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August 04, 1972 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1972-08-04

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Fridoy, August 4, 1972


Page Five

Friday, August 4, 1972 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

America s most dangerous woman

Goldman, Dover, $3.50.
SAYS, Emma Goldman, Dover,.
Goldman, Times Change Press,
RUSSIA, Emma Goldman, Apol-
lo, $2.95.
by Alix Kates Shulman, Vant-
age Books, $2.45.
In 1919, aspiring government
official J. Edgar Hoover labeled
Emma Goldman "the most dan-
gerous woman in the country"
and placed her at the top of his
list of 60,000 "organized agi-
tators" plotting to overthrow the
government. That year, she was
among the first group of poli-
tical rebels deported from t h e
United States.
In 1972, Emma Goldman has
become a minor culture hero -
the reissuance of her essays, her
autobiography, and the study of
her career has popularized her
name and life experience to a
new generation seeking historical
models of integrity and libera-
tion. Through her writings emer-
ges a woman striving for free-
dom in all spheres of her life,
and thus of a woman who mark-
ed the boundaries of options pro-
vided by her society.
By 1919, Emma Goldman had a
30-year history of involvement in
a myriad of political events
which branded her a symbol of
radicalism to the American pub-
lic. First implicated in the at-
tempted assassination of Car-
negie Steel Corporation executive
Henry Clay Frick in 1892, Gold-
man was jailed for allegedly in-
citing a labor riot in 1893, impli-
cated in the assassination of
President William McKinley in
1901, jailed for lecturing on birth
control in 1915, jailed for con-
spiracy against the draft in 1917,
and finally deported, in 1919, to
the new Soviet state.
Because of this record, many
believed her to be, as the New
York Times termed her, t h e
Queen of Anarchy,' a creature
"apart from the mass of human-
By the time of her death in
1940, most Americans had for-
gotten both Goldman and the
ideals she fought for. In 1934,
the editors of Harpers Magazine
wrote "A generation ago, it
seemed to many American con-
servatives as if the opinions
which Emma Goldman was ex-
pressing might sweep the world.
Now she fights alone for what
seems like a lost cause." B ut
today, Goldman's cause - with
its concepts of decentralized au-
thority, humanism, and the prior-
Today's writer ...
Lynn Weiner, who wrote her
honors thesis in history on
Emma, Goldman, is a former
senior editor for The Daily.
Currently, she is doing re-
search on women's history
whil e preparing herself for
graduate study at Boston Uni-
versity in the fall.
ity of personal values - has as-
sumed a new urgency, and h e r
ideals no longer seem as lost.
Her opinions enveloped the
great questions of liberty a nd
personal freedoms in a central-
izing society. First inspired by
the execution of the Haymarket
anarchists in Chicago in 1887,
Goldman wrote she would dedi-
cate her life to the cause of an-
archism, a cause where her life,
her body, and her thought were
hers to direct.
The best source for under-
standing Goldman is her remark-

able autobiography Living AI y
Life. First published in 1931 and
reissued four decades later, the
book stands not only as a fine
record of an individual life, b u t

