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Anarchy and the Sex Question:
Essays on Women and Emancipation, 1896-1917
By Emma Goldman
Edited by Shawn P. Wilbur
Available from PM Press, August 1, 2016


Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940) remains one of the best known figures of the political tradition known as anarchism, and with good reason, as few writers have so convincingly explained the evils of authority in government. But Goldman’s anarchism extended beyond the political realm, and arguably found its most essential expressions in her writings on matters more directly connected to everyday life. For Goldman, anarchism was not just an ideology, but a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions.” Still, there was another force that she considered “the most elemental force in human life:” Sex.

“The Sex Question” emerged for Goldman in the most varied of contexts, and we find her addressing it in writing on subjects as varied as women’s suffrage, “free love,” birth control, the “New Woman,” homosexuality, marriage, love and literature. It was at once a political question, an economic question, a question of morality and a question of social relations. However, despite the obvious importance of the question to Goldman, it has been hard to assess the precise nature of her answers to it, because the various elements of her analysis of that most elemental force remained fragmentary, scattered across numerous works and conditioned by numerous contexts.

Anarchy and the Sex Question draws together the most important of those scattered sources, uniting both familiar essays and archival material, in an attempt to recreate the great work on sex that Emma Goldman might have given us. In the process, it sheds light on contemporary questions such as Goldman’s place, or lack thereof, in the history of feminism.


  • Introduction: “Let Us Not Overlook Vital Things” (Shawn P. Wilbur)
  • Anarchy and the Sex Question
  • What Is There in Anarchy for Women?
  • The New Woman
  • “The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation
  • The White Slave Traffic
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Her Tragic Life and Her Passionate Struggle for Freedom
  • The Hypocrisy of Puritanism
  • Jealousy: Causes and a Possible Cure
  • Victims of Morality
  • Woman Suffrage
  • Marriage and Love
  • The Social Aspects of Birth Control
  • Again the Birth Control Agitation
  • The Woman Suffrage Chameleon
  • Louise Michel: A Refutation Addressed to Dr. Maynes Hershfeld
  • Emma’s Love Views
  • Feminism’s Fight Not Vain
  • The Element of Sex in Life

And follow the blog for more material on Emma Goldman and “the sex question.”

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Horace Traubel, “Free Speech in Philadelphia or Anywhere” (1909)

Free Speech in Philadelphia or Anywhere.*


I am glad that in speaking of Emma Goldman today you took high ground for free speech and shooed off the dogs of war. There’s no sense in trying to kill ideas with brickbats and guns. The policeman’s club is never an argument. It always vulgarly and brutally remains a policeman’s club. To suppress Emma Goldman is not an evidence of power but a confession of weakness. Imagine a whole nation put on edge by a little woman a few feet high who says a few things with which majorities do not agree! If the majorities were really majorities they would smile and pass her by. Or, maybe, if they were wise majorities and not fool majorities, they would not pass her by before they had stopped to listen. But they are not real majorities. Majorities of oppression are never real majorities. They are only impotent humbug majorities. They are not sure they have the truth. If they were they would not tremble and run when the truth is blasphemed. They are the victims of their own skepticism. They become cruel because they are impotent. I don’t need to say such things to you —you know them as well as I know them. But there are a lot of people to whom they do need to be said over and over again as long as there are people who threaten and storm and snarl against free speech in our Republic.

There was a time in the heat of the anti-slavery fight in this country when Theodore Parker was rejected by all the pulpits of New England. Then a body of devoted men and women, only a few of them—sacred forever be their names!—came together and organized in his behalf, with this simple platform of religion: “Resolved, That Theodore Parker be given a chance to be heard in Boston.” They didn’t all in all things agree with Parker. But they wanted to give him a chance to be heard. Emma Goldman has friends. These friends don’t all in all things agree with her. But these friends in effect have passed a resolution. It may be said to read like this: “Resolved, That Emma Goldman be given a chance to be heard in America.” Being against that resolution is being barbarous. Being in favor of that resolution is being civilized. I’m glad to see you are in favor of that resolution.


Foolish people who can’t see beyond their noses imagine that the police administration of Philadelphia this week has had a quarrel with Emma Goldman. That is a mistake. The fight is not O’Leary and so forth versus Goldman and so forth. The fight is O’Leary and so forth versus the State of Pennsylvania and so forth. The fight is not between law and anarchy but between lawlessness and the Constitution. And the conformist today is not the police administration but the woman whom that administration has assailed. If the club of the policeman is right then the traditions of the State of Pennsylvania are wrong. Yes, then the Constitution of the State is wrong. Tuesday night there was a victor and there was a victim. The victor was Chaos and the victim was the State of Pennsylvania. Every time a policeman’s club was raised on Tuesday night it landed on the sacred body of the law it pretended to protect. Nothing happened that night to injure Emma Goldman. Everything happened that night to hurt the State of Pennsylvania. All the spiritual honors of that night went to Emma Goldman. No club ever beat down or destroyed an idea. If an idea is false no institution can save it. If an idea is true no physical force, however formidable and impressive, can harm or destroy it.

It was grotesque to see all that display of arrogant governmentalism Tuesday night. What evoked it? Broad street and the court yard of the City Hall and the alleys adjacent had the air of an armed camp. The constabulary swarmed there like bees. But they were ludicrously wasted. Nobody was out that night to do anybody any harm. Nobody but the police themselves. No citizen of Philadelphia, drawn for one reason or another to the center of excitement, had any notion of disobeying laws or provoking quarrels. Everything was at peace. Everything but the guardians of the peace. Emma Goldman was at peace. The people who filled a hall to hear her speak were at peace. The thousands outdoors watching the curiously anomalous parade of administrative arrogance were at peace.

What, then, was all the official fuss and fury for? It must have been summoned and displayed for the purpose of scaring an idea. But ideas are never scared. The idea for which Emma Goldman is supposed to stand was never so lively as that night in Philadelphia. Ideas are always liveliest when attempts are made to suppress them. The very worst way to suppress an idea is to attempt to suppress it. For, if an idea is true, you can’t suppress it, and if it is false it does not need to be suppressed—it will suppress itself. If we all agreed finally and for good talking would be nonsense. But because we disagree talking is the part of wisdom. The men who made the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania wise knew this. So they advocated free speech. The men who today in Philadelphia make the administration of the laws foolish do not know it. So they advocate a despotism.


I am glad you are to preside at the meeting tomorrow night. Our meeting is not called as a protest against the State of Pennsylvania but on behalf of the State of Pennsylvania. The victim of last week’s mistake in Philadelphia was not Emma Goldman but the State of Pennsylvania. We know that Emma Goldman survived that incident unhurt. But who can say that the State of Pennsylvania survived that incident unhurt?

