Emma “Red Emma” Goldman: Radical Anarchist, Public Speaker and Activist
"If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution."
Born in Russia, Goldman immigrated to the US in 1885 and moved to New York at the age of 16. After learning about the Haymarket affair Goldman experienced a “spiritual rebirth” and became enamored with anarchism and “freedom, the right to self-expression, [and] everybody’s right to beautiful radiant things.”
Goldman became known as a fiery and enigmatic speaker, drawing large crowds wherever she went. While she originally lectured in Yiddish and German, she learned English and became a master of public speaking.
Her philosophies were ridiculously radical for her time. Her love for freedom in all its forms manifested in her love for anarchy as a political system. She was an atheist and profoundly anti-religious, despite having a strong Jewish heritage, which brought her under fire from both Orthodox Jewish and Christian circles. She was anti-women’s suffrage— because she believed democracy was inherently flawed and ultimately totalitarian. Because of this, she was pitted against the first-wave feminists, but she could be described as a second- or third-wave feminist before her time: she fought valiantly for access to birth control (and mentored Margaret Sanger), believed in a woman’s right to support herself, and the right of women (and men) to love whomever the chose. Her belief in free love extended to homosexuals as well, a radical standpoint for a woman in the public eye in her time (to say the least)
Her connection to the anarchist movement in the United States lead to her being lampooned in the press, particularly after the assassination of President McKinley by an anarchist (even though Goldman had nothing to do with his death). She was seen as extremely dangerous by government officials, and her anti-war stance during World War I lead to her deportation to Russia in 1919.
She spent the remaining years of her life in exile, returning to the United States only for a brief period in 1934. She traveled to Russia, and wrote two books about how much she despised the Bolshevik government; she traveled to Spain and worked for the anarchist cause during the Spanish Civil War. Her last years were spent in Canada, where she suffered a stroke and died. Her body was admitted back into the US and interred in Chicago.