Ben Lewis Reitman Papers

Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago - Special Collections and University Archives
Richard J. Daley Library
801 S. Morgan St., Room 3-330
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: 312-996-2742
Date: 1907-1989
Extent: 48 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
Hobo, physician and anarchist, Ben Reitman (1879-1942) was an advocate for the disadvantaged in Chicago and throughout the country. Reitman left school at age ten to become a hobo. He tramped around the U.S., panhandling and riding the rails until he returned to Chicago and took a job as a laboratory boy. In 1900, he was admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Reitman started a private practice on Chicago’s South Side in 1904. He continued to champion the causes of hobos and the unemployed as director of the Brotherhood Welfare Association, or "Hobo College." Through their organizing activities, Reitman met anarchist Emma Goldman. In addition to their romantic involvement, Reitman acted as Goldman’s manager. In 1917, Reitman re-established his medical practice in Chicago that served prostitutes, pimps and gangsters. Reitman became a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease and opened the first venereal disease clinic at the Cook County Jail in 1924.

Scope and Content Note:
The Ben Lewis Reitman Papers include correspondence, clippings, articles, reports, and photographs on such topics as birth control, female transients, venereal disease, hobos, anarchism and prisoners. It includes material about social settlements in Chicago, including Hull-House, and correspondence with Emma Goldman and Jessie Binford, Executive Director of the Juvenile Protective Association.

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