Emma Goldman

Activist, Anarchist


June 27, 1869 - May, 14 1940

Birth Place:
Kovno, Lithuania


Chief Accomplishment:
Known as "the Mother of the Anarchists"

Other Notable Accomplishments:

Spoke out on the creation of the eight-hour work day and helped end child labor.

Earned two medical degrees in midwifery and massage.

Authored several books, including Anarchism and Other Essays, My Disillusionment with Russia, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, and an autobiography named Living My Life.

Founder of the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

Wrote many books and pamphlets, including The Philosophy of Atheism, The Hypocrisy of Puritanism, and The Failure of Christianity.


Parenthood By Choice. At a time when birth control was just becoming more available, Goldman joined a fellow activist, Margaret Sanger, in spreading knowledge about birth control. In one article in Mother Earth she wrote, "To-day she has awakened from her age-long sleep. She has shaken herself free from the nightmare of the past; she has turned her face towards the light and is proclaiming in a clarion voice that she will no longer be a party to the crime of bringing hapless children into the world only to be ground into dust by the wheel of capitalism and to be torn into shreds in trenches and battlefields. And who is to say her nay? After all it is woman who is risking her health and sacrificing her youth in the reproduction of the race. Surely she ought to be in a position to decide how many children she should bring into the world, whether they should be brought into the world by the man she loves and because she wants the child, or should be born in hatred and loathing."

Fight for Your Right. Goldman spoke out on many issues including atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and same-sex relationships. She once stated, "Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think."

Refused to Be Silenced. For her day and age, not only were Goldman's views uncommon, it was a time when it was dangerous to have them. The U.S. government put out propaganda against communists, Bolsheviks, and anarchists, making the general public afraid. But that never stopped Goldman from continuing to lecture and put out her writings.

Interesting Facts:

When being brought in for the crime of "inciting a riot," the detective in charge tried to coax Goldman into reducing her sentence by giving up other radicals. Her response was to throw an icy cold glass of water in his face. The judge in her trial deemed her a "dangerous woman" because she was both an anarchist and an atheist. He ordered her to be Imprisoned for a year.

Goldman advocated against marriage, which she viewed as a form of social and financial bondage.

In 1901, Goldman was brought in and detained for two weeks for conspiracy in the shooting of President William McKinley when the assassin claimed to be inspired by a speech that she gave. Once she was released, she offered her medical expertise in the unsuccessful attempt to bring McKinley back to health, saying that he was "merely a human being."

During the Red Scare, a panic that communists and anarchists were infiltrating the United States, Goldman was imprisoned for two years after her home was raided and she was charged with "inducing persons not to register under the Espionage Act of 1917. Goldman wrote to a friend, "Two years imprisonment for having made an uncompromising stand for one's ideal. Why that is a small price." After imprisonment, she was deported to Russia.