“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all humans beings irrespective of race, color, or sex are born with the equal right to share at the table of life.” ~Emma Goldman from a New Declaration of Independence 1909
In starting my research for my next book I came across this fascinating woman, Emma Goldman. She was an American radical in the early 1900’s championing such causes as free love, equality and independence for women, birth control, unions and workers rights. Emma not only embraced early 20th-century anarchism, she helped shape their philosophy. She went on to publish her own newspaper called Mother Earth.
A Jewish immigrant, Emma arrived in New York from Russia in 1885. She was attracted to the Anarchy movement at an early age, in 1892 she and her lover Alexander Berkman attempted to assassinate a wealthy industrialist. Their assassination attempt failed and Alexander was sentenced to 22 years in prison while Emma was briefly let go. She found herself arrested at multiple times for allegedly inciting riots and distributing literature on birth control (which was illegal at the time).
Though the government regularly associated her with violent acts she scorned violence. She found violence to be useless in perpetuating her cause. Though she was not very religious she considered her Jewish upbringing as a foundation for her beliefs in universal justice. The Jewish-American culture was exceedingly important to her. Though she believed that one could serve God and yet be true to man. Though, dancing the “Anarchist Slide,” which she invented, was not seen as a proper dance for Yom Kippur…
However, it wasn’t her associations with violence or her ethnicity that caused her to be deported in 1919. Ultimately, it was her loud criticism of the draft in WWI that caused her deportation. Her, encouragement of men to not sign up for the draft was seen as interfering (which was illegal). She and a number of other Russian immigrants were rounded up and sent back to Russia.
Emma died in 1940, but not before she wrote a number of essays denouncing Nazism.
Feeling inspired by Emma? Check out these books:
- Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman Hear what she has to say for yourself.
- Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam Emma was initially a supporter of the Bolsheviks but changed her mind after the Soviet Union was formed. This book would give you a sense of what happened to people in her home country.
- Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina Read about another woman who defied the rules.