sex nature—any pair of pants going, from the garbage man up, stops and tries his chances with me, or wishes he could. I feel his wishes although he doesn't say anything. The so-called »soul« has a language of its own! But like you, I'm polygamous! And polygamous women aren't popular as wives. I don't live polygamously, but I can't help my emotions. It's pretty hard to have said all through my life that I don't give a damn for sex and then to learn that I'm polygamous. My only desire, however, is to take my polygamy out in writing instead of in bed (pardon the vulgarity).
In this letter Smedley, who had once called herself Mrs. Agnes Smedley-Brundin, criticized a mutual friend for adding her husband's name to her own.
If Smedley had hidden from Chatto some of her friendships and meetings with men, such as those with the German professor, there was one relationship that she did reveal to him, and for which she »made him pay.« After learning that Florence had fallen in love over the summer, Smedley wrote on October 28:
Yet I must betray myself to you; and you and my doctor are the only souls on the earth to whom I can speak. In my misery with my husband because of his jealousy even of my private thoughts (and of my doctor, and of you), I suppose it was but natural that my suppressed feelings should search the landscape for a victim and find one. Said victim is a young man eight years younger than myself who has the pain not only of worshipping me but of being a very close friend of my husband's, bound to him by ties of friendship and idealism. Think of loving your friend's wife—saying so to him and the wife! And think of the wife saying: »I love you also, tenderly as I would a child in my arms, and yet savagely as a wild person protecting its young. My love doesn't require a sex relationship, yet it is a deep and tender love.«
Now think of the husband in the case: dark, passionate, and intense in every act of his life, moved by an overmastering love for his wife. Think of the pain of the man and his attempts to control himself; of his inability to do so, and of his weeks and months of useless talks with his wife. And of more tragic things: the young man leaving the country, calmly and clearly, holding the wife in his arms and kissing her as he leaves, and taking the attitude »This is an affair only between us two.« And then writing letters in the same strain, just as if the husband does not exist in [that] relationship...
I'm an indecent woman! Do you remember Candida and her love for a younger man; or Galsworthy's »The Dark Flower« —the first part? Strauss's opera [Rosenkavalier] is playing here. It deals with the same subject—the love of an older woman for a younger man. Like all women in such a case, I have been eaten by shame, guilt, remorse, untold misery, and it took me months to face the truth. But the most difficult of all parts has been that of my husband's. I suppose I'll »sublimate« my love for the young man. In my analysis I have traced my feeling for him to the feeling I had for my dearest brother, who was much younger than myself and to whom I was practically a mother. The feeling is almost identical.
So you see, I'm not a respectable married woman. The walls of marriage will never hold my love, my desires. May God pity all men who love me, especially my husband, who expects marriage to bind my love hand and foot! A vagabond in life, so in emotion, I remain!
Florence, dear, men will love you through all eternity if you beat them! Do you remember Chekov's story of the little Russian man who had two wives: the first one—gentle, tender, loving, self-sacrificing—he practically beat to death. She loved him; he had no use for her. After she died he married a woman who beat him daily—hammering hell out of him. She was accidentally killed, I believe, but for the rest of his life that man mourned for her, kept her grave covered with flowers and often sat by her grave in tears—and the other wife's grave nearby was absolutely forgotten! I have always inspired the most remarkable love in men—big and little, thin and thick; and it has been because I have scorned them or turned on them a face filled with dislike or active anger! Note my present husband! It is sad, for he is a creative soul, and should not be subjected to me. He will change, I believe, for he is to start analysis with Dr. Eitingon, perhaps the most noted analyst in Germany. It is the only hope for him. But it may lead to our final separation.
