The Dar­ing Life and Dan­ger­ous Times of Eve Adams

Jonathan Ned Katz

  • Review
By – June 21, 2021

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 the author of four poet­ry col­lec­tions, includ­ing Avowed, and the edi­tor of Out­Write: The Speech­es that Shaped LGBTQ Lit­er­ary Cul­ture, Fire-Rimmed Eden: Select­ed Poems by Lynn Loni­di­erThe Com­plete Works of Pat Park­er, and Sis­ter Love: The Let­ters of Audre Lorde and Pat Park­er 1974 – 1989. Ensz­er edits and pub­lish­es Sin­is­ter Wis­dom, a mul­ti­cul­tur­al les­bian lit­er­ary and art jour­nal. You can read more of her work at www​.JulieREn​sz​er​.com.

Discussion Questions