Our meeting is not inspired by an interest in one person or one idea. It belongs to all persons and all ideas. Anybody can stand oppression easier than the oppressor. Emma Goldman can stand the police administration of Philadelphia better than the State of Pennsylvania can stand the police administration of Philadelphia. In the arena of free speech the last idea is as good as the first. The idea of one is as good as the idea of all. The ideas of minorities are as good as the ideas of majorities. It would be as much right for the one rebel to gag all the conformists as for all the conformists to gag the one rebel.

The police administration of Philadelphia stands for the club. We stand for thought and love. The police are always given the choice of weapons and sometimes they choose the weapons of barbarism. The man who trusts his brain and his heart so little that he appeals to the club in contests of the brain and the heart retains the vision of the savage and can enjoy no prestige in the courts of the soul. The trouble in Philadelphia is not so much the policeman as the police consciousness. And I may say that I am less interested in getting the people out of the hands of the policemen than in getting the police consciousness out of the brains of the people. And I may say that it’s not half so sad to see the liberties of Philadelphia threatened as to see that there is no general protest against the threat. Not half so sad to see a few men misusing a few clubs as to see a whole community misusing a lot of brains. Not half so sad to know that a handful of misguided officials make a mockery of justice as to know that many thousands who would like to dare not join us in this protest. Not half so sad to have a little woman stopped by a big bluff from speaking as to have a whole city stopped by a little bluff from hearing. No half so sad, my brothers. Not half so sad.

Horace Traubel.

* Three letters. Letters I and II appeared in the Philadelphia Ledger. Letter III was addressed to Leonard Abbott.

Horace Traubel, “Free Speech in Philadelphia or Anywhere,” The Conservator 20 no. 6 (Auguat, 1909): 88-89.

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Emma Goldman, “Walt Whitman”

The poet of Leaves of Grass is a true son of American soil and yet very un-American. So long as he sings the song of the wonders of nature, the beauties of the unlimited resources, old Walt feels part and parcel of the strength of Mother Earth, but our great poet becomes un-American when he arraigns the Puritanic interference which has paralyzed life to such an extent as to make it barren. In fact, Walt Whitman may be called the iconoclast of Puritanism. No other writer or poet in America has so thoroughly exposed the hideous slimy god as he. Just hear these wonderful words from “Specimen Days.”

“Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature !—ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent.”

Our poet is also un-American because he was so free from the deadening tendency of commercialism. His brother, George W. Whitman, tells us that Walt “was a man who had chances to make money, but he would never make any concession for money. He refused to do anything except at his own notion.” His mission then was not to acquire possession but to carry the message of liberty and beauty to people everywhere.

The education of Walt Whitman was that of most children of the people; he never saw the inside of a college or university, which was fortunate because it helped him to retain originality and independence of thought. He was a prolific reader, however, and in his “loafing” he leaned more of people, conditions and nature than most men who received the so called highest education. Walt was jack of many trades, school teacher, compositor, editor (he edited the Brooklyn Eagle from 1874 to 78) carpenter, builder and clerk in the various departments in Washington, and last but not least, nurse, correspondent and advisor to the sick soldiers during the civil war.

He travelled all through the west and south supporting himself as a free lance for various newspapers. When the war broke out he enlisted voluntarily as nurse, for which he was eminently fitted because of his great humanity and his deep kinship for all suffering and sorrow. In 1870, at the age of 61, Walt Whitman had a stroke which paralyzed him physically but not mentally. He remained young, alert and full of the spirit of life to the end of his days.

When Leaves of Grass was published it fell into the hands of one of Whitman’s superiors in the department. He promptly declared the work immoral which cost Walt his position. The Society for the Suppression of Vice with Anthony Comstock as its patron saint had [at] that time begun its evil operations. For the same of the American spirit be it said that that Society is still on the job, even though the Saintly Anthony is now keeping company with his Heavenly Father. What greater chance for notoriety than the suppression of the great work of a great poet. Comstock went after the publisher, Osgood and Company. The District Attorney took Leaves of Grass under consideration. He marked the objectionable parts and sent word to Whitman that we would allow it to go through the mail if these parts will be expurgated.

Of course Walt would have none of such impudence. As a result the volume was withdrawn from circulation. Later however, the ban was lifted, that it ever should have been censored proves the stupidity of puritanism, or as Whitman said “the never ending audacity of elected persons.”

His experience with both the Society for the Suppression of Vice and the government had one good effect: it helped to advertise the book and author widely. Old Walt lived to see himself proclaimed as the greatest poet of his time, not only in his own country, but nearly everywhere in Europe. In England, J. Addington Symonds and Edward Carpenter fell under the sway of the powerful originality of Whitman. In Germany it was the poet Freiligrath, a rebel to the very tips of his fingers, who rendered such a marvelous translation of Leaves of Grass that even the best critics, proclaimed it as great as the original. And of course France and Russia became enthused with the vigor, the beauty, of the clarion voice of Walt.

Much in the poetry of Whitman easily proves him to be the most universal, cosmopolitan, and human of the American writers. He is considered the glorifier of democracy, but it will take long, or better still it will never happen, that what is commonly called democracy will even remotely represent the spirit of Walt Whitman.

In a material sense Walt Whitman’s life represented an endless struggle, great hardships and economic vicissitudes. But that was the least of his concerns. He has too deeply engrossed in his inner wealth to notice his outer poverty. He was too busily engaged in his creative work to have inclination or time for material achievements. Leaves of Grass, Drum Taps, Passage to India, Democratic Vistas, Memoranda during the War, Specimen Days, Autobiography, or, The story of a Life are the children of Walt Whitman’s brain and heart. What matter all else to him?

One of the most worm-eaten fruits of Puritanism which degrades life is the notion that public men and women who have a message for humanity must measure up to the yardstick of morality. Like sinners they are tied to the block of public stupidity and are expected to defend their position and justify their acts. In other words, they are expected to become public property, to have every emotion and thought watched over by the keepers of public morals.

Walt Whitman had much to suffer from these Puritanic detectives and snoopers. Because Leaves of Grass sings the beauty and wholesomeness of sex, of the human body freed from the rags and tatters of hypocrisy, the literary critics and editors, the professors, Uncles and Aunts demanded to know if the author was not really a dangerous immoral character. In Camden, N.J., the Purists warned the mother of Horace Traubel, who has since become the biographer of Whitman, against the association of her son with the old “Sorcerer,”—the man who so brazenly sang the glory of the “Children of Adam.”

Many friends of Whitman go out of their way to prove that he was not immoral and had no hidden vices, that he was pure and innocent, a big child. I will grant that they told only the truth, but one should not throw pearls of truth before the swine of Puritanic falsehood. They known not what to do with it except to drag it into their mire.

The innermost experience of the human heart are the most sacredly private affairs, and no one should concede to the mob—be it even the literary mob—the right and opportunity to pry into them. If these Torquemadas must engage in the job of inquisition, let them find their victims, but one should never play into their hands and thus become their accomplice.