Over the summer, as friends urged her to return to America, Smedley had continued to struggle with her contradictory feelings about Chatto. With no passport and the certainty of British opposition, Chatto could not possibly go with her to America, and neither of them would be allowed in India. She was still reluctant to give up what she considered to be Chatto's genuine love and concern for her. On April 19 she had written to Michaelis: »Life is a very short experience at best and to lose love, or to deliberately give up a great love, is very difficult. There are many other men I could live with, but my knowledge of men tells me that I would suffer a worse fate at the hands of most of them than I suffer now. And, let me tell you, Karin, dear friend, I do not intend to live without men!«
Chatto began analysis in November of 1924, about the time Smedley began teaching an English-language conversation and debating course at the University of Berlin. On December 10, Smedley wrote a letter to Margaret Sanger, then on a speaking tour of England, in which she introduced her young Indian lover, an Oxford student by the name of Bakar Ali Mirza, to Sanger as »my son.« By January of 1925, Smedley and Chatto had agreed to a six-month separation. Smedley moved in with an old American friend, Mrs. A. Marshall Bullitt Grabisch, diplomat William C. Bullitt's sister, who was collaborating with another American, Mary Kellerman, in setting up a European literary agency to sell English translations of European literary works in the United States,* (* William C. Bullitt was a member of the American Peace Treaty Commission under President Wilson and head of the American delegation that produced the Bullitt Report, which recommended recognition of the new government in Russia. William Bullitt himself would soon marry an old acquaintance of Smedley's from New York, Louise Bryant. Bryant's first husband, john Reed, had died in 1920 in Moscow, where they were covering the Russian Revolution. In Smedley to Michaells, June 27, 1925, Smedley introduced Mrs. Grabisch as William Bullitt's sister.)
In a letter written on January 16, 1925, Smedley seemed to support Lennon's recently announced marriage plans, but she offered this caveat: »I'm not a friend, you know, of the 'marriage' relationship on a permanent basis.« A month or two later she asked Florence to find her a literary agent in the United States, complaining that »almost all I write these days is returned to me... I'm taking more and more to teaching to make a living.« Perhaps by this time Smedley had saturated the market for articles on India.
Smedley began to put more energy and research time into academic writing. Her long article »India in World Politics« was published in Germany's most prestigious political journal, Zeitschrift fiir Geopolitik, in June of 1925.
In the spring, although her personal predicament was rather more abstract, since young Bakar Ali Mirza had been out of the country for months, Smedley had a series of exchanges with Emma Goldman and Karin Michaelis about the heartaches suffered by a woman who falls in love with a younger man. To complicate matters, Smedley could not tolerate Karin Michaelis's young husband. She believed that he was a homosexual who had married Michaelis only to acquire a »financial base.« She did not »speak plainly« to Michaelis about her suspicion, but her hostility toward the husband grew to such a point that in July she again declined Karin's invitation to visit them in Denmark—a hard refusal to make, because she was desperate to get away from Berlin and Chatto.
For his part, Chatto pleaded daily with Smedley to stay »married« to him. He argued that he was too old to start over again, and that it would be irresponsible of her to desert him now after ruining him both politically and emotionally. But as Smedley had told Karin on February 2, »I will die for his ideas and his country; but I won't be his wife.«
By the summer of 1925, Smedley felt that her analysis had come to a dead end; she wrote Florence that she »couldn't talk« to Dr. Naef anymore. On July 20 she stopped analysis. After asking Sanger for help in finding a job in the United States, she fled Berlin and Chatto for Czechoslovakia, in the company of a student-actress friend. Just before leaving (probably in July), she wrote to Emma Goldman:
Chatto will be better eventually. He is now in Saxony. He is in [Berlin] a few days during the week only and the rest of the time is collecting advertisements for his magazine in order to make money. He is under treatment only twice a week, and that is too little. He is looking very tired and old. My heart is filled with pity. I could erase that look and give him back much strength, if I would return and live with him, or even tell him that I intend to do so. But I cannot. Often I think that he is of far more value than I am; everybody knows that—all of you anarchists and revolutionaries, all of the Indians, everybody who knows us both. But I cannot force myself back... I know that if I return to him, I shall kill myself within a month. And I often wonder if 1 shall not do it eventually anyway, even if I do not return...
