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News From Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop

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Sister of the Road: The Autobiography of Boxcar Bertha

by as told by Dr. Ben Reitman - £11.00  AK Press/Nabat (2002)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9781902593036 | ISBN 10: 1902593030

The frank uncensored story of a wandering woman of the underworld. Intimate facts of a woman hobo's methods and habits: a life story that has no parallel.
Swapping tales around the campfire in hobo jungles, hanging out on free love commune farms and in artistic circles in Greenwhich Village, working in a whorehouse, circulating among the tramps, yeggs, pimps, bohemians, wobblies and other radicals... despite the plentiful woes, this is a portrait of an entrancing world. It's a window onto a wildly under-appreciated dropout culture that gets left out of history books.
'Sister of the Road' meant to assault the puritanism and hypocrisy of conventional society and in this it succeeded. The free-thinking and free-loving ways of Bertha Thompson, the rowdy and funky world conjured in this book, were all too much for the guardians of propriety when it was first published in 1937. Reviews like this by sociologist Herbert Blumer were typical: "Students of social pathology and those interested in the more undignified undercurrents of modern life should find this volume to be informative and provocative".
But today Boxcar Bertha's nonjudgemental curiosity and restless hunger for adventure are damned inspiring. This edition of 'Sister of the Road' has a new afterword by Barry Pateman of the Emma Goldman papers that fills in the background of the book and that of Dr. Ben Reitman who, as a hobo, whorehouse physician, anarchist agitator, and lover of Emma Goldman, was a mighty interesting character in his own right.

(Price & availability last checked: April 2018)

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In booklists: Anarchism & Women, Women's History - 20th Century, Women in North America,
In categories: Feminism & Women, Politics & Philosophy, History & Biography, World - North America,

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