Edith Stein: Liberty… and Folly

Edith Stein knew what she wanted.

Born in Lille in 1815, Edith would meet her future husband, Leo Stein, in Paris, where he lived during the turn of the century. She was by then in her mid-twenties, and the future Freret Prize winner was 21 years her senior. After falling for each other, they married and moved to America.

Their life together was complicated from the start. For years, Edith had been born into a marriage forced by matrilineal inheritance. She knew this — and so did Leo — so he made sure she understood the fraught dynamics of the position. Through decades of oppression, Edith had become a “freestyle” woman — including quite often choosing sex.

Through a life of bloodshed and debt, Edith lived with a sense of difficulty that would last a lifetime. She and Leo experienced the traumas of slavery in their homeland, France, and of “glocalization” in America, facing a fractured world in which they were often second class citizens.

Born into a life of oppression, Edith sought freedom in France. She hoped to pass herself off as a “guy” — her own fake husband. In her travels around Europe, Edith hoped to marry in the right place, in the right way, at the right time — to be his slave.

And yet, she would ultimately be free. Edith was a flawed character, but she embodied the resilience of humanity, and the dignity of noble ambitions.

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