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Emma Goldman

Anarchist, Feminist, Birth Control Activist

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Emma Goldman by Carl Van Vechten, 1934

Emma Goldman by Carl Van Vechten, 1934

Courtesy Libary of Congress, Portraits by Carl Van Vechten collection

About Emma Goldman:

Known for: anarchist, feminist, birth control activist

Occupation: writer
Dates: June 27, 1869 - May 14, 1940
Also known as: Red Emma

Emma Goldman Biography:

Emma Goldman is known as a rebel, an anarchist, an ardent proponent of birth control and free speech, a feminist, a lecturer and a writer.

Born in what is now Lithuania but was then Russia, in a Jewish ghetto, moved early to Königsberg and St. Petersburg, where she became involved with university radicals. Emma Goldman left for America in 1885 with her half sister Helen Zodokoff, working in the textile industry in Rochester, New York.

Briefly married in 1887, Emma Goldman moved in 1889 to New York where she quickly became active in the anarchist movement. She became one of the most outspoken and well-known of American radicals, lecturing and writing on anarchism, women's rights and other political topics. She also wrote and lectured on "new drama," drawing out the social messages of Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw, and others.

Emma Goldman served prison and jail terms for such activities as advising the unemployed to take bread if their pleas for food were not answered, for giving information in a lecture on birth control, for opposing military conscription, and in 1908 she was deprived of her citizenship.

In 1917, with Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman was convicted of conspiracy against the draft laws, and sentenced to to years in prison and fined $10,000.

In 1919 Emma Goldman, along with her long-time associate Alexander Berkman and 247 others who had been targeted in the Red Scare after World War I, emigrated to Russia on the Buford. But Emma Goldman's libertarian socialism led to her Disillusionment in Russia, as the title of her 1923 work says it. She lived in Europe, obtained British citizenship through marrying the Welshman James Colton, and traveled through many nations giving lectures.

Without US citizenship, Emma Goldman was prohibited, except for a brief stay in 1934, from entering the United States. She spent her final years aiding the anti-Franco forces in Spain through lecturing and fund-raising. Succumbing to a stroke and its effects, she died in Canada in 1940 and was buried in Chicago, near the graves of the Haymarket anarchists.

Bibliography :

  • Emma Goldman with Schulman, Alix K. Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader. 1996.
  • Emma Goldman. Anarchism, and Other Essays. Reprint 1970.
  • Emma Goldman. Living My Life. Reprint 1980.

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