Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman was one of two prominent American women anarchists during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The other was Lucy Parsons, the widow of Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons.

Goldman was born in the Russian empire in what is now Lithuania. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1885 to join her sister in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked as a seamstress in a factory.

She became radicalized by the imprisonment and execution of the Haymarket martyrs—labor and anarchist leaders accused of killing police in Chicago, though most were not present when the incident took place.

She moved to New York City in early 1888 where she met anarchists Johann Most and Alexander Berkman and became wholeheartedly involved with the anarchist movement. She became a practiced orator during this period.

The Homestead strike in 1892 brought fame to both Berkman and Goldman. Owner Henry Frick locked out the union and brought in strikebreakers. A fierce battle ensued that left seven guards and nine strikers dead.

The two plotted to kill Frick believing it would spark a revolt against the capitalist system. Berkman shot Frick three times and stabbed him, but Frick lived. Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman was harassed by police, who believed her in cohorts with Berkmann though they could not prove it, and evicted from her home.

The following year a severe economic downturn prompted unrest. Goldman urged crowds to take action. She was charged with inciting to riot.

Police testified she said, "take everything ... by force". But Goldman denied this and claimed she said: "Well then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread.

Regardless, she was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison. After release, she resumed her speaking engagements, both at home and abroad.

In 1901, an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley. Czolgosz claimed he was inspired by Goldman and Goldman defended his actions—though Goldman had no connection with the act itself. She was detained for two weeks by police in connection with the shooting and largely condemned by, not only the public, but by other anarchists as well.

In 1903 she became involved in opposing the Anarchist Exclusion Act that permitted authorities to refuse entrance to the United States for anyone they deemed radical.

In 1906, she began an anarchist magazine called Mother Earth. Later that year Berkman was released from prison and the two resuming their partnership.

For the next ten years, she took speaking engagements around the country and in 1915 she took up Margaret Sanger’s birth control campaign.

Sanger was arrested in 1915 for distributing "obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles." In 1916 Goldman was arrested on the same charges and spent two weeks in jail for the offense.

She and Berkman opposed entry of the U.S. into World War I and began the “No Conscription League,” opposing the draft. When President Woodrow Wilson took the U.S. into the war in 1917, Goldman and Berkman were arrested. Many war opponents. including Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs, suffered the same fate.

Goldman defended herself in court and said in part,

“We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America. How else is the world to take America seriously, when democracy at home is daily being outraged, free speech suppressed, peaceable assemblies broken up by overbearing and brutal gangsters in uniform; when free press is curtailed and every independent opinion gagged?

Berkman and Goldman were both found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine with the possibility of deportation upon their release.

The two were released during the 1919 Red Scare and were taken into custody. Authorities revoked her citizenship and she and Berkman were deported to the Soviet Union.

Goldman initially supported the Russian revolution, but grew increasingly critical of the Bolsheviks during her stay.

This was the period in which both the Western powers, including the U.S., launched an invasion to overthrow the Bolsheviks and the forces of the former Czar were waging war on the communists as well. After three years of World War I and now several years of civil war, Russia was gripped with privation.

They met with communist leader Vladimir Lenin, who dismissed them as idealists and assured them that government suppression of normal civil liberties was justified. He allegedly told them: "There can be no free speech in a revolutionary period."

She first recoiled at the Bolshevik repression of the anarchist Nester Makhno’s self-governing territory in Ukraine in 1920.

During the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921 where workers and sailors struck demanding more food, the Soviet authorities repressed the rebellion with hundreds killed in the fighting. Berkman and Goldman then decided to quit the Soviet Union.

The two settled in Europe, but found both Berlin and London inhospitable to their anarchist philosophy. She spent several years working on her autobiography “Living My Life.”

She received permission to return to the U.S. in 1933, but only to speak on her autobiography. When her six-month visa expired, she was denied a renewal.

In 1936, Francisco Franco’s fascist revolt against the elected government in Spain gave her another opportunity at relevance. She quickly aligned herself with the large section of Spanish anarchists and organized support for them.

With the fascist forces’ victory in 1939, she returned to Europe and then Canada where she wrote opposing the impending war in Europe.

She died there in 1940.

She was largely forgotten until the social upsurges of the 1960s when her writings were re-discovered. She influenced the nascent women’s liberation movement with her support for free, available contraception, support for lesbians and gay people and for the emancipation of women from the family structure.

Her anarchist writings also received renewed attention during that period. A very abbreviated definition of anarchism by Goldman is:

“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.”
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