Overlooked No More: Eve Adams, Writer Who Gave Lesbians a Voice

This article is a part of Overlooked, a collection of obituaries about outstanding folks whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

In her lifetime and for a few years after, Eve Adams was variously known as a “novelty girl,” “a bit of an anarchist,” “the queen of the third sex,” “a self-professed ‘man-hater,’” the writer of an indecent e-book and, lastly, Passenger 847 on Transport 63 to Auschwitz.

But Adams was additionally an outspoken homosexual author and Polish Jew in an usually homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant America within the 1920s and ’30s, one who revealed an early instance of American lesbian literature written by a lesbian.

Her “Lesbian Love,” a assortment of brief tales and illustrations, was revealed in February 1925. Written underneath the pseudonym Evelyn Addams, it explores the sexual awakenings and gender-defying nature of a number of dozen girls of various social pedigrees whom Adams had met in Greenwich Village and in her travels across the nation as a roving saleswoman of revolutionary multilingual periodicals. She modified the names of her characters to guard their identities.

“I merely intended to describe these characters with the aim to help them,” she mentioned later. “To show them the truth of their lives.”

Ms. Adams gave copies to associates within the Village, the place she ran Eve’s Hangout, a lesbian-friendly tearoom the place she hosted salons and poetry readings. (Earlier, whereas dwelling briefly in Chicago she had run The Grey Cottage, one other literary hang-out that doubled as a refuge for homosexual folks.)

In the 1920s, Adams ran a lesbian-friendly tearoom and literary hang-out within the basement of 129 Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village. The constructing was photographed in 1939.Credit…New York City Municipal Archives

At the time, books like Adams’s had been thought-about indecent and sometimes burned. Her 150 printed copies of “Lesbian Love” disappeared. Over time her work light from reminiscence.

Her youngest brother, Yerachmiel Zahavy, misplaced observe of her throughout World War II. He despatched letters to the Red Cross asking about her whereabouts, however they had been returned unanswered. He later appeared for her and different members of the family in Israel and the United States however to no avail.

On his deathbed in 1983, Yerachmiel requested his grandson Eran Zahavy, then 18, to proceed the search. “You must look for Chawa,” he mentioned, utilizing Adams’s delivery identify.

What he didn’t know was that his sister had been seized and despatched to the Auschwitz focus camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The youthful Zahavy heeded his grandfather’s request and started doing analysis. He linked with a playwright who had written theater items about Adams, in addition to a historian engaged on her biography, each of whom had come to her story individually. Eventually folks in Israel, Switzerland, France and the United States — none of whom knew Adams throughout her lifetime — started collectively resurrecting the story of her life.

In “Lesbian Love” (1925), Adams explored the sexual awakenings and gender-defying nature of a number of dozen girls of various social pedigrees whom she had met.Credit…Nina Alvarez

Chawa Zloczower was believed to have been born on June 27, 1891, in Mlawa, Poland, the eldest of seven youngsters of Mordechai and Miriam Zloczower. Her father was a grocer, her mom a homemaker. (Some data present her delivery date as March 31, 1891.)

Filled with wanderlust as a younger lady, she boarded the S.S. Vaderland in Antwerp, Belgium, and, at age 20, arrived alone on Ellis Island in New York on June four, 1912.

She spoke seven languages, together with Hebrew, and wrote in a letter to a pal that she felt totally at house nowhere. “In all the world, a foreigner,” she wrote, “and in the country I was born, a Jew.”

Soon she assumed the English translation of her first identify, Eve. And leaning into what her biographer, Jonathan Ned Katz, described as “her androgenous persona,” she mixed “a bit of Eve, a bit of Adam” for a identify higher befitting herself.

Preferring males’s garments and girls’s firm, Adams lived her life boldly at a time when the world thought-about the one respectable technique to reside it was to maintain it behind closed doorways. She counted amongst her associates the anarchists and revolutionaries Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman in addition to the taboos-shattering writer Henry Miller.

The United States authorities thought-about Adams an “agitator,” data present. Headed by J. Edgar Hoover, the “Radical Division” of the company that may change into the F.B.I. had been charged with spying on her since no less than 1919.

She was arrested in 1927 by an undercover police officer, Margaret M. Leonard, who had walked into Eve’s Hangout and obtained a copy of “Lesbian Love.” The e-book was deemed indecent, and Adams was held on a number of prices, together with disorderly conduct. She was convicted and spent 18 months in jail earlier than being deported to Poland on Dec. 7, 1927.

Adams in 1934 in Paris, the place, in cafes, she offered forbidden books, together with Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.” Credit…by way of Eran Zahavy

By 1930 Adams was dwelling in Paris and writing tales about her time in jail, submitting them to journal editors with little obvious success. In cafes she hawked forbidden books, together with Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” (1934), which had been barred from a number of nations as sexually express.

In 1933, Adams met Hella Olstein Soldner, a cabaret singer from Germany. Adams later described their assembly as “fate.” In a letter to a pal, she known as Soldner a “most beloved girl.” They lived collectively from then on — even after Soldner had married a man — although their relationship was by no means overtly described as romantic.

Adams, proper, with Hella Olstein Soldner, a cabaret singer. Adams known as their assembly “fate,” and the ladies from then on lived collectively till their deaths at Auschwitz.Credit…by way of Eran Zahavy

By June 1940, as German troops had been approaching Paris, the ladies fled to the south of France. There are options within the analysis about them that they might have aided the Resistance. The girls had been arrested whereas dwelling in Nice and hauled to the Drancy internment camp in Paris in December 1943.

Later that month they had been crammed, with about 850 Jews, onto cattle vehicles headed for Auschwitz, in keeping with Nazi police data. The journey took three days. Just 31 of the group lived to see liberation, in 1945, and although there is no such thing as a file of their deaths on the camp, Adams and Soldner weren’t amongst them.

On a latest Sunday, distant kin of Adams — some assembly for the primary time — gathered within the basement of what was Eve’s Hangout, at 129 Macdougal Street. (It is now an Italian cafe.) Among their friends had been the biographer Katz, the writer of “The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams” (2021), and Barbara Kahn, a New York playwright who wrote or co-wrote the Off Off Broadway performs “The Spring and Fall of Eve Adams,” “Unreachable Eden” and “Island Girls,” through which Adams is a primary character. The group commemorated Adams with readings from letters and excerpts from the biography.

“We have been separated for 100 years,” her relative Eran Zahavy mentioned. “Our strength is in our union. I think Eve would be very glad that we’re here.”

A avenue in Paris’s 18th Arrondissement, on the proper financial institution close to Porte de La Chapelle, now bears her identify, celebrating her contribution to town as a “pioneer activist for women’s rights.” A faculty and nursery there are additionally named for her, and a dedication ceremony involving the Polish and American embassies is scheduled for this fall.

In 1999, Nina Alvarez, a faculty scholar in Albany, N.Y., discovered a inexperienced clothbound e-book within the foyer of her residence constructing. When she picked it up she grew to become the proprietor of what’s now believed to be the one extant copy of “Lesbian Love.” Katz reprinted the e-book on the finish of his biography.

“I feel Eve with me,” Alvarez, who went on to begin her personal small publishing press, mentioned in an interview. “I sense she was a fierce person who knew what she wanted.”

And what she wished, absolutely, was to come across the world. Responding to a pal asking her for a e-book chapter, she wrote:

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

Susan C. Beachy contributed analysis.