During the summer I shall be in Denmark and Czechoslovakia and I hope that in this manner the chains will be broken, for he will know that I am in Europe, and yet he will be separate from me and will be forced to find new friends and associates... and I hope other women.
Chatto's reaction to her flight was pathetic. He asked her young Indian lover, Bakar, to go to Czechoslovakia and plead with her to return to him. Bakar did as he was asked, but to no avail. In order to put off further confrontations with Chatto, Smedley begged Karin Michaelis for another invitation and the money to join her in Denmark in late August. From the small island of Thuro in Denmark, Smedley wrote to Sanger on September 5:
Here I am in Denmark, living a very primitive existence on a little island with my friend Karin Michaelis, the Danish woman writer of whom you perhaps know. I came two weeks ago and I am still hoping that I shall feel better soon, for I was much run down in health and very nervous. But it is so cold here— and there is always a high wind from the sea—that it takes a long time to get accustomed to it... Karin wants me to stay here until December 1 and write my first book during that time. I think I will stay here if I can get my visa prolonged, for I don't want to be in the same city with Chatto for a few months more... Yet I know that it is impossible for me to write a book inside three months. I can at best outline it and make the first draft. Karin offers to help in the plan. It will be based upon my life and I plan to make it a document that will be direct and true—and which will lose me most of my friends because they will be ashamed to be a friend of mine after that. I won't lose you and Karin and a few other such, but most 1 shall lose. I am brought to writing the book in the baldest manner possible because my health is never a thing I can depend on, and my mind is so destroyed that I never know what I am capable of. I am so utterly unhappy all the time that I don't care much for life and I think if I write a book I may either feel better afterwards, or it will be finished anyway and I will have done what I could in this damned experience called life. It will be about all I have to give.
But on November 12, Smedley announced to Florence:
Here... guess... what. I have written a book based upon my life. I have done the first draft.
The name of my book is The Outcast or An Outcast. I don't know yet.
You are in my book—do you know that? And your name is Florence there. But nothing else.
Karin says my book is excellent. We shall see. Note the enclosed chapter and let me know what you think. And try for the love of mercy to sell the damned thing, for I shall live in a garret and cook over a spiritus lamp until I sell a few articles and until I finish typing my book and post it to the publisher.
I am almost certain of the success of my book... Karin says it will go marvellously. Alexander Berkman is here as a guest and he says it will be accepted at once by a publisher. Then maybe I'll be rich! Oh God, for a place to hang my head [sic] at last.
Thus Smedley's first book, eventually called Daughter of Earth, was born on a windswept Danish island, with the Danish novelist Karin Michaelis and the exiled Russian-born anarchist Alexander Berkman acting as midwives. Her original title, An Outcast, is revealing. Over the past four years, her letters had combined expressions of isolation and distrust, and deep feelings of worthlessness and intellectual inferiority, with powerful bursts of willfulness and defiance. Her unsophisticated language often gave her writing—like her speech—a melodramatic or comic-opera quality. And because she often appeared to distrust and manipulate her friends, Lennon and Goldman, Michaelis and Sanger, Chatto and Bakar, who offered her love and support, they sometimes found it hard to appreciate the depths of her loneliness. As Emma Goldman had written to Alexander Berkman on May 28:
I know the agony of loneliness and yearning. I therefore agree fully with you that both men and women need some person who really cares. The woman needs it more and finds it impossible to meet anyone when she has reached a certain age. That is her tragedy.
However, I do not see how this applies to the condition of Agnes. In the first place, she has a number of men who care violently about her—Chatto, Mirza (Bakar), and others. She has outgrown Chatto, but she seems to be very much in love with the other. I don't know what it is; she certainly is a nervous wreck. And I myself am too miserable most of the time to be of any comfort to others. Still, I will have to write her soon.