Mary E. Marcy: Internationalist Socialist, Journalist and Children’s Poet

Mary E. Marcy (1877-1922) was an outstanding member of the left wing of the pre-war Socialist Party of America. She was on the editorial staff of the International Socialist Review and was closely associated with the small but influential left current led by her co-thinker, publisher Charles H. Kerr. Her array of interests was extremely broad, encompassing women’s struggles, Marx’s crititique of political economy, and the political debates of the Second International. Marcy was among the Socialist Party’s most stalwart opponents of any concession to entry into World War I (see the collection of her anti-war writings, You Have No Country!).

Untitled woodcut by Wharton Esherick

Untitled woodcut by Wharton Esherick

In addition to her journalistic efforts, Marcy also demonstrated literary talent. She wrote a one-act play and at least two collections of poetry intended for children. One of these two, Rhymes of Early Jungle Folk (1922), was illustrated with woodcuts by artist Wharton Esherick. Esherick was an accomplished illustrator but is better know as a pionering modernist furniture maker.

Greeting the Sun

Greeting the Sun

Rhymes of Early Jungle Folk is an example of the strain of didactic materialism prevalenent in certain quarters of the American socialist movement, made more interesting than similar trends in Europe because of the strong influence of Lewis Henry Morgan’s matriarchal ethnological theories. Marcy’s other collection of children’s poems, Stories of the Cave People (1917), is an explicit popularization of Morgan’s work. Interest in Morgan’s work was shared by Marx, who studied Ancient Society closely.

The HathiTrust Digital Library contains a scanned copy of Rhymes of Early Jungle Folk from the collection of the New York Public Library. Two of Esherick’s beautiful woodcuts are featured here.

Other scanned copies of Marcy’s work include Shop Talk on Economics (which should be recognized as a valuable American contribution to Marxism) and Women as Sex Vendors (1918) co-authored with R.B. Tobias. Both are available in the Internet Archive.

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