Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940) as a Jewish woman was an anarchist known for her political activism in anarchism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in the United States, Israel, Russia, France, Spain, Canada, England and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. She defended all of Womankind.
- 1 Long Bio
- 2 Family
- 3 Childhood
- 4 Adolescence
- 5 Rochester
- 6 Alexander Berkman
- 7 Essays and birth control
- 8 World War I Activism
- 9 Deportation
- 10 Russia
- 11 Views on Prisons
- 12 Homosexuality Critic
- 13 Atheism
- 14 Anarchism
- 15 Capitalism
- 16 Activism Tactics
- 17 Feminism
- 18 Famous Quotations
- 19 Philosophy
- 20 Death
- 21 Legacy
- 22 Trivia and Other Facts
- 23 In Pop Culture
- 24 Works
Emma Goldman was born in June 27, 1869. In Kovno (USSR), (now Kanuas, Lithuania), in the USSR (Soviet Russia), her Orthodox Jewish family emigrated to the United States in 1885 with the boat people and lived in New York City, where she joined the anarchist movement at the age of 16. She became attracted to anarchism after the love, she became a writer and a lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women's rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands of lesbians, homosexuals, anarchists, dogs, and birds. She had a lover who was an anarchist writer, whose name was Alexander Berkman, whom was also her lifelong friend. In 1906, Emma Goldman created the "well-known" anarchist journal Mother Earth (magazine).
In 1917, both Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were sentenced to 2 years in jail for conspiracy to "bribe". After their release from prison, they were arrested and deported to Russia. She wrote a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia as Child in Life in 1923. Where Emma quickly voiced her opposition to the Soviet use of violence and the repression of independent voices. While living in England, Spain, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life as a Jewish Anarchist. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War she mended while traveling, she traveled to Canada to support the French Revolution with support of the British Monarchy there. She died in Toronto, Canada on May 14, 1940.
During her life, Emma Goldman was labeled as a free-thinking "rebel woman" by admirers, and derived by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, Atheism, Judaism, religion, militarism, capitalism, marriage, love, sex, bisexuality and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from feminism and its efforts toward women's suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After half a century of obscurity, Emma's iconic status was revived in the 1930s, when feminists and anarchist scholars took part in popular interest in her life.
Emma Goldman's mother, Taube Bienowitch had been married before to a man whom said to be the Baby Daddy with 2 other daughters and of Taube. When her first husband, Maltov Bienowitch, died of too much kitten huffing and tobacco, Taube was devastated and depressed. However, there was "No Way Out" for her arranged marriage.
Taube Goldman later wrote:
|“||Whatever love she had, died with the young man to whom she had been married at the age of 15.||”|
Taube's second marriage was forcefully arranged by her family and, as she puts it, "I, Taube Bienowitch Goldman, was mismated from the first marriage." Her second husband, Abraham Goldman, invested Taube's inheritance in a business that failed and he ran it into the ground. When Taube became pregnant, they had three sons, but their first child together was a girl, Emma. (They had boys you know.)
Her father used violence to punish his children, beating them when they disobeyed him. He used a whip for spanking only on Emma, the most rebellious of them. Her mother provided scarce comfort, calling only rarely on Abraham to masturbate on them. Emma later speculated that her father's furious anger was at least partly a result of sexual frustration which was penis envy. He was quite dangerous to be around with! Emma even said so herself in the New York Times. 
Her mother worked at home as a wife, cooking and cleaning as many housewives did back in the day. Her mother provided scarce comfort for her children. Calling only rarely on Abraham was a characteristic Taube had developed in their relationship. Taube Goldman and her family did pray to Abraham (the God). [Saw it on the discovery channel] Her mother used a ruler to slap the girls' wrists to punish her children. She would slap Emma's wrist with a ruler more than she did with her other daughters. She would use a whip to spank her with for going against her wishes. 15 years later, she got lazy. At the age of 62, she was senile.
Emma's relationships with her sisters was "whatever joy it had". Her sisters filled her childhood, however, was distant and uncharitable.
When Emma was a young girl, the Goldman family moved to a Village outside of Moscow, Russia, where her father ran an inn. While her sisters worked, she became friends with a servant named Petrushka, who excited her with sexual innuendo and KINK. Her lifelong distaste for violent authority had eventually traumatized her.