It was the vigorous poetic personality of Walt Whitman, his boundless refreshing enthusiasm which broke the age-long barriers of conventionality and sham which created so much consternation among the respectable, hence their cries: “Shameless!” “Unheard of!” Walt was interested in the whole of man, not merely in the bloodless wreckage of Christian and Puritanic training; he sings his human song, the song of the earth, of flesh and blood, of the senses, and not the cold song of the living corpses who reflect the graveyard in the home, the discipline in the school, the curtailment of law.

Walt liberates the whole of man and brings him into harmonious blending with nature, in oneness with the liberating factors of life. Walt refuses to chop man up in a mortal unclean body, and the pure immortal soul. He repudiates the line of demarcation between good and evil, virtue and vice. He takes man as he is and brings him exultantly close to the Universe.

Just as man appears to the great old Walt, so does he appear in anarchism, all equally related to life, all interwoven with society, yet each unto himself a personality. When artificial barriers are no more, and man is no longer domesticated for the State, capitalism, the Church, and Morality, when Mother Earth becomes the common heritage of the race, a means for well-being and joy, then the differentiation between society and the individual, the aggregate and the unity will be no more.

For that we need an intellectual and material rebirth. Walt realized this, therefore he pleaded in “Democratic Vistas” for a great and profound literature for America. He speaks powerfully of the material things of life, of labor, food, houses, the fields. But he was the last to see in the present conditions a democratic ideal, conditions which drive, triumph upon and degrade man into the very dust.

The poet who was nothing less than the interpreter of the Cosmos, with all its wildness, its storm and stress, its instincts and dominant urge, could certainly not pass by the psychology of sex. He exposed the human body to the glowing light of the day, he liberated our senses from hypocrisy and sham, hence he created pale terror all about him. Naturally, what are these moral spies who have grown gray with virtue to make of these passages from “Children of Adam”?

This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.


A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking.

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,
These are contain’d in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself.

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that are warm-blooded sufficient for me,
I see that they understand me and do not deny me,
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of those women.

Is that not more awful than the [   ] free love? The latter is mostly theoretical, “terrible enough” but Walt glorifies the sexual senses without any limitation whatever. The Puritans argue, the sexual embrace is unfortunately indispensable for the procreation of the race, but tho if that motive does not exist, sex must be tabooed and the poet should keep in bounds. Indeed, dear old Walt expected too much of his country, which for nearly half a century maintained and paid a centralized censorship, when he gave her his glorious song of sex. Even Lowell who belongs to the free poets of America seems to have found “Leaves of Grass” too strong. Not so Thoreau. He said, “It is not Walt Whitman who is indecent, but decency and respectability are truly indecent and immoral.”

The works of Whitman are an inexhaustible force of spontaneity. Whitman considered himself an irrepressible outlaw compared with the academically trained, literary men. He completely throws overboard the paraphernalia of the estheticism, he assures us his art is not only art, but “a cause,” a world in itself.

First the human, then the literary. “Camerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man.” It is entirely misleading to call Whitman the poet of democracy, neither is it enough to speak of him as America’s poet in the sense that he was born in the American atmosphere: His wishes and aims were higher. It is easily understood that such a poet should be inspired by the wild ruggedness and the great possibilities of America. He hoped from this country, so young and so rich in elemental resources, that it would become intellectually a giant. He called for conscious endeavor in that direction, but he experienced many disappointments.

Horace Traubel is right when he says [that] Walt Whitman, as far as American is concerned, is very universal. He saw in America the free earth upon which a free strong humanity should dwell. But even America was to him only a part of the universe which he aimed to penetrate so passionately and poetically. One would do Whitman, the poet, a great injustice to see in him the apologist and sponsor of the democratic institutions. His art had absolutely nothing in common with the “national” art which reiterates the stale slogan of “My country tis of thee” or “Star Spangled Banner.” He was as unlike the average democrat as the anarchist is unlike the typical bourgeois.

On closer examination of Whitman’s democracy, of his ideal of the people, we will discover that it does not exist at all. Whitman did neither approve nor glorify the kind of democracy whose function consists in mustering up majorities for electional slaughter. Walt Whitman had a social and human [. ] ideal. He saw in politics nothing but a cunning game, a pastime of a shrewd clique for their own benefit.

Let us see what Walt Whitman had to say of his ideal city.

Where the men and women think lightly of the laws,
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases,
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of elected persons…

Just ask the democratic president, mayor, judge or politician what they think of Walt Whitman’s democracy. Their answer would probably be that it is rank anarchy inciting to riot and disorder.

In Democratic Vistas Walt Whitman demands as the basis of democracy full play for human nature to expand itself in numberless and even conflicting directions. A more rigid criticism he gave of American is hardly possible. He said this:

Know you not, dear earnest reader, that the people of our land may all read and write and may all possess the right to vote—yet the main things be entirely lacking? …

For, I say, the true nationality of the States, the genuine union, when we come to a mortal crisis, is, and is to be, after all, neither the written law, nor, (as is generally supposed,) either self-interest, or common pecuniary or material objects—but the fervid and tremendous IDEA, melting everything else with resistless heat, and solving all lesser and definite distinctions in vast, indefinite, spiritual, emotional power.

Or if we consider Walt Whitman’s attitude towards the American spirit we will find it contains more truth now than at the time it was written.

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Emma Goldman, “Russell Sage” (1906)


Emma Goldman.

WHAT an indictment against Society! Impure and poisonous, indeed, must have been the soil that nurtured such a plant.

The champions of the capitalistic system assert that the majority will ever have to live in poverty and misery, and that millions of backs are to remain forever bent, to sustain the magnificent structure called civilization.

Were we all to toil to produce the mere necessities of life—they say—who would foster art, poetry, and literature? Surely, there must be a select few. By their culture and aestheticism, by their refinement and beauty, they illuminate and elevate those predestined to a life of darkness and despair.

Such is the philosophy of capitalism. But even this philosophy, absurd as it is, will fail to justify the life of Russell Sage. It would search in vain for even the faintest reflex of himself, or of his tremendous wealth, in the lives of those that dwell in the abyss.

Russell Sage! Accumulation, with him, was not a means, but rather the sole aim of life. The notion that the social mission of wealth is philanthropy and charity was brutally caricatured by the personality of this man. Not even his own life derived any benefit from his riches, let alone the lives of others. Indeed, he serves as the most striking proof of our social insanity, which suffers thousands to starve, that a few calculating human machines may pile dividends upon dividends, [2] Russell Sage undoubtedly considered himself indispensably valuable to society. Several years ago a man, crazed by poverty and exposure, came to his office with the intention of taking the valuable life of the great benefactor of the human family. Does a Sage outweigh the countless lives his greed has crushed ?

