Fierce Femme Friday: Emma Goldman

If you follow me on Instragram you may have noticed that I am starting to research my next novel now that Anita can see the light at the end of the tunnel. While conducting my research I came across a woman who has become a bit of a hero for me. Hopefully, you’ll feel the same. Her name is Emma Goldman and she was the epitome of anarchist rebel.

emma 3In 1885 at the age of 16, to break away from her strict Jewish upbringing she immigrated to Rochester, New York. Then at the age of 20, after getting out of a brief marriage she moved to New York City to begin her career as an anarchist.

Emma soon became the protege of Johann Most. Though protests against the mistreatment of factory workers were emphasized by her contemporaries Emma Goldman focused on people’s personal freedoms, particularly women’s freedom. Not only did she believe that the government was oppressive, she believed that the institution of marriage infringed on a woman’s freedoms. She said:

The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent. It incapacitates her for life’s struggle, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a travesty on human character. Love, the strongest and deepest element in all lives, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

In 1893 the United States made anarchist speech illegal but did that stop our girl? Not in the slightest. She spoke to a large group of unemployed laborers that same year and was arrested for inciting a riot. This, by the way, was her second arrest (she was arrested for a failed assassination attempt on a factory owner).

emma 1

Being arrested only steeled her resolve to fight for the freedom of everyone. First Emma started a women’s magazine called Mother Earth in 1906 and then refusing to be silenced,  went on a speaking tour around the country. It was during this time that she was labeled the most dangerous woman in America. Why? Because she discouraged men or signing up for the draft, told poverty-stricken Americans that if they were hungry to take a loaf of bread from the rich and *gasp* encouraged women to use birth control. That’s right, she was arrested for encouraging women to use birth control.

Emma, however, wasn’t a suffragette because she believed the movement didn’t go far enough. Because she felt the government was an oppressive system she didn’t agree with the Suffragette idea that women would fix the corruption in the government. Also, as an Athiest, she wasn’t all that comfortable with their religious roots.

Emma was an early pioneer of free love. She wrote:

I demand the independence of woman, her right to support 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.

She became such a nuisance to the American government that they revoked her citizenship and sent her back to Russia in 1919. While there she met with Lennon and was disillusioned by the new regime that was installed. It was not the Utopia she had dreamed of. So she packed her bags again and traveled around Europe warning of the oppressive Russian system.

In 1934, with the permission of the Roosevelt administration, she returned to the United States. Though she was in her 60’s at this point she didn’t slow down. She toured the country again speaking out against fascism and communism. She then went to Spain during their civil war to rally people against fascism.

emma 2Emma Goldman fought for the rights of everyone until the day she died. And for that, she is today’s Fierce Femme.


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