The best political comment tumbles through the ages like a snowball, gathering mass and momentum with each new appreciation. Whatever our politics, most of us can still find validation or inspiration in the works of Paine or Burke, Mill or Marx. So when invited to write in praise of my own ideological idol, the pioneering anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman , I was not surprised to find her words still rang true and clear. But as we approach the th anniversary of Anarchism and Other Essays , her first and best book, what is astonishing is the continuing relevance of her subject matter. Rereading the book today, one could easily be browsing any given week on Comment is free. Could there be a better riposte than this to the New Labour stalwart and scourge of sex traffickers, Denis McShane :.
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Her formal education was limited, but she read widely and in St. Petersburg associated with a radical student circle. There, and later in New Haven, Connecticut, she worked in clothing factories and came into contact with socialist and anarchist groups among her fellow workers.
Moving to New York City in , Goldman formed a close association with Alexander Berkman , who was imprisoned in 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. In , upon her release, Goldman embarked on lecture tours of Europe and the United States.
Leon Czolgosz , the assassin of U. William McKinley, claimed to have been inspired by her, although there was no direct connection between them, and by that time she had repudiated her earlier tolerance of violence as an acceptable means of achieving social ends.
In Berkman was freed, and he and Goldman resumed their joint activities. In that year she founded Mother Earth , a periodical that she edited until its suppression in Her naturalization as a U.
Two years later she published Anarchism and Other Essays. Goldman spoke often and widely, not only on anarchism and social problems but also on the contemporary dramatic works of Henrik Ibsen , August Strindberg , George Bernard Shaw , and others. She was instrumental in introducing the American audience to many European playwrights, and her lectures on their work were published in as The Social Significance of the Modern Drama.
In July she was sentenced to two years in prison for these activities. By the time of her release in September , the United States was caught up in hysteria over a largely imaginary network of communist operatives. Her stay there was brief. Two years after leaving, she recounted her experiences in My Disillusionment in Russia She remained active, living at various times in Sweden, Germany , England, France, and elsewhere, continuing to lecture and writing her autobiography, Living My Life At the time of her death, she was working for the antifascist cause in the Spanish Civil War.
Emma Goldman. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Britannica Quiz. Who wrote The Divine Comedy? Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Goldman, who had immigrated to the United States from tsarist Russia in , soon became a preeminent figure in the American anarchist movement.
Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. Kropotkin used science and history to try to demonstrate that anarchism is not foolishly optimistic. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.
Meet Emma: Online Exhibit
Skip navigation. Emma Goldman was a traveling public speaker and writer known for her anarchist political views as well as her opinions on contraception and birth limiting in the late nineteenth century in the United States. Goldman identified as an anarchist, which she explained as being part of an ideology in which people use violence to provoke or demand social and political change. Goldman was involved in many anarchist social groups and published the anarchist magazine Mother Earth. She spent the majority of her life traveling the US and Europe giving lectures and presentations on her views of the political events of the late nineteenth century.
Emma Goldman, undoubtedly one of the most notable and influential women in modern American history, consistently promoted a wide range of controversial movements and principles, including anarchism, equality and independence for women, freedom of thought and expression, radical education, sexual freedom and birth control, and union organization and the eight-hour day. Goldman's advocacy of these causes, which many deemed subversive at the time, helped set the historical context for some of today's most important political and social debates. Goldman's role in securing the right to freedom of speech in America is especially significant. She herself was frequently harassed or arrested when lecturing--if her talks were not banned outright. She worked with the first Free Speech League, which insisted that all Americans have a basic right to express their ideas, no matter how radical or controversial those ideas might seem.