When Uncle Russell realized the character of his visitor’s mission, he acted in a truly Christian spirit. He called his secretary and placed him between himself and the attacker. Naturally, the bomb did not strike the right person. Sage was saved and continued to indulge in his criminal proclivities; the secretary remained a cripple for life. The most humble human being would have felt indebted to the savior of his life, but dear Russell would have reproached himself for the rest of his existence, were he to waste money on his poor victim. The latter carried the case to the courts. But where are the men in American Halls of Justice that would dare to decide against a Russell Sage?

He left a hundred million dollars, but the case of his victim is still pending in the courts.

Sage was the most worthy, most consistent representative of our system of robbery and theft. Unlike the dilettant philanthropists, such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, he never feigned any hypocritical humanitarianism. In this respect, at least, Sage was superior to the Oil King of Sunday-school fame, and to the Homestead slave- driver, immortalized by libraries and the blood-bath of July 6, 1892. He never donned the garb of beneficence. Had he undertaken the building of the Panama Canal, for instance, he would not have called it a work of progress and civilization. His keen eye would have beheld only the long row of figures and the profits.

Tf an artist had suggested a great masterpiece as a memorial, Russell would have shown him the door. Why tins nonsensical enthusiasm for art and science? There is only one thing of consequence in life, and that is to “earn” the highest interest on money safely invested.

He was not far from the truth, with regard to his co- gamblers, Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie. Probably he suspected that their pretended interest in art and science was but a feeble attempt to quiet their con- [3] -sciences. At least his attitude was more frank, more honest. And he was more self-centred. He was not so stupid as Morgan, who invests fortunes in poor copies of great masters, to the amusement of European artists and art connoisseurs.

This character-study of Russell Sage is, in a small measure, a portrayal of our social economy, — cold, cruel, heartless; with no other purpose than the accumulation of fortunes by the few, the grinding to death of the many.

Emma Goldman, “Russell Sage,” Mother Earth 1, no. 6 (August 1906): 1-3.

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Emma Goldman, “The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation” (1906)

The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation

By Emma Goldman

I BEGIN my article with an admission: Regardless of all political and economic theories, treating of the fundamental differences between the various groups within the human race, regardless of class and race distinctions, regardless of all artificial boundary lines between woman’s rights and man’s rights, I hold that there is a point where these differentiations may meet and grow into one perfect whole.

With this I do not mean to propose a peace treaty. The general social antagonism which has taken hold of our entire public life to-day, brought about through the force of opposing and contradictory interests, will crumble to pieces when the reorganization of our social life, based upon the principles of economic justice, shall have become a reality.

Peace and harmony between the sexes, and individuals does not necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor does it call for the elimination of individual traits or peculiarities. The problem that confronts us, to-day, and which the nearest future is to solve, is how to be oneself, and yet in oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain one’s own innate qualities. This seems to me the basis upon which the mass and the individual, the true democrat and the true individuality, man and woman can meet without antagonism and opposition. The motto should, not be forgive one another; it should be, understand one another. The oft-quoted sentence of Mme. de Stael: “To understand everything means to forgive everything,” has never particularly appealed to me; it has the odor of the confessional; to forgive one’s fellow being conveys the idea of pharisaical superiority. To understand one’s being suffices. This admission partly represents the fundamental aspect of my views on the emancipation of woman and its effect upon the entire sex.

Emancipation should make it possible for her to be human in the truest sense. Everything within her that craves assertion and activivy should reach expression; and all artificial barriers should be broken and the road towards greater freedom cleared of every trace of centuries of submission and slavery.

This was the original aim of the movement for woman’s emancipation. But the results so far achieved have isolated woman and have robbed her of the fountain springs of that happiness which is so essential to her. Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an artificial being who reminds one of the products of French arboriculture with its arabesque trees and shrubs–pyramids, wheels and wreaths; anything except the forms which would be reached by the expression of their own inner qualities. Such artificially grown plants of the female sex are to be found in large numbers, especially in the so-called intellectual sphere of our life.

Liberty and equality for woman! What hopes and aspirations these words awakened when they first uttered by some of the noblest and bravest souls of those days. The sun in all its light and glory was to rise upon a new world; in this world woman was to be free to direct her own destiny, an aim certainly worthy of the great enthusiasm, courage, perseverance and ceaseless effort of the tremendous host of pioneer men and women, who staked everything against a world of prejudice and ignorance.

My hopes also move towards that goal, but I insist that the emancipation of woman, as interpreted and practically applied to-day, has failed to reach that great end. Now, woman is confronted with the necessity of emancipation from emancipation, if she really desires to be free. This may sound paradoxical, but is, nevertheless, only too true.

What has she achieved through her emancipation? Equal Suffrage in a few states. Has that purified our political life, as many well-meaning advocates have predicted? Certainly not. Incidentally it is really time that persons with plain, sound judgment should cease to talk about corruption in politics in a boarding-school tone. Corruption of politics has nothing to do with the morals or the laxity of morals of various political personalities. Its cause is altogether a material one. Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world, the mottoes of which are: “to take is more blessed than to give”; “buy cheap and sell clear”; “one soiled hand washes the other.” There is no hope that even woman, with her right to vote, will ever purify politics.

Emancipation has brought woman economic equality with man; that is, she can choose her own profession and trade, but as her past and present physical training have not equipped tier with the necessary strength to compete with man, she is often compelled to exhaust all her energy, use up her vitality and strain every nerve in order to reach the market value. Very few ever succeed, for it is a fact that women doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers are neither met with the same confidence, nor do they receive the same remuneration. And those that do reach that enticing equality generally do so at the expense of their physical and psychical well-being. As to the great mass of working girls and women, how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office? In addition is the burden which is laid on many women of looking after a “home, sweet home” cold, dreary, disorderly, uninviting–after a day’s hard work. Glorious independence! No wonder, that hundreds of girls are so willing to accept the first offer of marriage, sick and tired of their independence behind the counter, or at the sewing or typewriting machine. They are just as ready to marry as girls of of middle class people who long to throw off the yoke of parental dependence. A so-called independence which leads only to earning the merest subsistence is not so enticing, not so ideal that one can expect woman to sacrifice everything for it. Our highly praised independence is, after all, but a slow process of dulling and stifling woman’s nature, her love instinct and her mother instinct.

Nevertheless, The position of the working girl is far more natural and human than that of her seemingly more fortunate sister in the more cultured professional walk of life. Teachers, physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc., who have to make a dignified, straightened and proper appearance, while the inner life is growing empty and dead.

The narrowness of the existing conception of woman’s independence and emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and independence, the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only hinder her in the full exercise of her profession–all these together make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.

Emancipation as understood by the majority of its adherents and exponents, is of too narrow a scope to permit the boundless joy and ecstasy contained in the deep emotion of the true woman, sweetheart, mother, freedom.

