Saturday, 16 January 2016

Workers, Know Your History, Ben Reitman.

       Ben Reitman was an anarchist, born 1879, died from a heart attack in Chicago 1943. During his life he was kidnapped, beaten, tarred and feather and branded and later, 100 years ago tomorrow, in January 17th, 1916, imprisoned for the horrific crime of, distributing leaflets on birth control. That's democracy for you. These heroes of the working class are airbrushed out of history, the establishment  would rather they never happened, or at least are forgotten. We have a duty to remember and record those who fought on the side of the ordinary people for that better world for all.
        Reitman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to poor Russian Jewish immigrants in 1879, but grew up in Chicago. At the age of ten, he became a hobo, but returned to Chicago and worked in the Polyclinic Laboratory as a "laboratory boy".[2] In 1900, he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, completing his medical studies in 1904. During this time he was briefly married; he and his wife had a daughter together.[2]
        He worked as a physician in Chicago, choosing to offer services to hobos, prostitutes, the poor, and other outcasts. Notably, he performed abortions, which were illegal at the time.[2]
      Reitman met Emma Goldman in 1908, and the two began a passionate love affair, which Goldman described as the "Great Grand Passion" of her life.[1] The two traveled together for almost eight years, working for the cause of birth control, free speech, worker's rights, and anarchism.
        During this time, the couple became involved in the San Diego free speech fight in 1912–13. Reitman was kidnapped by a mob, severely beaten, tarred and feathered, branded with "I.W.W.,"[1] and his rectum and testicles were abused.[3] Several years later, the couple were arrested in 1916 under the Comstock laws for advocating birth control, and Reitman served six months in prison.[4]
        Both believed in free love, but Reitman's practice incited feelings of jealousy in Goldman.[5] He remarried when one of his lovers became pregnant; their son was born while he was in prison.[2] Goldman and Reitman ended their relationship in 1917, after Reitman was released from prison.[2]
         Reitman returned to Chicago, ultimately working with the City of Chicago, establishing the Chicago Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease in the 1930s.[2] His second wife died in 1930, and Reitman married a third time, to Rose Siegal.[2] Reitman later became seriously involved with Medina Oliver, and the couple had four daughters — Mecca, Medina, Victoria, and Olive.[2]
      Reitman died in Chicago of a heart attack at the age of sixty-three. He was buried at the Waldheim Cemetery[6] (now Forest Home Cemetery), in Forest Park, Chicago.
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