Voltairine De Cleyre, “Sunday Schools and Social Intercourse Among Liberals” (1890)

For the Boston Investigator.

SUNDAY SCHOOLS AND SOCIAL INTERCOURSE AMONG LIBERALS

Mr. Editor:—Among the many wants of the Free Thought movement is a much wider social intercourse than exists at present, a much more extensive acquaintance with the literature and plans for work of other similar organizations. This became singularly evident to me on the evening of the 12th of October last, when I lectured before the German Freethinking Society at Philadelphia. So far, the American and German movements have been “things apart.”—True, an attempt was made at Milwaukee to unite them after a fashion; but it failed, because there was no social union.

One of the saddest things in our own Free Thought societies is to see people come, Sunday after Sunday, possibly their names are known, though quite as frequently not, and sit the meeting out and then disappear in that vast forest called the city—no one knows where—and remain in the somber shadow of the unknown, sometimes drifting away forever, sometimes returning after long intervals with faces showing traces of suffering and disease; but no one knows anything about it.

In strong contrast with this cold, hard individualism-run-to-seed is the social life of the German elements. The German Freethinkers all know one another; when a stranger comes among them, they do not rest till they have shaken him by the hand and introduced him to their friends. In almost all the large cities they have their own buildings; have them divided into school rooms, audience halls, billiard-rooms, reading rooms, and generally comfortable rooms for chatting, eating lunch, sipping coffee, etc. Now, it is not because there is “more money” among the Germans than the Americans that they possess this advantage over us, but because their stronger social sympathies bind them together for a common object.

Is shall not soon forget my pleasant afternoon among the ladies of the “Woman’s Independent Congregation,” the following Sunday after my lecture; the bright-faced girls, the cheery women, the philosophic wise heads of the male sex, all bent on amusing and improving the time “in common.” We discussed some important things too, one of which was a plan for a Free Thought Sunday school in Philadelphia, which should combine the children of the English and German societies of radicals in that city. This school will represent the co-operative effort of the Woman’s National Liberal Union, the German Freigumeinde, and the American Secular Union.

The plan of the work is to take up the Scientific History of Creation, put it in contrast with the Biblical history, teach the development of the earth, the development of man, the development of morals. The lessons are to be made short, simple, and as interesting as possible, always keeping in view the main point of the contrast in life founded upon faith and the life founded upon fact. Short articles out of the Free Thought papers and popular magazines bearing upon the point will occasionally be read. A competent teacher in the person of Miss Edith Fantini, with occasional visits and instruction from Miss Ida C. Craddock, will endeavor to fulfill that part of the work of the Sunday school.

As I am writing from far away off in Kansas, and have not heard yet from the East, I cannot say whether the plan is yet in operation. But at any rate it will be shortly, and it is desirable that all persons in Philadelphia who have an interest in keeping their children from pernicious influence of Church doctrines, should communicate with Mr. Edelman of 426 North Fifth Street, Philadelphia, who will be able to furnish information as to time, place of assembly, &c. I would advise such parents to visit the Sunday school, acquaint themselves with the teacher and pupils, send their children, and above all help to circulate the knowledge of the work among as many other children as possible.

Let there be no delay in this important matter. Let Liberals in other cities take up the work. Women! Remember it is to you that the children must look for their practical tuition in life! Ally yourself with the National Liberal Union; join forces with other organizations, and try to be at least no farther behind in planting the seeds of rationalism in the minds of the rising generation.

Yours,

Voltairine de Cleyre.

Enterprise, Kansas, Nov. 22, 1890.


Voltairine De Cleyre, “Sunday Schools and Social Intercourse Among Liberals,” The Boston Investigator 60 no. 35 (December 3, 1890): 2.

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