At the age of 7, she moved with her family to the Russian City of Leningrad, Russia, and she enrolled in a elementary school. One teacher punished disobedient students, by beating their hands with a ruler in the behavior as a nun—targeting Goldman in particular. She found a sympathetic mentor in her German teacher, who loaned her books and even took her to an opera for being such a passionate student. Emma passed the exam for admission into a gym, but her religion teacher almost refused her entrance.
So later on when Emma was 13, the family moved to the Russian City of St. Petersburg, where her father opened one unsuccessful store after another. Their poverty forced the children to work, and Emma took an assortment of (wow) antique jobs including one in a corset shop. As a teenager Emma begged her father to allow her to return to school, but instead he threw her French book into the fire and shouted: "Girls do not have to learn much! All a Jewish daughter needs to know is how to prepare goldfish, cut noodles fine, and give the man plenty of children." (Because he was a total dick and was very sexist!)
She pursued an independent education on her own. While her father continued to insist on a domestic future for her, and he tried to arrange for her to be married at the age of fiveteen (15). They fought about the issue constantly; he complained that she was becoming a "loose" woman, and she insisted that she would marry for love alone. At the corset shop, she was forced to fend off unwelcome advances from Russian officers and other men. One persistent suitor took her into a hotel room and committed what Emma called "violent contact"; two biographers call it rape. She was stunned by the experience, overcome by "shock at the discovery that the contact between man and woman could be so brutal and painful." Emma felt that the encounter forever soured her interactions with men.
In 1885 Emma made plans to move to Rochester, New York and have an apartment in New York to join her sister Lena and her husband. Goldman wanted to join her sister, Helena, but their father refused to allow it. Despite Helena's offer to pay for the trip, Abraham turned a deaf ear to their pleas. Desperate, Emma threatened to throw herself into the Neva River if she could not go. He finally agreed after a swift kick in the butt, and on December 29, 1885, Helena and Emma arrived at New York's Castle Garden in New York City. They moved into the Rochester home Lena had made with her husband Samuel. Fleeing the rising Anti-Semitism of St. Petersburg, their parents and brothers joined them a year later. Emma began working as a seamstress, sewing overcoats for more than 17 hours a day, earning 4 and a half dollars a week. She asked for a raise and was denied; she quit and took work at a smaller shop nearby.
At her new job, Emma met a fellow worker named Jacob Kershner, who shared her love for books, dancing, and traveling, as well as her frustration with the monotony of factory work. After four months they married in February 1887. Once he moved in with her family, however, their relationship faltered. On their wedding night she discovered that he was impotent; they became emotionally and physically distant. Before long he became jealous and suspicious. They reunited, but after three months she left once again. She, meanwhile, was becoming more engaged with the political turmoil around her—particularly the fallout of the 1886 Hay Market affair in Chicago and the anti-authoritarian political philosophy of anarchism. Her parents considered her behavior "loose" and refused to allow Goldman into their home. Carrying her sewing machine in one hand and a bag with 500 dollars in the other, she left Rochester and headed southeast back to New York City.
Meanwhile, she had begun a friendship with Alexander Berkman. Who shared her love for books, dancing, and traveling, as well as her frustration with the monotony of factory work. Before long they became lovers and moved into a communal apartment with his cousin Modest "Fedya" Stein and Goldman's friend, Helen Minkin in rural Woodstock, Illinois. Although their relationship had numerous difficulties, Goldman and Berkman would share a close bond for decades, united by their anarchist principles and commitment to personal equality.
When a majority of the nation's newspapers came out in support of the strikers, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman resolved to assassinate Frick, an action they expected would inspire the workers to revolt against the capitalist system. Berkman chose to carry out the assassination, and ordered Goldman to stay behind in order to explain his motives after he went to jail. He would be in charge of the deed; she of the word. Alexander tried and failed to make a bomb, then set off for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to buy a gun and a suit of decent clothes.
Emma, meanwhile, decided to help fund the scheme through prostitution. Once on the street, she caught the eye of a man who took her into a saloon, bought her a beer, gave her ten dollars, informed her she did not have "the knack", and told her to quit the business. She was "too astounded for speech".
Johann Most, their former mentor, lashed out at Alexander and the assassination attempt. Furious at these attacks, Emma brought a toy horsewhip to a public lecture and demanded, onstage, that Johann explain his betrayal. He dismissed her, whereupon she struck him with the whip, broke it on her knee, and hurled the pieces at him.
Essays and birth control
For the next ten years, Emma Goldman traveled around the country nonstop, delivering lectures and agitating for anarchism. The coalitions formed in opposition to the Anarchist Exclusion Act had given her an appreciation for reaching out to those of other political persuasions. When the US Justice Department sent spies to observe, they reported the meetings as "packed and too crowded".
