New Books Network

Sherry L. Smith

Bohemians West

Free Love, Family, and Radicals in Twentieth-Century America

Heyday Books 2020

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the American West September 15, 2020 Ryan Tripp

The opening years of the twentieth century saw a grand cast of radicals and reformers fighting for a new America, seeking change not only...

The opening years of the twentieth century saw a grand cast of radicals and reformers fighting for a new America, seeking change not only in labor picket lines and at women’s suffrage rallies but also in homes and bedrooms.

In the thick of this heady milieu were Sara Bard Field and Charles Erskine Scott Wood, two aspiring poets and political activists whose love story uncovers a potent emotional world underneath this transformative time. Self-declared pioneers in free love, Sara and Erskine exchanged hundreds of letters that charted a new kind of romantic relationship, and their personal pursuits frequently came into contact with their deeply engaged political lives.

In 1915 Sara’s star rose in the suffrage movement when she drove across the country in a daring car trip, carrying a four-mile long petition with thousands of signatures demanding Congress pass the Nineteenth Amendment. In the process, she began to ask questions about her own power in her relationship with Erskine.

Charting a passionate and tumultuous relationship that spanned decades, Sherry L. Smith’s Bohemians West: Free Love, Family, and Radicals in Twentieth-Century America (Heyday Books, 2020) offers a deeply personal look at a dynamic period in American history.

Sherry L. Smith is University Distinguished Professor of History (Emerita) at Southern Methodist University.


Ryan Tripp is an adjunct for California community colleges and universities.