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Emma Goldman (June 27 [O.S. June 15], 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist political activist and writer. She was the first public figure to support gay and lesbian rights in the US. She has been romantically linked to Alla Nazimova. Jane Addams welcomed Emma Goldman’s mentor (and former prince) Peter Kropotkin to Hull House but not Goldman, leading Goldman to comment that “I did not happen to be known to Miss Addams as a princess".
Goldman played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. In 1895 Sebastien Faure and Louise Michel founded the French anarchist periodical Le Libertaire. In the same year Michel met Emma Goldman at an anarchist conference in London, at which both were speaking. The young Goldman was hugely impressed by Michel, considering her to have a "social instinct developed to the extreme". In reference to the harsh conditions of Michel's life, Goldman asserted "Anarchists insist that conditions must be radically wrong if human instincts develop to such extremes at the expense of each other."
Born in Kovno, Russian Empire (now Kaunas, Lithuania) to a Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885. Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women's rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Frick survived the attempt on his life in 1892 and Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for "inciting to riot" and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth where Adeline Champney was a collaborator.
Crystal Eastman was the author of N.Y. state's first workman's compensation law in 1907 which became a model for other such law's throughout the U.S. She worked with Emma Goldman on the behalf of birth control, legalizing prostitution and free speech during war times. Eastman was part of the " New Women " of Greenwich Village that believed that women needed the majority of their support from each other.
by Carl Van Vechten
In 1908, after Captain Mahoney (of the New York City Police Department) crashed one of Goldman’s lectures in Chicago, newspaper headlines read that every popular anarchist had been present for the spectacle, "with the single exception of Lucy Parsons, with whom Emma Goldman is not on the best of terms." Goldman reciprocated Parsons’s absence by endorsing Frank Harris' book The Bomb, which was a largely fictional account of the Haymarket Affair and its martyrs' road to death. (Parsons had published The Famous Speeches of the Haymarket Martyrs, a non-fictional, first-hand recounting of the Haymarket martyrs' final speeches in court.) Parsons was solely dedicated to working class liberation, condemning Goldman for "addressing large middle-class audiences"; Goldman accused Parsons of riding upon the cape of her husband’s martyrdom. "[N]o doubt," Candace Falk wrote (Love, Anarchy, and Emma Goldman), "there was an undercurrent of competitiveness between the two women. Emma generally preferred center stage." Goldman planned on preserving her place in the spotlight as an American anarchist laureate by shoving risqué sexual and kinship discourse into "the center of a perennial debate among anarchists about the relative importance of such personal issues".
As a young woman Aline Barnsdall toured Europe with her father, developing an interest in feminism and radical causes. By 1913 she was producing experimental theater in Chicago. She's mentioned in Emma Goldman's autobiography Living My Life as a close friend who wrote out a $5000 check to ease Goldman's deportation to Russia.
In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to "induce persons not to register" for the newly-instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country's October Revolution which brought the Bolsheviks to power, Goldman reversed her opinion in the wake of the Kronstadt rebellion and denounced the Soviet Union for its violent repression of independent voices.
After America's entry into World War I in 1917, Kate Richards O'Hare led the Socialist Party's Committee on War and Militarism. For giving an anti-war speech in Bowman, North Dakota, O'Hare was convicted and sent to prison by federal authorities for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. With no federal penitentiaries for women existing at the time, she was delivered to Missouri State Penitentiary on a five-year sentence in 1919, but was pardoned in 1920 after a nationwide campaign to secure her release. In prison, O'Hare met Goldman and Gabriella Segata Antolini, and worked with them to improve prison conditions.
In 1923, Goldman published a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there.
Goldman moved to London in September 1924. Upon her arrival, the novelist Rebecca West arranged a reception dinner for her, attended by philosopher Bertrand Russell, novelist H.G. Wells, and more than 200 other guests. When she spoke of her dissatisfaction with the Soviet government, the audience was shocked. Some left the gathering; others berated her for prematurely criticizing the Communist experiment. Later, in a letter, Russell declined to support her efforts at systemic change in the Soviet Union and ridiculed her anarchist idealism.
In 1928, Goldman began writing her autobiography, with the support of a group of American admirers, including journalist H. L. Mencken, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, novelist Theodore Dreiser and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who raised $4,000 for her.
In 1931 Laurence Vail and Kay Boyle moves in Villa Coustille, at Col-de-Villefranche. They form their own coterie which includes Robert Carlton Brow, Mary Reynolds, Marcel Duchamp, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Allan Ross MacDougall, and James Stern.She died in Toronto on May 14, 1940, aged 70.
During her life, Goldman was lionized as a freethinking "rebel woman" by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women's suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After decades of obscurity, Goldman gained iconic status by a revival of interest in her life in the 1970s, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest.
Although she was hostile to the suffragist goals of first-wave feminism, Goldman advocated passionately for the rights of women, and is today heralded as a founder of anarcha-feminism, which challenges patriarchy as a hierarchy to be resisted alongside state power and class divisions. In 1897, she wrote: "I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood."
A nurse by training, Goldman was an early advocate for educating women concerning contraception. Like many feminists of her time, she saw abortion as a tragic consequence of social conditions, and birth control as a positive alternative. Goldman was also an advocate of free love, and a strong critic of marriage. She saw early feminists as confined in their scope and bounded by social forces of Puritanism and capitalism. She wrote: "We are in need of unhampered growth out of old traditions and habits. The movement for women's emancipation has so far made but the first step in that direction."
Goldman was also an outspoken critic of prejudice against homosexuals. Her belief that social liberation should extend to gay men and lesbians was virtually unheard of at the time, even among anarchists. As German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld wrote, "she was the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public." In numerous speeches and letters, she defended the right of gay men and lesbians to love as they pleased and condemned the fear and stigma associated with homosexuality. As Goldman wrote in a letter to Hirschfeld, "It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life."
Emma Goldman is also connected with Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler, Mary Heaton Vorse.
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