Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940)

Emma Goldman was an anarchist political activist and writer who played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."

Born in what is now Lithuania to a Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885. After the Haymarket affair, Goldman was attracted to anarchism and she became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women's rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

Goldman's ardent advocacy of politically unpopular ideas and causes like free sexual expression, anarchism, and atheism earned her the title "Red Emma," and the powers saw her as a threat. Attorney General Caffey wrote in 1917, "Emma Goldman is a woman of great ability and of personal magnetism, and her persuasive powers make her an exceedingly dangerous woman."

In December of 1919, Emma Goldman and 248 other "radical aliens" were deported to the Soviet Union. Although she was first excited to experience Soviet Russia, she was ultimately disillusioned by the Bolshevik regime and their silencing of independent voices and so moved on. Barred from returning to the U.S., Goldman spent the last two decades of her life giving speeches on radical politics in Europe and Canada. She died in Toronto in May 1940 and her body was returned to Chicago to be buried near the Haymarket anarchists who had first inspired her.

After decades of obscurity, Goldman gained iconic status in the 1970s by a revival of interest in her life, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest. Her works inspired Roger Baldwin, who went on to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Margaret Sanger, a prominent birth control activist.

Emma Goldman's best-known works include Anarchism and Other Essays (1910), The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (1914), My Disillusionment In Russia (1923), My Further Disillusionment In Russia. (1924), Living My Life (1931), and Voltairine de Cleyre (1932).

Books by Emma Goldman