Overlooked No More: Eve Adams, writer who gave lesbians a voice

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries of notable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, were not reported in The Times.

During her lifetime and for many years after, Eve Adams has been variously referred to as a “fantasy girl,” “a bit of an anarchist,” “the queen of the third sex,” “a self-proclaimed ‘hatred of men,'” the author of ‘an indecent book and, finally, Passenger 847 on Transport 63 to Auschwitz.

But Adams was also an outspoken gay writer and Polish Jew in an often homophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant America in the 1920s and 1930s, who published an early example of American lesbian literature written by a lesbian.

Her “Lesbian Love,” a collection of short stories and illustrations, was published in February 1925. Written under the pseudonym Evelyn Addams, it explores the sexual arousals and gender-defying nature of several dozen native women. various social groups Adams had encountered in Greenwich Village and in her travels across the country as a traveling saleswoman of revolutionary multilingual periodicals. She changed the names of her characters to protect their identities.

“I just intended to describe these characters in order to help them,” she said later. “To show them the truth of their life. “

Mrs Adams gave copies to friends in the village, where she ran Eve’s Hangout, a friendly tearoom for lesbians where she hosted salons and poetry readings. (Previously, while living briefly in Chicago, she had run The gray chalet, another literary haunt that also served as a haven for homosexuals.)

His younger brother, Yerachmiel Zahavy, lost his track during WWII. He sent letters to the Red Cross asking where she was, but they went unanswered. He then searched for her and other family members in Israel and the United States, but to no avail.

On his deathbed in 1983, Yerachmiel asked his then 18-year-old grandson Eran Zahavy to continue the search. “You have to look for Chawa,” he said, using Adams’ birth name.

What he did not know was that his sister had been arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Young Zahavy heeded his grandfather’s request and began to research. He bonded with a playwright who had written plays on Adams, as well as a historian working on his biography, both of whom had come to his story separately. Eventually, people in Israel, Switzerland, France, and the United States – none of whom knew Adams during his lifetime – began to jointly resurrect his life story.

Credit…Nina alvarez

Chawa Zloczower was born on June 27, 1891 in Mlawa, Poland, the eldest of seven children of Mordechai and Miriam Zloczower. Her father was a grocer, her mother a housewife. (Some documents indicate that his date of birth is March 31, 1891.)

A young woman with a desire to travel, she boarded the SS Vaderland in Antwerp, Belgium, and, at age 20, arrived alone at Ellis Island in New York on June 4, 1912.

She spoke seven languages, including Hebrew, and wrote in a letter to a friend that she nowhere felt at home. “All over the world, a foreigner,” she wrote, “and in the country where I was born, a Jew. “

Soon she took the English translation of her first name, Eve. And leaning over what his biographer, Jonathan Ned Katz, described as “her androgenic character”, she combined “a little bit of Eve, a little bit of Adam” for a name that suits her better.

Preferring men’s clothing and the company of women, Adams lived her life boldly at a time when the world considered that the only decent way to live it was to keep it behind closed doors. She counted among her friends the anarchists and the revolutionaries Emma Goldman and Alexandre berkman as well as the author who breaks taboos Henri miller.

The US government viewed Adams as an “agitator,” the records show. Directed by J. Edgar Hoover, the “Radical Division” of the agency that would become the FBI had been accused of spying on him since at least 1919.

She was arrested in 1927 by a undercover police officer, Margaret M. Leonard, who entered Eve’s Hangout and obtained a copy of “Lesbian Love”. The book was ruled indecent and Adams was detained on several counts, including disorderly conduct. She was sentenced and spent 18 months in prison before being deported to Poland on December 7, 1927.

By 1930 Adams was living in Paris and writing stories about his time in prison, submitting them to magazine editors with little apparent success. In cafes, she peddled forbidden books, including Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer””(1934), which had been banned from several countries as sexually explicit.

In 1933, Adams met Hella Olstein Soldner, a German cabaret singer. Adams later described their meeting as a “fate”. In a letter to a friend, she called Soldner “the most beloved girl”. They lived together from that point on – even after Soldner married a man – although their relationship was never openly described as romantic.

In June 1940, as German troops approached Paris, the women fled to the south of France. There are suggestions in the research about them that they may have helped the Resistance. The women were stopped while living in Nice and transported to the Drancy internment camp in Paris in December 1943.

Later that month, they were crammed, along with around 850 Jews, into cattle cars heading for Auschwitz, according to Nazi police records. The trip lasted three days. Only 31 members of the group lived until liberation in 1945 and although there is no record of their deaths in the camp, Adams and Soldner were not among them.

On a recent Sunday, distant relatives of Adams – some meeting for the first time – gathered in the basement of this was Eve’s meeting place, at 129, rue Macdougal. (It is now an Italian cafe.) Among their guests was the biographer Katz, the author of “The Bold Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams”(2021), and Barbara kahn, a New York-based playwright who wrote or co-wrote the Off Off Broadway plays “The Spring and Fall of Eve Adams,” “Unreachable Eden” and “Island Girls,” in which Adams is a main character. The group commemorated Adams with readings of letters and extracts from the biography.

“We have been separated for 100 years,” said her parent Eran Zahavy. “Our strength is in our union. I think Eve would be very happy if we were here.

A street in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, on the right bank near the Porte de La Chapelle, now bears his name, celebrating it contribution to the city as a “pioneering activist for women’s rights”. A school and a nursery is also named after him, and a groundbreaking ceremony involving the Polish and American embassies is scheduled for this fall.

In 1999, Nina Alvarez, a student in Albany, NY, found a green cloth bound book in the lobby of her building. When she picked it up, she became the owner of what is now considered the only existing copy of “Lesbian Love”. Katz reprinted the book at the end of her biography.

“I feel Eve with me”, Alvarez, who then launched his own small editorial press, said in an interview. “I feel like she was a fierce person who knew what she wanted.”

And what she wanted, surely, was to meet the world. Respond to a friend asking him for a book chapter, she wrote:

“Why, my dear man, if I wanted to write down my experiences of my wanderings, my people and my adventures that continue with each blessed day, it would take me years to write and I could fill volumes, not chapters. “

Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.


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Ethel Nester

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