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Wednesday’s Wise Woman … Emma Goldman.

January 9, 2013

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman 

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was born in Kovno, Russia now know as Lithuania and best known for her political activity, writing and speeches.  She played a big part in the growth of anarchist political philosophy in USA and Europe in the early 20th century.
Emma emigrated to the USA in 1885 she arrived in New York; sixteen years old and penniless, already well educated in anarchist ideals.  She went on to become a remarkable woman and one of the most principled  revolutionaries of the 20th century.
Emma joined the anarchist movement in 1889 soon after the Haymarket Affair (Riot or Massacre) in 1885.  When a peace rally in support of the workers striking for an eight hour day was seriously disrupted by a bomb that was thrown into the crowd.  It caused the death of three civilians and seven policemen and many severe injuries.The legal proceedings that followed attracted much international interest.  Eight anarchist were wrongfully accused; one was given a life sentence and the others were sentenced to death.  Eventually two of the death sentences were commuted, another prisoner committed suicide and the others were hung.  It was later that the remaining prisoners were acquitted.  The event provoked much public sympathy and it was because of this that the May Day observances were set in place,  The Haymarket Martyrs Monument was made a designated National Historic Landmark in 1997.
Emma became a writer and notable speaker on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights and social issues attracting crowds of people. She founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

mother earth

 Emma  was imprisoned several times for inciting riots and distributing information about birth control. Again in 1917 for conspiring to ‘induce persons not to register for the recently instated draft’ not long after her release she was arrested again with hundreds of others and deported to Russia.  She lived for two years in the Soviet Union before breaking with the Bolsheviks and denouncing Lenin for ‘betraying the revolution.’ Following this she lived in England, Canada and France; Then she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there.
Emma died at the age of 70 in 1940.
As with some some women previously discussed, Emma was on one hand applauded as a free  thinking rebel woman on the other some denounced her as a supporter of politically motivated murder and militant revolution.
According to Martin Duberman she was a brilliant orator who toured the country opposing capitalism and nationalism, the champion of artistic modernism, defender of women and minorities and an independent writer and leading voice in anarchism.
After years of obscurity Emma Goldman’s iconic status was revived in the 1970s when anarchist and feminist scholars rekindled popular interest.

Further reading Mother Earth an epic drama of Emma Goldman’s life by Martin Duberman.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 1:40 pm

    One of my longtime heroes! “If I can’t dance, I want no part of your revolution.” Thanks for profiling Emma today.

    • January 9, 2013 2:20 pm

      Oh I am so pleased! I love her, thus first name terms but she was strong! Not everyone’s cup of Tea! xx


  1. Wednesday’s woman continued. | Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages

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