lies. "In this country of ours,
the judge at her trial declared,
"we regard as enemies t h o s e
who . . . counsel disobedience
of our laws by those of minds
less strong . . . for people as
would nullify our laws, we have
no place in our country."
A combination of events-the
Russian Revolution of Novem-
ber, 1917, the "bomb plots" of
1919, when explosives were mail-
ed to government officials, and
an outbreak of labor strikes in
the fall of 1919 all probably con-
tributed to the "Red Scare," a
phenomena expressing the fear
of a radical alien takeover of
the nation. Over half of a report
prepared by Attorney General A.
Mitchell Palmer which suggest-
ed that preaching anarchy be a
crime was devoted to Goldman.
When she emerged from the
Missouri Penitentiary in 1919
she and hundreds of others were
herded into deportation camps.
At her hearing on Ellis Island,
Goldman told the court their
charges against her were in es-
sence against her beliefs. And,
she added, the hearings were
"opposed to the fundamental
guarantees of a true democracy.
Every human being is entitled
to hold any opinion that appeals
to her or him without making
himself liable to prosecution."
But the court held otherwise,
and on December 22, 1919, Gold-
man, her life-long comrade Alex-
ander Berkman, and 247 others
sailed from New York Harbor
and towards Russia
From the time of her deporta-
tion until her death two decades
later, Goldman found her auton-
omy and her ideal increasingly
limited. Her high expectations
for the new Soviet state were
shattered after her visit there,
where she talked 'with Lenin,
toured the country, and saw an-
archists shot, exiled, and viewed
as enemies of the Revolution.
Her experiences were preserved
in her recently reissued work,
My Disillusionment in Russia.
After leaving Russia in 1921,
Goldman wandered through Eu-
rope, finally settling in England
in 1925. She wrote her autobiog-
raphy in 1931, and spent nine
years unsuccessfully attempting
to reenter the United States,
where she believed her friends
and work remained. In 1936, she
plunged into the rebel cause in
Barcelona. W h e n she visited
Toronto in 1940 to lecture for

Emma Goldman, 1901

as an outstanding reflection of
an entire era. As Goldman de-
scribed her autobiography, 'the
larger canvas is America, and
my life is thrown against it in
bold relief."
Her career brought her into
contact with a solid cross-sec-
tion of the nation -- ;overn-
ment officials, students, 'vorkers,
and the "vigilante" citizens
who literally fought to defend
their social order against her
threat. Her interaction w i t h
these groups was as important
a part of American history a, it
was of her life.
Living My Life is especially
valuable for the record of Gold-
man's struggle to live both a.
private and public life at a
time when the role of women
was considered to be one or the
other, and not both. "I had long
realized," Goldman wrote, "that
I was'woven of many skeins,
conflicting in shade and texture.
To the end of my days I should
be torn between the yearning for
a personal life and the need to
give all to my ideal."
Because women, unlike men,
usually did not live in b o t h
spheres, when Goldman sought
both she was pulled into the poli-
tical arena. Her life-long effort
to resolve the ensuing tension,
and to then deal with the re-
sultant clash against the values
of a nation, provide the dialec-
tic of her autobiography. Gold-
man's honest chronicle of her
love relationships (always seek-
ing to be loved for her total
self; not just' as "a woman"
or as "the famous anarchist")
and her personal growth, from
her birth in Russia to her immi-
gration to the United States
through her political exile in
Europe, sustain the autobio-
graphy through the often minute-
ly detailed pages of Goldman's
It is in Anarchism and Other
Essays, first published in 1911,
where Goldman's political vision
is most aptly expressed. Gold-
man generally built her ideas
from the anarchist tradition of
Kropotkin and Bakunin. Many
of her views seem startingly pro-
phetic today; in a discussion of
the state and violence, Goldman
noted that the very officials who
condemned the illegal violence
of radicals "would be delighted
over the possibility of the Amer-
ican nation soon being able to
hurl dynamite bombs upon de-
fenseless enemies from flying
That was in 1908. By 1911 her
works on feminism linked her
anarchism to the oppression of
women. Her views on marriage

