Rebel feminist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was born on this day in the small province of Kovno, Russia, immigrated to the U.S. at age 17, and became a garment worker.
"The Statue of Liberty suddenly emerging from the mist," Goldman said. "Ah, there she was, the symbol of hope, of freedom, of opportunity!"
She married, became a U.S. citizen, then divorced three years later, with $5, her sewing machine, and what she described as "youth, good health, and a passionate ideal." She met and fell in love with Alexander Berkman and the couple became a charismatic part of New York City's anarchist community.
With a passion for openness, in 1906, they published the "treasonable" journal, Mother Earth, which featured libertarian essays, poetry, and fiction from such notables as Leo Tolstoy and Margaret Sanger.
A dynamic public speaker who was way ahead of her time, "Red Emma" referenced the policies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine in her speeches. She objected to corrupt government and big business. She supported gay rights, free love, birth control, and equality.
Always, she celebrated the power of the individual. Revered and reviled for her work, Goldman inspired strong feelings. Her life swirled with controversy, slander, and propaganda. The FBI called her “the most dangerous woman in America.”
"Anarchism aims at a new and complete freedom," she said. "It strives to bring about the freedom which is not only the freedom from within but a freedom from without."
A copy of her speech was found in the pocket of the man who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901. Falsely accused of complicity, she was banned from speaking, her magazine cut off by the mail service, and her family was ostracized.
She never gave up her radical ways. Jailed in 1917 for her anti-war stance against World War I, she was eventually deported to Russia in 1919. After her death, she was allowed back to the U.S. for burial in Chicago.
"Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think," she said.
More Emma GOLDMAN Quotations
Fill your life with what you enjoy.