The tragic fate of the self-supporting or economically free woman does not consist of too many, but of too few experiencees. True, she surpasses her sister of past generations in knowledge of the world and human nature; and it is because of that that she feels deeply the lack of life’s essence, which alone can enrich the human soul and without which the majority of women have become mere automatons.

That such a state of affairs was bound to come was foreseen by those who realized that in the domain of ethics, there still remained decaying ruins of the time of the undisputed superiority of man; ruins that are still considered useful. And, which is more important, a goodly number of the emancipated are unable to get along without them. Every movement that aims at the destruction of existing institutions and the replacement thereof with such as are more advanced more perfect, has followers, who in theory stand for the most extreme radical ideas, and who, nevertheless, in their every-day practice, are like the next best Philistine, feigning respectability and clamoring for the good opinion of their opponents. There are, for example, Socialists, and even Anarchists, who stand for the idea that property is robbery, yet who will grow indignant if anyone owe them the value of a half-dozen pins.

The same Philistine can be found in the movement for woman’s emancipation. Yellow journalists and milk and water literateurs have painted pictures of the emancipated woman that make the hair of the good citizen and his dull companion stand up on end. Every member of the women’s rights movement was pictured as a George Sand in her absolute disregard of morality. Nothing was sacred to her. She had no respect for the ideal relation between man and woman. In short, emancipation stood only for a reckless life of lust and sin; regardless of society, religion and morality. The exponents of woman’s rights were highly indignant at such a misrepresentation, and, lacking in humor, they exerted all their energy to prove that they were not at all as bad as they were painted, but the very reverse. Of course, as long as woman was the slave of man, she could not be good and pure, but now that she was free and independent she would prove how good she could be and how her influence would have a purifying effect on all institutions in society. True, the movement for woman’s rights has broken many old fetters, but it has also established new ones. The great movement of true emancipation has not met with a great race of women, who could look liberty in the face. Their narrow puritanical vision banished man as a disturber and doubtful character out of their emotional life. Man was not to be tolerated at any price, except perhaps as the father of a child, since a child could not very well come to life without a father. Fortunately, the rigid puritanism never will be strong enough to kill the innate craving for motherhood. But woman’s freedom is closely allied to man’s freedom, and many of my so-called emancipated sisters seem to overlook the fact that a child born in freedom needs the love and devotion of each human being about him, man as well as woman. Unfortunately, it is this narrow conception of human relations that has brought about a great tragedy in the lives of the modern man and woman.

About fifteen years ago appeared a work from the pen of the brilliant Norwegian writer, Laura Marholm, called “‘Woman, a Character Study.” She was one of the first to call attention to the, emptiness and narrowness of the existing conception of woman’s emancipation and its tragic effect upon the inner life of woman. In her work she speaks of the fate of several gifted women of international fame: The genius, Eleanora Duse; the great mathematician and writer, Sanja Kovalevskaja; the artist and poet nature, Marie Bashkirzeff, who died so young. Through each description of the lives of these women of such extraordinary mentality, runs a marked trail of unsatisfied craving for a full, rounded, complete and beautiful life, and the unrest and loneliness resulting from the lack of it. Through these masterly psychological sketches, one cannot help but see that the higher the mental development of woman, the less possible it is for her to meet a congenial mate, who will see in her, not only sex, but also the human being, the friend, comrade and strong individuality who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her character.

The average man with his self-sufficiency, his ridiculously superior airs of patronage towards the female sex, is an impossibility for woman, as depicted in the “Character Study” by Laura Marholm. Equally impossible for her is the man who can see in her nothing more than her mentality and genius, and who fails to awaken her woman nature.

A rich intellect and a fine soul are usually considered necessary attributes of a deep and beautiful personality. In the case of the modern woman, these attributes serve as a hindrance to the complete assertion of her being. For over one hundred years, the old form of marriage, based on the Bible, “till death us do part” has been denounced as an institution that stands for the sovereignty of the man over the woman, of her of complete submission to his whims and commands and the absolute dependence upon his name and support. Time and again it has been conclusively proven that the old matrimonial relation restricted woman to the function of man’s servant and the bearer of his children. And yet we find many emancipated women prefer marriage with all its deficiencies to the narrowness of an unmarried life; narrow and unendurable because of the chains of moral and social prejudice that cramp and bind her nature.

The cause for such inconsistency on the part of many advanced women is to be found in the fact that they never truly understood the meaning of emancipation. They thought that all that was needed was independence from external tyrannies; the internal tyrants, far more harmful to life and growth, such as ethical and social conventions, were left to take care of themselves; and they have taken care of themselves. They seem to get along beautifully in the heads and hearts of the most active exponents of woman’s emancipation, as in the heads and hearts of our grandmothers.

These internal tyrants, whether they be in the form of public opinion or what will mother say, or brother, father, aunt or relative of any sort; what will Mrs. Grundy, Mr. Comstock, the employer, the Board of Education say? All these busybodies, moral detectives, jailers of the human spirit, what will they say? Until woman has learned to defy them all, to stand firmly on her own ground and to insist upon her own unrestricted freedom, to listen to the voice of her nature, whether it call for life’s greatest treasure, love for a man, or her most glorious privilege, the right to give birth to a child, she cannot call herself emancipated. How many emancipated women are brave enough to acknowledge that the voice of love is calling, wildly beating against, their breasts demanding to be satisfied.

The French novelist, Jean Reibrach, in one of his novels, “New Beauty,” attempts to picture the ideal, beautiful, emancipated woman. This ideal is embodied in a young girl, a physician. She talks very clearly and wisely of how to feed infants, she is kind and administers medicines free to poor mothers. She converses with a young man of her acquaintance about the sanitary conditions of the future and how various bacilli and germs shall be exterminated by the use of stone walls and floors, and the doing away of rugs and, hangings. She is, of course, very plainly and practically dressed, mostly in black. The young man who, at their first meeting was overawed by the wisdom of his emancipated friend, gradually learns to understand her, and, recognizes one fine day that he loves her. They are young and she is kind and beautiful, and though always in rigid attire, her appearance is softened by her spotlessly clean white collar and cuffs. One would expect that he would tell her of his love, but he is not one to commit romantic absurdities. Poetry and the enthusiasm of love cover their blushing faces before the pure beauty of the lady. He silences the voice of his nature and remains correct. She, too, is always exact, always rational, always well behaved. I fear if they had formed a union, the young man would have risked freezing to death. I must confess that I can see nothing, beautiful in this new beauty, who is as cold as the stone walls and floors she dreams of. Rather would I have the love songs of romantic ages, rather Don Juan, and Madame Venus, rather an elopement by ladder and rope on a moonlight night, followed by a father’s curse, mother’s moans, and the moral comments of neighbors, than correctness and propriety measured by yardsticks. If love does not know how to give and take without restriction it is not love, but a transaction that never fail to lay stress on a plus and a minus.

