In 1926, the Quill, a magazine published in Greenwich Village, featured a small advertisement for “Eve’s Hangout” at 129 Macdougal Street, “where ladies prefer each other.” The Eve of “Eve’s Hangout,” who hosted this event, was Eve Adams, a Polish Jewish immigrant born Chawa Zloczewer. Chawa arrived in the United States in 1912,one of about twenty-four million immigrants who landed between 1881 and 1924 in search of a different and better life. In a stunning new biography, The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams, eminent historian Jonathan Ned Katz investigates the life of Adams, assembling her biography from a fragmentary historical record bolstered by stories of Polish immigration in the first half of the twentieth century.
Eve embraced life in the United States. She anglicized her name, joined a group of anarchist organizers, was besotted with performer Fania Marinoff, and traveled around the United States selling “anarchist, socialist, communist, and radical labor publications.” She lived a bohemian dream until she published 150 copies of a book of Sapphic stories and illustrations. Lesbian Love, combined with her tearoom hangout, ran Adams afoul of the law. She was convicted of “disorderly conduct, an indecent book, and moral turpitude.” These convictions resulted in prison time, which eventually led to her deportation in 1927. Arriving in Europe as a global depression had begun and fascism was surging, Adams’s life took a tragic turn. Katz painstakingly pieces together her life story in Europe from letters and other documents. Eve Adams, the radical lesbian, Jew, and would-be American, died at Auschwitz.
The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams includes a reprint of Lesbian Love. Though it may seem tame by contemporary standards, Lesbian Love is astonishing. Adams’s portraits of inter-war New York lesbian life provide wonderful glimpses of lesbian love and desire. In the story “Just a Snatch,” Adams writes about “Otto and Juliet, both Lesbians,” in a café “at opposite tables; their glances met.” They exchange notes. Otto, “a very energetic and fearless type,” writes to Juliet about how she “admired her beautiful brown silken hair and blue eyes.” Juliet returned a note “giving her name and telephone number.” The presence of these portrayals of lesbians in 1925 combined with the artwork portraying lesbian intimacy is riveting. Katz’s work to bring Adams’s life story to contemporary readers is profoundly important.
The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams contributes to an array of fields of inquiry: Jewish history, Holocaust studies, lesbian history, and lesbian literary history. It also demonstrates the cunning ingenuity of queer historians in piecing together lives of LGBTQ people who have previously been excluded. With a meager amount of information, Katz assembles a compelling picture of Adams’s life, giving voice to her as a lesbian Jew and inviting us all to remember and recognize her contributions.
Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Avowed, Lilith’s Demons, Sisterhood, and Handmade Love, and is the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.