and love, especially, have been
dusted off and reprinted - one
concise book which contains her
feminist writings is The Traffic
in Women and Other Essays,
published this year.
Marriage, Goldman believed,
"differs from the ordinary life
insurance agreement only in that
it is more binding . . . if . .
woman's premium is her hus-
band, she pays for it with her
name, her privacy, her self-re-
spect, her very life."
In the heated debate over the
suffrage issue, Goldman quali-
fied her support. Suffrage d i d
not go far enough, she suggested.
The right to vote, or equal
rights, may be good demands,
but true emancipation begins
neither at the polls nor in the
courts. It begins in woman's
soul. History tells us that
every oppressed class gained
true liberation from its mas-
ters through its own efforts,
It is necessary that woman
learn that lesson, that she
realize that her freedom will
reach as far as her power to
achieve that freedom reaches.
It is, therefore, far more im-
portant for her to begin with
her own inner regeneration...
Goldman's thoughts on anar-
chism and feminism are well pre-
served in the edited collections
of her work. Her response to
technocracy, however, is not as
well known. In 1906, Goldman
told a Detroit Times reporter
that Americans had to return
to another world, "back even to
the primitive methods and hap-
py comradeship -of the colonial
days, rather than the nerve-
racking, hope-destroying, free-
dom-debauching, centralization
in productive societies." Indus-
try, she added, instead of illus-
trating the need for greater cen-
tralization,exposed that progress
as reactionary to human needs
and values. In 1908 Goldman
spent the summer on a farm to
illustrate her point - her friend
Bolton Hall pitched a tent on a.
vacant Harlem lot to demon-
strate the example of farming in
the midst of a machine-bound
city. If her solutions were not
always the most viable, Gold-
man certainly served to point
out when human priorities were
being ignored. As ended many of
her concepts, her anti-machine
feelings were buried in the me-
tallic scrap heap of industrial-
izing and centralizing America.
But, undaunted, in 1909 Goldman
presented the nation with h e r
"New declaration of independ-
ence" against the dependence
fostered by the new program.

While Goldman was writing
and lecturing, she was also edit-
ing. her monthly magazine, Mo-
ther Earth. Published between
1906 and 1917, the journal aimed
to link anarchist. philosophy with
the "young strivings in the var-
ious art forms in America.
Mother Earth was Goldman's
forum to the public. It was the
vehicle through which she pub-
licized her tours and shared her
experiences with the growing
police suppression of her 1 e c-
tures, which she gave with her
then consort Ben Reitman,
known as the Hobo King. The
magazine published Nietszche,
M a r y Wollstonecraft, Tolstoi,
Kroptotkin, Whitman, Randolph
Bourne, Margaret Anderson, Vol-
terine De Cleyre, and o t h e r s.
Many of Goldman's essays and
speeches from this period are
preserved in Red Emma Speaks
edited by Alix Kates Shulman.
Goldman, at this same time, was
one of the first to introduce the
American reading public to
Shaw, Ibsen, Hauptmann, and


other European writers, through
her book The Social Significance
of the Modern Drama, published
in 1914. This was also the time
she was active in publicizing
birth control methods - she was
the first in the nation to pub-
lically display a contraceptive de-
Mother Earth's political intent
was most clear from its incep-
tion (the first cover in 1906 dis-
played a nude man and woman,
facing a rising sun, with broken
chains lying at their feet) and
in 1917 it was declared seditious
and closed down, after the maga-
zine published' a cover of a
gravestone for American liber-
ty, killed by the conscription act.
America's impending entry in-
to the first world war and its
concurrent militarism was an is-
sue Goldman refused to back-
down on - she insisted the war
would only profit munitions man-
She was jailed for two years
for founding the No-conscrip-
tion League (her sentence be-
gan 55 years ago last week) and
for organizing huge anti-war ral-

funds for the cause in Spain, she
suffered a stroke; on May 14,
1940, at the age of seventy she
died. Only in death, was she
able to return to the United
This brief essay only provides
a sketch of the full and complex
life of Emma Goldman. High
school history 'texts don't con-
tain her life as a, model for
Americans; most people don't
know her name or achievements.
But the person who was once
labeled "the most dangerous
woman in the country" had an
invaluable influence for the
cause of freedom in this country
-for free speech, birth control,
and 1 a b o r organization. The
growing availability of literature
about her and her thought pro-
vides a more subtle but equally
important influence in this era
when we primarily have the lives
of queens, Presidents' wives, and
other "official" women before us
in the media. Emma Goldman
stands apart. Her life-dedicated
to liberty and self-realization-
provides the indispensable les-
sons we now most need.

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