Steimer to Stepanov

Mollie Steimer (Молли Штеймер)

Mollie Steimer, 1919 | Mollie Steimer (1897-1980) began her … | Flickr

Born 1897, Dunaivtsi, Russia (present-day Ukraine). Jewish. Garment worker. Migrated to US 1912, with parents and four siblings. Began working immediately after arrival, at age 16. Became an anarchist after discovering the writings of Peter Kropotkin; 1917 became a member of New York’s militant Jewish anarchist Shturem Group, which in 1918 became the Frayhayt Group. Arrested, with Hyman Lachowsky, while distributing radical leaflets protesting US intervention in the Russian Civil War on August 23, 1918. While out on bail, arrested eleven more times over eight months, including during a raid on the Union of Russian Workers’ People’s House in New York during the first Palmer Raids in November 1919. Convicted, with other members of the Frayhayt Group, for violation of the Espionage Act, and sentenced to 15 years in prison; after losing landmark Supreme Court free-speech case Abrams v. United States, sentence commuted on the condition of deportation. While detained on Ellis Island awaiting deportation, led a hunger strike to protest her segregation from other detainees. According to a supervisor, “Certainly it would not be safe to put her in a room with other detained females, this by reason of her known activities in spreading the propaganda of anarchism among among women and girls. Most of those detained female aliens will probably be admitted to the United States in due course, and to permit Mollie Steimer to sow the seeds of anarchism among them while they are the wards of the Government would be highly improper.” Deported November 1, 1921. In Russia, almost immediately involved in aid work for imprisoned anarchists; through this work she met her companion Senya Fleshin, an anarchist who had voluntarily returned from the US in 1917, and together they founded the Society to Help Anarchist Prisoners (with financial aid from comrades in the US). November 1922 both were arrested for this work and sentenced to two years internal exile in Siberia, but released after launching a hunger strike. Both arrested again July 9, 1923, for propagating anarchist ideas. Launched an eight-day hunger strike along with other political prisoners, including several other deportees from the US; Steimer and Fleshin given visas to Germany with the understanding that they would be executed if they returned to Russia, and left September 27, 1923. In Berlin, then after 1924 in Paris, the pair worked with Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and other exiled Russian anarchists to aid radicals imprisoned in Russia. Steimer corresponded with, and was regularly visited by, anarchists from the US and elsewhere. In 1939 Steimer organized aid for refugees from the Spanish Civil War who had been placed in French internment camps; in May 1940, with the Nazi occupation of Paris, Steimer was herself sent to the internment camp in Gurs for seven weeks. After her release, she and Fleshin fled to Mexico, where they were aided by fellow deportees Jacob and Mary Abrams. Active in radical and exile circles in Mexico City, where they befriended Diego Rivera and Spanish anarchist exiles, and Fleshin ran a photography studio. Remained in constant correspondence with anarchists abroad. Steimer died of heart attack July 23, 1980 in Cuernavaca.

INS file 54517/73

See also: Senya Fléchine Papers and Emma Goldman Papers, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam; Rose Pesotta Papers, New York Public Library; International Committee for Political Prisoners, Letters from Russian Prisons; Mollie Steimer: Toda una vida de lucha; Abe Bluestein, ed., Fighters for Anarchism: Mollie Steimer and Senya Fleshin; Paul Avrich, Anarchist Portraits; Richard Polenberg, Fighting Faiths: The Abrams Case, the Supreme Court, and Free Speech

Sigfrid Stenberg (Siegfried)

Stenberg’s mugshot, 1918

Born 1892, Sweden. Painter; editor. Migrated to US 1912. Wife and daughter in Sweden. Joined the IWW and became business manager of its Swedish-language newspaper Allarm in Minneapolis. Defendant in federal IWW trial 1917-1918; convicted of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to ten years in prison and a $30,000 fine. Sentence commuted on condition of deportation; deported January 13, 1923. Immediately joined the syndicalist Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation (SAC), which he viewed as a direct continuation of his activism on behalf of IWW and “the idea that cannot be drowned.” In 1925 he wrote to the IWW’s Ralph Chaplin that he was organizing on behalf the IWW in both Sweden and Norway, along with fellow deportee Ragnar Johansson. In 1928 he became a journalist for the SAC’s daily newspaper Arbetaren, which he also edited from 1930 to 1940. In addition he served as chairman of Sweden’s Executive Committee of the Newspaper and Printing Federation from 1932 to 1942, and treasurer of the anarcho-syndicalist International Working Men’s Association from 1938 until his death in 1942.

INS file 54616/52

See also: Mark Wyman, Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930;,-Sigfrid-1892-1942

Anton Stepanov (Антон Степанов; Stepanoff; aka Alex Porfenchuk; Perfenshuck)

Born 1887, Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus). Chauffer. Migrated to US 1913. A member of the Union of Russian Workers in Buffalo, New York; brother of fellow URW member and deportee Osip Stepanov. Arrested during the first Palmer Raids, November 1919. Claimed to be another individual named Alex Porfenchuk, who was born in 1884, Vilna, Russia (present-day Vilnius, Lithuania), who migrated to the US in 1914 and had a wife and three children in Russia. However, witness testimony and documents seized during his arrest, including Anton Stepanov’s passport and a letter from Anton to Osip listing the former’s address under the name of Alex Porfenchuk, strongly indicate that this was a ruse. Deported on the Buford. Subsequent activities unknown.

INS file 54709/308

See also: Buffalo Courier, December 19, 1919; Buffalo Enquirer, November 22 and December 20, 1919

Osip Stepanov (Осип Степанов; Ossip; Stepanoff; aka Joseph; Joe)

Born 1882, Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus). Laborer. Served in the Russian Army. Migrated to US 1912. Joined the Buffalo branch of the Union of Russian Workers in August 1916; served at various times as its treasurer and on various committees. Brother of fellow URW member and deportee Anton Stepanov. Claimed to also belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and to be illiterate (which is unlikely, given his work as treasurer and the amount of URW literature in his possession). Arrested during the first Palmer Raids, November 1919. Deported on the Buford. Subsequent activities unknown.

INS file 54709/309

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