Emma Goldman: “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.”

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Emma Goldman was by career a nurse and cared for the sick and under served throughout her life – even when her activism landed her in prison, she took care of others and helped bring the ideals of Anarchism to the common man.

Here is her definition of Anarchy: “the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.”

She was an idealist, a devoted friend, a lover, a fighter, one of the unspoken names of the women’s rights movement – she pushed Margaret Sanger to form Planned Parenthood and helped her organize & get contacts – and was considered “exceedingly dangerous” and an enemy of the state.

Look at this sweet, grandmotherly face:


Did I not sell you on her yet? Are you an ADD-ridden millennial? If so, here’s a rap video about how awesome she was:

I’ll calm down now and tell you more about her. In 1869, she was born to a traditional Jewish family in Russia, who emigrated to the United States when she was 16. She worked in the sewing industry where she worked 10 1/2 hours a day for a mere $2.50.

Our heroine was drawn to the cause when labor activists fighting to create the eight-hour workday were bombed, blamed for the violence, and four of them were executed for the event known as the Haymarket Massacre.

The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.

-Emma Goldman

Soon she connected with Sasha Berkman, another anarchist. After this meeting, she became lionized to the cause and gave speeches. The two became lifelong friends and occasional lovers, although fate did not smile kindly on them -, they weren’t even on the same continent, and he spent 22 years imprisoned for his assassination attempt of a businessman named Henry Clay Frick.

She was soon arrested for inciting a riot. While imprisoned, she befriended a doctor and studied medicine, with the ambition of becoming a nurse. She spent time in Europe learning, and things were going well for a while. However, a man with mental health problems named Leon Czolgosz attempted to assassinate the president of the United States. When asked why he said he was inspired by hearing one of Emma’s speeches. The press ran with it and vilified her – she was at times reduced to homelessness and many friends turned their backs on her during this period. However, she only spoke of Czolgosz with sympathy and forgiveness and even went to the extent of petitioning for his release. For a time, she lived under an assumed name and resigned her activism in favor of living a quiet life as a nurse.

Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.
-Emma Goldman

Years passed, and Sasha was released from prison. In the book “Emma and Sasha: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman“, they include that when he entered prison, people were still driving horse-driven buggies. When he left, he was startled by the abundance of motorized vehicles whizzing past him. Emma was startled by his decline in health and form.

Reunited, they founded Mother Earth, an anarchist magazine. She toured Europe to promote her ideals, took a lover, and wrote her renowned “Anarchism and Other Essays”. Around this time, Margaret Sanger – a founder of Planned Parenthood, wrote in favor of birth control and women’s liberty. Emma reached out to her and helped her organize.

This fertile period ended when she was deported for encouraging young men to avoid the draft. She was deported to Russia, and at first supported the revolution there, but became disillusioned and traveled Europe afterward, trying to find a new home. She published again and gained entry into the United States for a lecture tour. While she was there, Sasha, who had been in ill health for quite some time, ended his life.

Through her grief, she continued her activism –  she was one of the leading voices in opposition to war, including the Spanish Civil War and the first World War. She kept true to the cause until her death from a stroke, four years after Sasha had died.

The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.
-Emma Goldman

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