The greatest shortcoming of the emancipation of the present day lies in its artificial stiffness and its narrow respectabilities which produce an emptiness in woman’s soul that will not let her drink from the fountain of life. I once remarked that there seemed to be a deeper relationship between the old-fashioned mother and hostess, ever on the alert for the happiness of her little ones and the comfort of those she loved and the truly new woman, than between the latter and her average emancipated sister. The disciples of emancipation pure and simple declared me heathen, merely fit for the stake. Their blind zeal did not let them see that my comparison between the old and the new was merely to prove that a goodly number of our grandmothers had more blood in their veins, far more humor and wit, and certainly a greater amount of naturalness, kind-heartedness and simplicity than the majority of our emancipated professional women who fill our colleges, halls of learning, and various offices. This does not mean a wish to return to the past, nor does it condemn woman to her old sphere, the kitchen and the nursery.

Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future. We are in need of unhampered growth out of old traditions and habits. The movement for woman’s emancipation has so far made but the first step in that direction. It is to be hoped that it will gather strength to make another. The right to vote, equal civil rights, are all very good demands, but true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman’s soul. History tells us that every oppressed class gained its true liberation from its masters through its, own efforts. It is necessary that woman learn that lesson, that she realize that her freedom will reach as far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches. It is therefore far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration to cut loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions, and customs. The demand for various equal rights in every vocation in life is just and fair, but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved. Indeed if the partial emancipation is to become a complete and true emancipation of woman it will have to do away with the ridiculous notion that to be loved, to be sweetheart and mother, is synonomous with being slave or subordinate. It will have to do away with the absurd notion of the dualism of the sexes, or that man and woman represent two antagonistic worlds.

Pettiness separates, breadth unites. Let us be broad and big. Let us not overlook vital things, because of the bulk of trifles confronting us. A true conception of the relation of the sexes will not admit of conqueror and conquered; it knows of but one great thing: to give one’s self boundlessly in order to find oneself richer, deeper, better. That alone can fill the emptiness and replace the tragedy of woman’s emancipation with joy, limitless joy.

Emma Goldman, “The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation,” Mother Earth 1, no. 1 (March 1906): 9-18.

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Emma Goldman, “The Effect of War on the Workers” (1900)

(Address by Emma Goldman on February 20, in London.)

FELLOW WORKERS.—Let me begin my address with a quotation from one of England’s greatest men; not the England of to day, the invading, murderous, crushing England, but the England of a time when Liberty and Hospitality were her main virtues—the England that has given the world the profoundest thinkers, the most brilliant writers, the most touching poets, from among whom Carlyle stands out like a shining star upon the firmament. It was he who said, when asked “What is the net purport of War?”:

“There dwell and toil, in the English village of Dumdrudge, some five hundred souls. From these, by certain “Natural Enemies” of the French, there are successively selected, during the French war, say thirty able-bodied men: Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them : she has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and even trained them to crafts so that one can weave another build, another hammer, and the weakest stand under thirty stone avoirdupois. Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are. selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away, at the public charges, some two thousand miles, or say only to the south of Spain ; and red there till wanted. And now to that same spot. . . . . are thirty similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending; till at length, after infinite effort, the two parties come into actual juxtaposition: and Thirty stands fronting Thirty, each with a gun in his hand. Straightaway the word “Fire!” is given: and they blow the souls out of one another; and in place of sixty brisk, useful craftsmen, the world has sixty dead carcasses, which it must bury, and anew shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest! They lived far enough apart; were the entirest strangers; nay, in so wide a Universe, there was even, unconsciously, by Commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them. How then? Simpleton! their Governors had fallen out; and, instead of shooting one another, had the canning to make these poor blockheads shoot.”

In these few pithy words of Carlyle, lies the whole secret of War and Militarism. Only a short while ago in what is called the greatest and freest land in the world (I mean America), from each Dumdrudge, thirty, nay, more, men were selected, dressed in uniform and shipped to a strange country; and the same was done in many Dumdrudges of Spain. Both Spain and America had nursed and suckled their sons into strong and sturdy craftsmen. These same sons had children and wives to care for—often a mother and sister to support; but no amount. of tears or prayers could keep them at home; they were told to go, and so they went to blow each other’s brains out. Had they any quarter? None whatever; they, too, lived far enough apart, and in this wide world there was rather a bond of helpfulness between them. What then? In the case of the American man, we were told that a beautiful sentiment, a deep moral, was the motive power; and so it was to some extent—at least, the American people thought so. It was the deep sympathy with the suffering Cubans, tortured and starved by the butcher Weyler under the regime of the Spanish clergy and government; it was the just indignation of the American people over the atrocities committed in Cuba—I say: of the American people; I should say, of the American worker—and this noble sentiment, these humanitarian feelings, served the American governors as a good pretext for fighting Spain in order to get Cuba into their clutches.

Do you wish to know how the American-Spanish war affected the workers? I will tell you. First of all, America lost thousands of her sons—who either died of fever, lack of proper nourishment, or were killed by Spanish guns, or (as a reward for their patriotism and devotion to their country) by embalmed beef furnished by American capitalists. Instead of those strong, able-bodied men who left their shores for the battlefield, we have today thousands of broken-hearted mothers, hungry widows and orphans, who swell the number of the unemployed and reduce the wages of the workers. Then we have the War Tax of Two Cents—only a penny, you know; for the Government was kind to us— a penny War Tax that still, like the sword of Damocles, hangs over the workers’ heads, that has increased the price of meat from 4d. to 6d., bread from 2d. to 2 1/2 d. per loaf, coals from 17s. to 25s, per ton, rent flow 24s. to 30s. a month, beer, clothing and other necessities of life to still higher prices; it has ruined hundreds of small tradesmen, increased the ranks of the unemployed and reduced wages.

Still, all this suffering could be patiently borne if only one knew that the Cubans had been helped. Were they helped? I deny it. I say that all the blood spilt, all the lives lost, all the money spent has been in vain; the Cubans have been freed from the atrocious government of Spain but only to fall into the hands of another almost as unscrupulous. We have but to think of Homestead and its strike where eleven men were killed and some 30 wounded; of the coal strike in the Coeur d’Alene mines in Idaho, where 200 men were thrown to rot in the Bull Run and confessions extorted at the point of the bayonet; when we think of the atrocities rampant in the South, of the negroes lynched, tortured and burned by infuriated crowds without a hand being raised or a word said for their protection—when we think of all these things, then I say that the American Government, is hardly an improvement upon the Spanish, signs of which already can already be seen in Cuba, where, 12,000 workers being out on strike, the army was threatened to be called out. We have saved the Cubans from the bullets of Spaniards, only, it seems to me, to expose them to the brutality of the bloodhounds of American capitalism. But, as if this were not sufficient, there is a still more degrading, humiliating and brutal result of the late American-Spanish war—I allude to the invasion of the Philippine Islands and the crushing of the Filipinos, those noble rebels who are still defending their independence, though slaughtered by hundreds, their homes burned, their wealth destroyed, and their women ill-used by the very men who went to free the Cubans in the name of Liberty. Columbia! cover your face under the shame of it; for you have become but a prostitute to the vice and good of your sons!