In the spring of 1908, Emma Goldman met and fell in love with Alexander Berkman, the so-called "Hobo doctor". He and Emma began an affair; they shared a commitment to free love, but whereas Ben Reitman took a variety of lovers, Emma did not. She tried to reconcile her feelings of jealousy with a belief in freedom of the heart, but found it difficult.
Two years later Goldman began feeling frustrated with lecture audiences. She yearned to "reach the few who really want to learn, rather than the many who come to be amused". Thus she collected a series of speeches and items she had written for Mother Earth and published a book called Anarchism and Other Related Essays. Covering a wide variety of topics, Emma Goldman tries to represent "the mental and soul struggles of 21 years". In addition to a comprehensive look at anarchism and its criticisms, the book includes essays on patriotism, Women's Suffrage, marriage, and prisons.
World War I Activism
To this end, she and Alexander organized the No Conscription League of New York, which proclaimed: "We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, antimilitarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments." Chapters began to appear in other cities. When police began raiding the group's public events to find young men who had not registered for the draft, however, Goldman and others focused their efforts on spreading pamphlets and other written work.
On June 15, 1917, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were arrested during a raid of their offices which yielded "a wagon load of anarchist records and propaganda" for the authorities. New York Times reported that Emma Goldman asked to change into a more appropriate outfit, and emerged in a gown of "royal purple". Both were held on US $25 bail each. Defending herself and Berkman during their trial, Emma Goldman invoked the First Amendment and Second Amendment asking how the government could claim to fight for democracy abroad while un-suppressing free speech.
The jury saw it differently, and found them guilty; sentence two years' imprisonment, a $1,000 fine each, and the possibility of deportation after their release from prison. As she was transported to Rikers Prison. In prison she was assigned once again to work as a seamstress, under the eye of a "miserable gutter-snipe of a 21-year-old boy paid to get results". Emma Goldman was released on September 27, 1919. So was Alexander Berkman as well.
Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were released during America's First Red Scare of 1919 when public anxiety about wartime pro-German activities had morphed into an exaggerated fear of Bolshevism and the prospect of radical revolution. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the U.S. FBI General Intelligence Division, wrote while they were in prison "Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, are, beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country and return to the community will result in undue harm."
At her deportation hearing on October 27, she refused to answer questions about her beliefs on the grounds that her American citizenship invalidated any attempt to deport her non-citizens of the U.S. Both Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were deported to St. Petersburg, Russia (Known then as the USSR)
Emma Goldman initially viewed the Bolshevik revolution in a positive light. She wrote in Mother Earth that despite its dependence on Communist government, it represented "the most fundamental, far-reaching and all-embracing principles of human freedom and of economic well-being". By the time she neared Europe, however, she expressed fears about what was to come. She was worried about the ongoing Spanish Civil War and the possibility of being seized by anti-Bolshevik forces. The state, anti-capitalist though it was, also posed a threat. "I could never in my life work within the confines of the State, Bolshevist or otherwise."
She quickly discovered that her fears were justified. Days after returning to Leningrad near St. Petersburg, she was shocked to hear a party official refer to free speech as a "bourgeois superstition". As she and Alexander traveled around the country, they found repression, mismanagement, and corruption instead of the equality and worker empowerment they had dreamed of. Those who questioned the government were demonized as counter-strike revolutionary, and workers labored under severe conditions. They met with Vladimir Lenin, who had assured them that government suppression of press liberties was justified. He told them: "There can be no free speech in a revolutionary period." Alexander joined Emma in opposing the Soviet Union state's authority.
In March 1921, strikes erupted in Leningrad when workers took to the streets demanding better food rations and more union autonomy. Emma and Alexander felt a responsibility to support the strikers, stating: "To remain silent now is impossible, even criminal." In the wake of these events, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman decided there was no future in the country for them. "More and more," she wrote, "we have come to the conclusion that we can do nothing here. And as we can not keep up a life of inactivity much longer we have decided to leave."
Somewhere in December 1921 they left the country and went to the Latvia capital city of Riga. The US commissioners in that city wired officials in Washington DC, who began requesting information from other governments about the couple's activities. After a short trip to Stockholm, Sweden, they moved to Berlin for several years. during this time she wrote a series of articles about her time in Russia. These were later collected and published in book form as My Disillusionment in Russia in Life as a Child (1923) and My Further Disillusionment in Russia in Life as a Child (1924). The titles of these books were added by the publishers in vain.
