The Melting Pot: Russian Jewish New York

Case 2: Fighters > Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman. Anarchism and Other Essays. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1910

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) is undoubtedly one of the most notable and influential women in modern American history. A well-known anarchist of her day, she was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s equality and independence, and union organization. Emma Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1885.


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In 1889, she moved to New York City where she joined the anarchist movement and stood out as one of very few women to assume a prominent place in the largely male-dominated milieu of labor and immigrant activists in New York City. Here she met her life-long companion, Alexander Berkman, who was imprisoned in 1892 for attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead steel strike. The following year she herself was jailed in New York City for inciting a riot when a group of unemployed workers reacted to a fiery speech she had delivered. Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of President William McKinley in 1901, claimed to have been inspired by her.

Letter from Emma Goldman to Edna Kenton. New York, December 18, 1913





Edna Kenton Correspondence
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Fred A. Pease. To Birth Control. Mother Earth. New York, 1917, volume 11, number 12

The magazine Mother Earth was founded by Emma Goldman and first published in March 1906. The magazine discussed current events, advocated radical political causes, labor agitation, and opposition to the U.S. government on a variety of issues. It remained in monthly circulation until August 1917. In its pages Emma Goldman consistently promoted a wide range of controversial principles, including anarchism, equality and independence for women, freedom of thought and expression, radical education, sexual freedom and birth control.

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The Trial and Conviction of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Mother Earth. New York, 1917, volume 12, number 5

In July 1917, Emma Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison as a result of her work in the No-Conscription League and her anti-war stand against World War I, which also caused Mother Earth to be shut down by the government.



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Letter from Emma Goldman to Lincoln Steffens. Paris, May 20, 1930

In 1919, the United States was caught up in hysteria over a network of communist operatives. “Red Emma,” as she was called, was declared a subversive alien and in December, along with Alexander Berkman and 247 others, was deported to Soviet Russia. Her stay there was brief. It did not take her long to realize that the Bolsheviks were neither lovers of freedom nor partisans of workers' control. What had been created there was a massive dictatorship.

She left Russia in 1922 and remained active, moving from country to country. She was prohibited from entering the United States.

Lincoln Steffens Papers
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Letter from George Rosneberger to Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, January 15, 1934

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a three-month visa, effective February 1, for Goldman to lecture in the U.S. on non-political subjects.

In March and April Goldman delivered five lectures in Chicago attracting thousands of people.


Frances Perkins Papers
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Group telegram to Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, April 5, 1934 

Emma Goldman left USA for Canada on April 30, 1934. When she died in 1940 in Canada her friends obtained permission to bury her in Chicago.


Frances Perkins Papers
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