Again we can say with Carlyle, out of every British and Irish Dumdrudge, men have been selected, dressed in khaki and sent to the Transvaal to blow out the souls of the Boers. Have these Englishmen quarrelled with the Boers? Why, no; on the contrary they were friends until a short time back? What, then? In this case we cannot even say their Governors have fallen out, for the Governor of the Transvaal has certainly done more than any self-respecting man could or ought to do in the effort to prevent war, by yielding to the demands of Chamberlain, Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Milner. No, it is not the Governors who have fallen out, but a few greedy and insatiable monsters, who have gone mad at the sight of the red Gold in the Transvaal like the proverbial bull at the sight of a red rag, and Britannia must sacrifice her sons at the demand of her hangman traders. No fight so justifiable, no more righteous a defence, no nobler struggle for liberty, than that We see today on the side of the Boers, a handful of farmers who have known little of military drill or modern warfare, who, a peace-loving people, have taken to their guns only from sheer necessity and are showing the world that when a people fights for Liberty and independence it needs neither God nor King on its side. I see a report in one of your dailies, that a number of ministers have called upon you to repent; God because of your sins, having been against you no little in this war. Now I always believed the English were the most pious people on the earth; at least, they have always pretended to be such yet God has punished you; might it not be because you obeyed the call of your Governors to invade and slay a peaceful people? But no, your ministers call you to repent because God for once in their crude imagination is on the side of the righteous—otherwise he is too often on the side of the rascal. I hardly, however, think it necessary to go into details regarding the English-Boer War; enough has already been said from different sides as to the results likely to obtain on the workers; blind indeed are those who do not see them already. Aside of the increase of the cost of the coal and food, aside of your 50,000 children going to school without breakfast, you have sold your breakfast, you have sold your birthright for a mess of pottage; you stand before the world as willing slaves to the whims of robbers and thieves, and you have shown yourselves incapable (in spite of the gifts of chocolate from her gracious Majesty and plum-puddings from your aristocrats) of meeting and beating a handful of farmers!

Do not tell me Mr. Chamberlain is responsible for this war; it is you who are responsible, With Ruskin I can say: “There are two kinds of Slaves—one are scourged to their work by their whip; others by their ignorance; some are bought with money, others with panic [or promises of chocolate?] Again, it matters not what kind of work slaves do; some are set to digging fields, others graves; some press the juice out of vines, some the blood of men, but it is slavery just the same, because you do things at the bidding of others.”

Yes, fellow-workers, this is your curse—doing things at the bidding of others. When, oh when, will you learn to be yourselves, to think for yourselves, to act for yourselves? Not until you have learnt to understand the wrongs of War, of bloodshed, of legal murder and robbery; that all class and racial hatred is but the result of your ignorance, and that while you wilfully choose this ignorance you become the easy tools of your Governors, who are too cowardly to go out and fight themselves.

Emma Goldman, “The Effect of War on the Workers,” Freedom (London) 14 no. 146 (March-April, 1900): 11.

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Emma Goldman, “Police Brutality” (1906)


Liberty by the grace of the police and the might of the club was again brought home to us in the most brutal and unspeakable manner. A club of young boys and girls, peaceably assembled Saturday night, October 27th, to listen to a discourse as to whether or not Leon Czolgosz was an Anarchist. At the close of the meeting three of the speakers—Julius Edelson, M. Moscow, and M. Rubinstein—were arrested and placed under $1,000 bail each. Tuesday, October 30th, a meeting was called to protest against the arrest of these boys and the suppression of free speech. Mr. Bolton Hall, H. Kelly, Max Baginski and myself were announced to speak. The meeting proceeded in absolute order, with Julius Edelson, who had meanwhile been released on bail through Mr. Bolton Hall, as the first speaker. He had spoken barely twenty minutes when several detectives jumped on the platform and placed him under arrest, while twenty-five police officers began to club the audience out of the hall. A young girl of eighteen, Pauline Slotnikoff, was pulled off a chair and brutally dragged across the floor of the hall, tearing her clothing and bruising her outrageously. Another girl, fourteen years of age, Rebecca Edelson, was roughly handled and put under arrest, because she failed to leave the hall as quickly as ordered. The same was done to three other women—Annie Pastor, Rose Rogin, and Lena Smitt— for no other reason except that they were unable to reach the bottom of the stairs fast enough to suit the officers. I was about to leave when one of the officers struck me in the back, and put me under arrest.

Fortunately, Mr. Bolton Hall and H. Kelly could not be present at the meeting; they, too, might have been clubbed out of the hall.

Six women and four men were packed like sardines into a patrol-wagon and hustled off to the station house, where we were kept in vile air and subjected to vulgar and brutal annoyance by the police until the following morning; then we were brought before a magistrate and put under $1,000 bail each for assault. Fancy girls of fourteen and eighteen, of delicate physique, assaulting twenty-five two-hundred-and-fifty-pounders!

If we as a nation were not such unspeakable hypocrites, we should long since have placed a club instead of a torch in the hand of the Goddess of Liberty—the police mace is not merely the symbol, but the very essence of our “liberty and order.”

Emma Goldman.

Emma Goldman, “Police Brutality,” Mother Earth 1, no. 9 (November, 1906): 2-3.

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Emma Goldman, “To the Readers of Mother Earth” (1906)


Those of you who have been startled by the rumor of Comrade Alexander Berkman’s disappearance and his supposed kidnapping I want to inform that there was little truth in the story. People never realize that there are worse things in human life than merely external forces. But what made it impossible for our friend to continue his tour lies in the terrible contrast of solitary confinement, enforced silence and monotony and the rush and hurry of our daily lives. Few have stood the years of hell as bravely as Comrade Berkman, but the lack of idealism and enthusiasm in radical ranks and the pettiness and sordidness of our existence were too much for his sensitive nature. He hoped to regain interest in life through a tour, but before he was half through he realized that one can never find the strength to live outside of himself and that to find oneself at all, one needs absolute harmony and peace.

He has therefore decided to retire for a time and hopes those who have been disappointed will understand and appreciate.

Emma Goldman.

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Emma Goldman, “Police Education” (1907)


Our criticism of the police brutality at the arrests on October 30th seems to have done the “Safety” Department some good.

True, the word Anarchism still affects them like the proverbial red rag, but they have at least learned to perform their “duty ” in a more or less decent manner.

After dogging our steps for nine weeks, their “perseverance” and “tenacity” have at last been rewarded.

