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Emma Goldman was an anarchist, propagandist and most of all a feminist. She was born in Kovno, Lithuania. She moved with her family to St. Petersburg, Russia (1882), where she worked in a glove factory and absorbed the prevailing radical-revolutionary ideas.

She emigrated to America (1885), worked in a Rochester, N.Y., garment factory, and was briefly married to a fellow worker. Angered by the execution of those connected with the Haymarket bombing in Chicago (1886), she began to identify with anarchists; she moved to New York City, became a disciple of Johann Most, and became intimately involved with the anarchist Alexander Berkman, whom she also assisted in planning his failed assassination of Henry Frick (1892).

She was jailed in New York City (1893) for allegedly inciting the unemployed “to riot” and “take bread.” Upon her release, she took up nursing. She studied briefly in Vienna (where she attended lectures by Freud).

Then in 1896 began working as a nurse and midwife in the American urban slums, she began her lecture tours during which she gained even her enemies’ respect for her sharp intelligence.

Still, when President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, she was jailed for two weeks without any evidence linking her to the deed. With Berkman out of prison in 1906, he and Goldman founded and edited the anarchist monthly Mother Earth (1906–17).

With her new lover, Ben Reitman, (who also became her tour manager); she continued to draw crowds and the law with her radical speeches. Because of her speeches and her outspoken ways, she ended up spending two weeks in jail in 1916 for disseminating birth control information.

Then in 1917 she and Berkman were arrested for aiding draft resisters opposed to the U.S. entering the World War. They were sentenced to two years imprisonment. Upon their release in 1919, they were deported to the Soviet Union.

Soon disillusioned with the Bolshevik government, they left and moved about Europe and Canada, finally settling in France; there she finished her autobiography, Living My Life (1931), a powerful testament. This book which was two volumes; covers her life thoroughly through her departure from Soviet Russia in 1921 but unfortunately devotes comparatively little space to her activities during the 1920s.

She was allowed to return to the U.S.A. in 1934, but only for a three-month lecture tour. With Berkman’s death in 1936, she gave the last of her remarkable energies to one more cause; The antifascists and the foes of Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

She died in exile in Canada in 1940.

In closing to summarize what Emma Goldman was fighting for and acting as an early advocate for; she fought for free speech, birth control, women’s equality and independence, union organization and the eight hour work day.


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