A New York City Anarchist Named Emma


A far cry from mallrats sporting Che Guevara t-shirts and pocket manifestos, Emma Goldman was the real deal: anarchist, lecturer, writer, and all around intellectual instigator.

Born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1869 to an Orthodox family, Goldman immigrated to New York City in 1885 and became attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket Affair. She wrote and spoke extensively on the greatest hits of taboo subjects: women’s rights, birth control, atheism, and labor rights.

In 1892, Goldman conspired with her lifelong lover, anarchist Alexander Berkman, to assassinate the American industrialist Henry Clay Frick, a failed plan that resulted in jail time for Berkman. Though Goldman avoided prison for this offense, she served intermittently over the years for “inciting to riot” and illegally distributing information on birth control. Ultimately, Goldman was deported to Russia in 1919 for attempting to “induce persons not to register” for the draft.

From Russia, Goldman spent time in Spain in support of the Spanish Civil War’s anarchist revolution. She died of debilitating strokes in Toronto in 1940.

When she was a teenager, her father told her: “All a Jewish daughter needs to know is how to prepare gefilte fish…and give the man plenty of children.” We’re glad she wasn’t listening.

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