When they fell in love amid the tumult of the 1905 Russian revolution, they believed they were destiny's match: William English Walling, a wealthy American journalist-activist from the Midwest, an Anna Strunsky, an aspiring novelist from San Francisco. Vowing to dedicate themselves to socialist ideals, they soon became celebrities who moved in an elite circle of writers, journalist, and reformers. ultimately, both their marriage and their political commitment faltered, but not before they had participated in some of the most urgent social causes of their day.
Drawing on archival sources and family materials, James Boylan creates engaging portraits of two striking figures. He reveals the details of Strunsky's intense involvement with Jack London and their troubled literary collaboration. He describes the creation of Walling's "revolutionary news bureau" in Russia under scrutiny of the czarist police, and Strunsky's harrowing journey to report on a pogrom. He also recounts the couple's dash to cover a race riot in Illinois, Walling's pivotal role in creating the NAACP and the disastrous schism between Strunsky's pacifism and Walling's bellicosity during World War I.
Boylan enriches our understanding of the intellectual and cultural background of prewar socialism by skillfully tracing the interplay between private and public lives. At the same time, he illuminates the struggle of those who were born Victorians to adjust to the changing public arena of the modern world.