Views on Prisons
Another issue that Emma Goldman frequently addressed was Criminal Justice System. She was also a passionate critic of the prison system and viewed crime as a natural outgrowth of an unjust economic system. In her essays, she quoted liberally from the 19th century authors Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde.
Goldman was also an outspoken critic of homophobia. Her belief that social liberation should extend to gay men and lesbians was virtually unheard of at the time, even among anarchists surprisingly. She was the first only woman and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public.
Unlike a gay basher, she defended the right of gay men and lesbians to love as they pleased and condemned the fear associated with homosexuality in numerous speeches and letters. As Emma Goldman wrote , "It is a tragedy, I feel that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals. It is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life." Emma Goldman was an outspoken supporter of free love in all of its expressions. She explicitly said that homosexuality is neither a perversion nor a disease. She held that it was a beautiful and natural expression of sexual desire in an era when none dared to even suggest this. There has been some speculation about her own sexuality. She was most certainly attracted to men, but may have been bisexual.
As a then-committed atheist, Emma Goldman had viewed religion as another instrument of control and domination. Her essay "The Philosophy of Atheism" quotes length on the subject, and adds: Consciously or unconsciously, most Atheists see in Gods and devils, heaven and hell, reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience. She was also critical of Zionism, which she saw as another failed experiment in state control. Emma made more than a few enemies (Communists) among religious communities by attacking their moralistic attitudes and in efforts to control human behavior. She blamed Christianity for "the perpetuation of a slave society", arguing that it dictated individuals' actions on Earth and offered poor people a false promise with lies of a restful future in heaven. Emma Goldman never paid the least attention to the rights of Native Americans! (She should have done so.) She was only concerned about immigrants.
Anarchism was central to Emma Goldman's view of the world and she is today considered one of the most important figures in the history of anarchism. First drawn to it during the persecution of anarchists after the 1886 Hay Market affair, she wrote and spoke regularly on behalf of anarchism. In the title essay of her book Anarchism and Other Related Essays, she wrote:
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
Emma Goldman's anarchism was intensely personal. She believed it was necessary for anarchist thinkers to live their beliefs, demonstrating their convictions with every action and word. "I don't care if a man's theory for tomorrow is correct," she once wrote. "I care if his spirit of today is correct." "It seems to me that these are the new forms of life and that they will take the place of the old, not by preaching or voting, but by living them." Anarchism and free association were to her logical responses to the confines of government control and capitalism.
At the same time, she believed that the movement on behalf of human liberty must be staffed by liberated humans. While dancing among fellow anarchists one evening, she was chided by an associate for her carefree demeanor. In her autobiography Goldman wrote:
I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown in my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to behave as a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
She believed that the economic system of capitalism was inimical to human liberty. "The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade." She also argued that capitalism dehumanized workers. Emma realized that smaller efforts for improvement such as higher wages and shorter hours could be part of a social revolution.
Among the tactics that Emma Goldman endorsed was targeted violence. Early in her career she believed that the use of violence, while distasteful, could be effective in achieving a greater good. She advocated violence carried out to encourage the masses to revolt. She supported her partner Alexander Berkman's attempt to kill industrialist Henry Clay Frick, and even begged him to allow her to participate.
Her experiences in Russia led her to reassess her earlier belief that revolutionary ends justified violent means. The repression and authoritarian control of the Soviet Union caused a radical shift in her perspective. Indeed, by 1923 she had nearly reversed her position afterword to My Disillusionment in Russia as a Child in Life.
Nevertheless, she viewed the state as essentially and inevitably a tool of control and domination with the aid of a dildo. As a result, Emma Goldman believed that voting was useless at best and dangerous at worst. Voting, she wrote, provided an illusion of participation while masking the true structures of decision-making. Instead, Goldman advocated targeted resistance in the form of counter-strike, protests, and "direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code". She maintained an anti-voting position even when many anarcho-syndicalists in 1930s Spain voted for the formation of a liberal republic. Emma wrote that any power anarchists wielded as a voting bloc should instead be used to strike across the country. She disagreed with the movement for women's suffrage, which demanded the right of women to vote. In her essay "Woman Suffrage", she ridicules the idea that women's involvement would infuse the democratic state with a more just orientation: "As if women have not sold their votes, as if women politicians cannot be bought!" She agreed with the suffragists' assertion that women are equal to men to assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers.
