Emma Goldman

On this date in 1869, Emma Goldman was born in Russia. "Since my earliest recollection of my youth in Russia I have rebelled against orthodoxy in every form," she wrote in her 1934 article, "Was My Life Worth Living?" Told by her father that "a Jewish daughter" needed only to prepare for marriage, the defiant 17-year-old immigrated with her sister to New York, taking factory work. Following the 1887 Haymarket bombing and execution of innocent anarchists, Goldman threw herself into her "ecstatic song" of political oratory. She and "Sasha" Berkman dedicated themselves to a "supreme act," for which Berkman spent 14 years in prison: wounding Henry Clay Frick, chair of Carnegie Steel Corporation. Emma would later repudiate her youthful conviction that the ends justified the means. But she was arrested numerous times while being a famed orator. Emma went underground when a self-professed anarchist madman in 1901 assassinated President William McKinley, saying he had once attended one of her lectures. In 1906, she launched Mother Earth. In 1916, she was sent to prison for advocating that "women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open." In 1917, she was arrested, convicted and served two years in prison for setting up No-Conscription Leagues. A warden said women worshipped Emma like an idol, because she nursed and fought for women prisoners. At age 50, she and 247 other "Reds" were deported to the Soviet Union in 1919 through the efforts of J. Edgar Hoover. Thoroughly disillusioned with Bolshevism, she became a British citizen in 1925. She wrote her autobiography in 1931. Her two essays, "The Failure of Christianity" (1913) and "The Philosophy of Atheism" (1916) contain her freethought views. D. 1940.

“I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made. There are . . . some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry--the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.”

—-Emma Goldman, 1898 speech to a liberal Detroit congregation, Living My Life. Read more about Emma Goldman in Women Without Superstition

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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