Monday, April 29, 2013
Moore: 'Red' Emma Goldman
“Red” Emma Goldman
Nicknamed “Red Emma” for her fiery and controversial topics of lecture, and countless crimes against government, Emma Goldman put fear in those who did not understand her. Emma Goldman, who people only think of as a Russian anarchist, was actually a crucial part to working class labor history. She was also imperative to feminism, radicalism and social rights. Goldman is known for her lectures and her writings on the goods of anarchy and her leadership in the anarchist and atheist world. She was a rioter, a troublemaker, a conspirator to murder and rebel to the fullest extent, but she made a huge impact on American history. For this reason, the famous “Red Emma” donned tee shirts and coffee mugs for feminist groups and fashion statements as far back as the 1960s! Although she stood for some questionable topics, and declined to stand for others (such as women’s voting rights), there was reason to each and everything she did. Her life is most definitely one of the most interesting and adventure filled I have ever read about!
Born in present day Lithuania, Goldman grew up in a Jewish household with three younger brothers and two older half sisters. She immigrated to America, in 1885 when she was 15 after being promised to marry a man, by her father. For this reason and because of the cruel treatment of women in Russia, she and her sister fled for a place of salvation. When they arrived, however, they found the conditions to be not much different.
The pivotal moment in Goldmans life that caused her to take an interest in the anarchist world was the Haymarket Square Incident in 1886. A bomb went off during a labor rally and killed seven police officers. Some anarchists who weren’t at the rally were accused, put on trail and eventually sentenced to death. The judge is noted to have said that they were on trail for being anarchists, not for the deaths.1 This infuriated Goldman, so much so that she decided to devote her life to anarchy, so those who were put to death would not die in vain! 2
In 1889, at 20 years of age, Goldman moved from Rochester, New York to New York City. She only knew a few people in New York City, one being her aunt, but after seeing the distress and worry she caused upon arrival, Goldman decided not to stay there after all. Her next step was to look for A. Soloatroff, a speaker who she met in New Haven at his anarchist lecture. After searching for him for five hours in the cold winter night, on the verge of giving up, she then found him living in tenement housing “seething with humanity”. 3 Soloatroff helped her find roommates and a place to stay. He was also the first person who helped her on her anarchist journey by introducing her to many lecturers, who eventually led her to the infamous John Most who was portrayed by the Rochester Press as a “devilish bloodthirsty demon”.4
Goldman became a true activist, really the first of her kind in an all male dominated world. Her integrity can be that of aspiration for young and older women all over. Something we take for granted most of the time is birth control, but without Goldman’s activism on this subject we may not have had it at all!
Another topic she frequently lectured on was free speech. She even used her magazine “Mother Earth” as a mouthpiece for anarchy. Goldman also wrote a thousand page autobiography on her life, “My Two Years in Russia”, once she was deported back, which many Americans at the time read. What is interesting about the book however is that Goldman originally wrote it as one book, but the publishing company published it without the last 12 chapters, and with a new name! “My Disillusionment in Russia” was the title of the incomplete book that was published and released. This was unsatisfactory to her, naturally, and they released the second portion, but never changed the name back to the original. 5
The meaning of anarchy to Goldman was having no government at all, she felt those that needed government to lead them were childish, and that there was not one single person who was proven better than the rest to rule over society. She felt that no happiness could occur when men were not free; she wanted to eliminate the master-servant relationship within mankind, and therefore promoted communism also. “The system of communism logically excludes any and every relation between master and servant, and means really Anarchism and the way to this goal leads through a social revolution.” 6
Goldman freely spoke about socialism and how, like a newly born infant child it was not born evil, but jealous spirits made it that way. Taking away the pure goodness of socialism and leaving behind an ugly monster in its place, who only used its name. 7 She writes further, “The State is organized exploitation, organized force, and crime. And to the hypnotic manipulation of this very monster, Socialism has become a willing prey. Indeed, the representatives or Socialism are more devout in their religious faith in the State than the most conservative statists.” 8 So she is clearly for any political reform that involves an overthrow of the capitalistic way, but she points out that any other political system would fail because there is ways around the core significance of each. Anarchy, in her eyes, is the only way out of the slave and slave master charade.
Goldman began to lecture on her opposition to World War I and the violence against factory workers. She wrote an article called “Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty”, in which she bashes those who show support and pride in their birth countries, saying patriotism is the sacrifice of children to war and hard earned money gone to waste. 9 She was frequently arrested for rioting and advocating for birth control. Goldman eventually ended up plotting a murder with her life long companion and legal husband Alexander Berkman, after a labor strike turned bad.
Goldman and Berkmab plotted to kill Henry Clay Frick, the boss of the plant, but they did not succeed. Berkman was sent to prison in Pennsylvania, where she only visited him a handful of times before being deported, but they continued to send letters back and forth. Although Goldman was married to Berkman her anarchist ideals neglected her of really acknowledging so. She was not fond of the institution of marriage to say the least. “Marriage and love have nothing in common; they are as far apart as the poles; are, in fact, antagonistic to each other”, said Goldman in a volume of her magazine, Mother Earth. 10 She thought of marriage as an economic relationship and an insurance pact, but nothing more. Even going as far as saying marriage binds the woman to a man, making her a parasite. 11
Soon after the attempted murder, she was linked to the bombings of the homes of government officials, and this is where she received her famous nickname “Red Emma”. Goldman defended the violence that people took as a characteristic mark of the anarchist. She said that the violence was a necessary evil, and that anarchists could not expect any less, and that they couldn’t demand victories with out striving for them through war like tendencies. 12
Most do not know that when Emma was not writing about political issues, controversial subjects, working as a nurse, or plotting her next riot, she had time to write, research, and lecture on modern European drama. She wrote essays on playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, George Bernard Shaw, Gerhart Hauptmann, and the most famous Anton Chekhov. 13
The United States deported Goldman on December 21st 1919 along with 248 others who also opposed organized government. She was sent back to Soviet Russia and lived out her days travelling Europe. When she died her body was brought back into the United States and laid to rest eternally in Chicago by the anarchists who she promised to avenge in Haymarket Square Incident. 14
Emma Goldman was much more than just the violence stricken Russian anarchist, Red Emma. She was a nurse, a wife and a crucial part to American and women’s history. In a time where men dominated all aspects of life, Goldman would not stand down. She looked at all people, as those who could govern themselves, and that did not need the constant overview of organized government or religion. Using her colorful language and intriguing writing styles Goldman was able to capture her audience and was a strong leader, and a great speaker. Her actions and devotion to what she believed in will be remembered throughout history. She fought for what she believed in until the end, although her ideals were way ahead of her time. Without this crucial person in history, our time now would be very much different.
1. Library, Compilation of Berkeley Digital. The Goldman Papers. Sunsite.Berkeley.edu/Goldman. 2012. March 21, 2013.
3. Goldman, Emma. My Disillusionment in Russia. DoubleDay Page & Company. 1923. Page 27.
5. Library, Compilation of Berkeley Digital. The Goldman Papers. 2013.
6. Goldman, Emma; Most, John. Metropolitan Magazine. “Anarchy Defended by Anarchists”. New York City. 1896.
8. Goldman, Emma. Mother Earth. “Socialism: Caught in the Political Trap”. Mother Earth Publishing Association. 1911. P. 56-58.
9. Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Essays. “Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty”. Mother Earth Publishing Association. 1911.
10. Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Essays. “Marriage and Love”. Mother Earth Publication Association. 1911.
12. Goldman; Most. “Anarchy Defended By Anarchists.” 1896.
13. Library, Compilation of Berkeley Digital. The Goldman Papers. 2012.