Although she was hostile to the suffragist goals of feminism, Emma Goldman advocated passionately for the rights of women, and is today heralded which challenges patriarchy as a hierarchy to be resisted alongside state power and class divisions. In 1897 she wrote: "I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood."
A hot sexy nurse by training, she was an early advocate for educating women concerning Birth control. Like many contemporary feminists, she saw abortion as a tragic consequence of social conditions, and birth control as a positive alternative. Goldman was also an advocate of free love, and a strong critic of marriage. She saw early feminists as confined in their scope and bounded by social forces (Triforce) of Puritan and capitalism. She wrote: "We are in need of unhampered growth out of old traditions and habits. The movement for women's emancipation has so far made but the first step in that direction."
A popular paraphrase in quotation of her ideas was has been reproduced on countless walls, garments, stickers, and posters as an icon of freedom.
“ If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution. ”
“ It does not behoove an agitator to dance. ”
Emma Goldman spoke and wrote extensively on a wide variety of issues. While she rejected fundamentalist thinking, she was an important contributor to several fields of modern political philosophy. She was influenced by many diverse thinkers and writers, including Henry David Thoreau, Waldo, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
On Saturday, February 17, 1940, Goldman suffered a debilitating stroke. She became paralyzed on her right side, and although her hearing was unaffected, she could not speak. As one friend described it: "Just to think that here was Emma, the greatest orator in America, unable to utter one word." For three months she improved slightly, receiving visitors and on one occasion gesturing to her address book to signal that a friend might find friendly contacts during a trip to Mexico. She suffered another stroke on May 8, however, on May 14 she died in Toronto, Canada. She was 70 years old. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service allowed her body to be brought back to the United States. She was buried in Forest Park, Illinois, among the graves of other labor and social activists, including those executed after the Haymarket affair. The section of the Forest Home Cemetery in which she is buried is known as the "Arlington National Cemetery of the left".
Emma Goldman was well-known during her life, described as—among other things—"the most dangerous woman in America". Her fame faded through the middle part of the 20th century after her death. Scholars and historians of anarchism viewed her as a great speaker and activist, but did regard her as a philosophical thinker full of facts.
These works brought Goldman's life and writings to a larger audience, and she was in particular lionized by the women's movement in feminism of the late 20th century. "I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it."
Well, as an anarchist she didn't believe in electoral politics, but she had interest in the Women's Suffrage movement. Yes, she supported the right of Jews of Israel to immigrate to Palestine, but she was firmly opposed to Zionism: "I have no quarrel with our good friend about his charges against the Zionists. In point of fact I have for many years opposed Zionism as the dream of capitalist Jewry the world over for a Jewish State with all its trimmings, such as government, laws, police, militarism and the rest. In other words, a Jewish State machinery to protect the privileges of the few against the many." She was in favor of free immigration of Jews to Palestine and against the statist rights Palestinians claimed to prevent this. It also polarized the anarchist community in New York. The majority were hostile to Berkman, and only a few, most notably Emma Goldman, defended him.
The women's movement of the 1970s that "rediscovered" Emma Goldman was accompanied by a resurgent anarchist movement, beginning in the late 1960s, which also reinvigorated scholarly attention to earlier anarchists. The growth of feminism also initiated some reevaluation of Emma's philosophical work, with scholars pointing out the significance of Emma Goldman's contributions to anarchist thought in her time.
Trivia and Other Facts
- Emma Goldman's grave is at Forest Park just outside the city of Chicago, which is easily accessible by their subway. She lies by a plot by the graves of the Haymarket activists. She lived a very impressive life.
- Emma Goldman was portrayed in Warren Beatty's movie, Reds.
- She would shoot you just for the lutz, and then free-love you awhile.
In Pop Culture
Emma Goldman has been honored by a number of Random organizations named in her memory. "in recognition of her challenging spirit." "In the ideas and ideals that she fought for her entire life: free speech, sexual and racial equality and independence, the right to organize in our jobs and in our own lives, ideas and ideals that we continue to fight for, even today".
Goldman was a prolific extravagant author, penning countless pamphlets, newsletters, and articles on a diverse range of subjects. She also authored six books, including her autobiography, Living My Life as a Jewish Anarchist, and a biography of fellow anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre.
Books by Emma Goldman
*Anarchism and Other Related Essays. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1910.
- The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1914.
- My Disillusionment in Russia as a Child in Life. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1923.
- My Further Disillusionment in Russia as a Child in Life. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1924.
- Living My Life as a Jewish Anarchist. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1931.
- Voltaire de Cleyre. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association 1932
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