VOLUME 16 NUMBER 1
SPRING 2015

A Common Cause: The Lives and Works of David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery

The exhibit A Common Cause: The Lives and Works of David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery opened in the John J. Burns Library in January. This exhibit showcases the latest fully processed collection from the archives, the David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery papers. Goldstein and Avery were a fascinating duo. Originally Socialists, they both converted to Catholicism and became evangelical authors and public speakers, touring all over North America. The collection documents the intriguing twists and turns of their lives.

On the face of it, they were an unlikely pair. Goldstein was a Jewish immigrant, born in London, who grew up in New York and left school at age 11 to work; Avery grew up in a politically active Maine family, belonged to a Unitarian congregation, and had worked as a milliner. By the time they met in Boston in the 1890s, Avery was a widowed single mother making her living as a public speaker for the Socialist Labor Party, and Goldstein, 20 years her junior, was a cigar maker and budding political firebrand in need of a mentor. They became key players in the early days of the Socialist movement in Boston. In Autobiography of a Campaigner for Christ, Goldstein even calls Avery "the first American woman of prominence" in the Socialist Party. Their papers demonstrate their political activism and support of organized labor, and include an interesting selection of political buttons and union membership medals.

Medals, buttons, and pins, circa 1898-1921, Box 2, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Medals, buttons, and pins, circa 1898-1921, Box 2, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167,
John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1896, Avery formed the Karl Marx Class, which later became the Boston School of Political Economy. She believed Socialists did not understand what Marxism really meant, and wanted to provide weekly classes in the close reading of Marx's works. Goldstein joined her in this endeavor as a secretary and took class notes, some of which are included in the collection. In 1900, after a disagreement with the leadership, Avery and Goldstein left the Socialist Labor Party and joined the Socialist Party. They had high hopes for the new party, but soon began to find fault with its ideals and the actions of its leaders, particularly in its attitudes towards morality, religion, and free love. They split with the Socialist Party in 1903, spurred on by the controversy that erupted when prominent Socialist George Herron publicly abandoned his wife for a wealthy younger heiress. Avery and Goldstein expressed their moral outrage in a 1903 book, Socialism: The Nation of Fatherless Children and shortly thereafter converted to Catholicism. Their conversion was inspired by Avery's daughter Katherine, who attended a Catholic boarding school in Canada, converted, and took vows as a nun.

Katherine Avery with David Goldstein, after 1930. Box 34, Folder 5, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Katherine Avery with David Goldstein, after 1930. Box 34, Folder 5, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Although they left the philosophy of Socialism far behind, Goldstein and Avery retained the street corner preaching methods of their early training. They started to lecture on family values, marriage and divorce, birth control, women's suffrage, Christianity and Judaism, and Christianity versus Socialism. They still spoke strongly in support of unions and labor workers, and Goldstein continued to be a member of the Cigar Makers International Union throughout his life, while both supported the American Federation of Labor. In 1912, they co-founded the Common Cause Society, an Anti-Socialist Catholic workingman's organization with social justice aims.

Martha Moore Avery and David Goldstein with the Catholic Truth Guild van, circa 1919, Box 34, Folder 39, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Martha Moore Avery and David Goldstein with the Catholic Truth Guild van, circa 1919, Box 34, Folder 39, David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery Papers, MS.1986.167, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

While at first their lectures were only local, in 1917 Cardinal O'Connell, the Archbishop of Boston, gave them permission to advocate in the Church's name. They formed the Catholic Truth Guild (later the Catholic Campaigners for Christ), under whose auspices they travelled the country in specially-commissioned vans. The vans were painted in papal colors and were decorated with crosses and flags. Avery lectured in the Boston area and took care of the financial and business side of the organization, while Goldstein and his driver toured all over North America. After Avery's death in 1929, Goldstein continued touring until 1941. He spent his retirement writing and lecturing locally until his death in 1958. He left his papers – which also include some of Avery's papers – to Boston College. The collection details their unlikely turn from passionate Socialists to equally enthusiastic Catholic evangelists and includes scrapbooks recording their lecture tours, subject files that illustrate the breadth of Goldstein's interests, correspondence with notable religious and political figures, photographs, and writings.

If you can, drop by the John J. Burns Library to learn more about Goldstein and Avery and to see some of their papers and artifacts on display. You can also read the finding aid online, and the entire collection is available to researchers in the Burns Library; please contact us at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu for more information.

Xaviera Flores
Annalisa Moretti
Adrienne Pruitt

John J. Burns Library