Sunday, January the 6th, the police closed our meeting held under the auspices of the “Mother Earth” Club, and arrested the Chairman, John R. Coryell, Alexander Berkman and myself.

The Criminal Anarchy of the Chairman consisted in a five-minute talk on the educational aims and purposes of the “Mother Earth” Club. Comrade Berkman was guilty of even a more heinous crime—he had not spoken at all, but he is known to have enjoyed for many years the paternalism of Pennsylvania.

A criminal Anarchist, aged 15, who happened to be at the door when the detectives passed, was taken along to complete the quartet.

Three weeks previously I had delivered the same lecture—Misconceptions of Anarchism—before the Brooklyn Philosophical Association. And though the heroes of the American Third Section—the newly created Anarchistic Squadron—were present, no arrests followed. Even detectives are not so stupid as not to understand that their Cossack tactics at Anarchistic meetings could not be profitably applied to non-anarchistic elements. It might wake the law-abiding citizen to a realization of the true state of affairs.

Our hearing before the Police Court Magistrate resulted in our being held for further “examination.” Comrades Coryell and Berkman were held in $1,000 bail each, while my bond was set at $2,000.

Inspector McLaughlin asked me, quite naively, whether I did not intend to cease my agitation. On being told that I would not change my course, the wise man informed me that I am hereafter to be arrested every time I speak upon a platform.

We, too, have learned a lesson. Tis no more a question of free speech. It is a conspiracy against the spread of Anarchism.

E. G.

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Emma Goldman and Max Baginski, “Mother Earth” (1906)


THERE was a time when men imagined the Earth as the center of the universe. The stars, large and small, they believed were created merely for their delectation. It was their vain conception that a supreme being, weary of solitude, had manufactured a giant toy and put them into possession of it.

When, however, the human mind was illumined by the torch-light of science, it came to understand that the Earth was but one of a myriad of stars floating in infinite space, a mere speck of dust.

Man issued from the womb of Mother Earth, but he knew it not, nor recognized her, to whom he owed his life. In his egotism he sought an explanation of himself in the infinite, and out of his efforts there arose the dreary doctrine that he was not related to the Earth, that she was but a temporary resting place for his scornful feet and that she held nothing for him but temptation to degrade himself. Interpreters and prophets of the infinite sprang into being, creating the “Great Beyond” and proclaiming Heaven and Hell, between which stood the poor, trembling human being, tormented by that priest-born monster, Conscience.

In this frightful scheme, gods and devils waged eternal war against each other with wretched man as the prize of victory; and the priest, self-constituted interpreter of the will of the gods, stood in front of the only refuge from harm and demanded as the price of entrance that ignorance, that asceticism, that self-abnegation which could but end in the complete subjugation of man to superstition. He was taught that Heaven, the refuge, was the very antithesis of Earth, which was the source of sin. To gain for himself a seat in Heaven, man devastated the Earth. Yet she renewed herself, the good mother, and came again each Spring, radiant with youthful beauty, beckoning her children to come to her bosom and partake of her bounty. But ever the air grew thick with mephitic darkness, ever a hollow voice was heard calling: “Touch not the beautiful form of the sorceress; she leads to sin!”

But if the priests decried the Earth, there were others who found in it a source of power and who took possession of it. Then it happened that the autocrats at the gates of Heaven joined forces with the powers that had taken possession of the Earth: and humanity began its aimless, monotonous march. But the good mother sees the bleeding feet of her children, she hears their moans, and she is ever calling to them that she is theirs.

To the contemporaries of George Washington, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, America appeared vast, boundless, full of promise. Mother Earth, with the sources of vast wealth hidden within the folds of her ample bosom, extended her inviting and hospitable arms to all those who came to her from arbitrary and despotic lands—Mother Earth ready to give herself alike to all her children. But soon she was seized by the few, stripped of her freedom, fenced in, a prey to those who were endowed with cunning and unscrupulous shrewdness. They, who had fought for independence from the British yoke, soon became dependent among themselves; dependent on possessions, on wealth, on power. Liberty escaped into the wilderness, and the old battle between the patrician and the plebeian broke out in the new world, with greater bitterness and vehemence. A period of but a hundred years had sufficed to turn a great republic, once gloriously established, into an arbitrary state which subdued a vast number of its people into material and intellectual slavery, while enabling the privileged few to monopolize every material and mental resource.

During the last few years, American journalists have had much to say about the terrible conditions in Russia and the supremacy of the Russian censor. Have they forgotten the censor here? a censor far more powerful than him of Russia. Have they forgotten that every line they write is dictated by the political color of the paper they write for; by the advertising firms; by the money power; by the power of respectability; by Comstock? Have they forgotten that the literary taste and critical judgment of the mass of the people have been successfully moulded to suit the will of these dictators, and to serve as a good business basis for shrewd literary speculators? The number of Rip Van Winkles in life, science, morality, art, and literature is very large. Innumerable ghosts, such as Ibsen saw when he analyzed the moral and social conditions of our life, still keep the majority of the human race in awe.

Mother Earth will endeavor to attract and appeal to all those who oppose encroachment on public and individual life. It will appeal to those who strive for something higher, weary of the commonplace; to those who feel that stagnation is a dead weight on the firm and elastic step of progress; to those who breathe freely only in limitless space; to those who long for the tender shade of a new dawn for a humanity free from the dread of want, the dread of starvation in the face of mountains of riches. The Earth free for the free individual!

Emma Goldman,
Max Baginski.

Emma Goldman and Max Baginski, “Mother Earth,” Mother Earth 1, no. 1 (March, 1906): 1-4.

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Letter to “Freedom” (November-December, 1924)


Dear Comrades,—Ever since I have come to England I wanted to get in touch with you and tell you of my plans for activities in behalf of our ideas. But I have been very busy adjusting myself to the new conditions and meeting people who might be interested in the work 1 have in mind. I am glad to say that my efforts so far have met with greater success than I had expected. The dinner on November 12th brought out a huge gathering of men and women whose interest made me feel very hopeful for my chances in this country.

Desirous as I am to put life in our movement, to bring our social philosophy before the thinking people of this great land, I yet feel that the most dominant issue before the world is Russia. To clear the fog which hangs over this question, to make the world see the abyss between the Russian Revolution, the aims of the Russian people, and the present governing regime, seems to me of utmost importance. I mean, therefore, to concentrate on that first. I mean to have a series of lectures in London, and later in the provinces, to set forth the facts which I gathered during my two years in Russia.

The first meeting proposed is to be held in Queen’s Hall, London, shortly after the holidays. It is hoped by the friends who wish to help me that the meeting can be made self-supporting by a charge for admission to the stalls and orchestra, leaving the balcony free for the workers who cannot afford to pay. Unfortunately, there is going to be a very large initial expense for which money must be raised immediately, about £100.

I do not know how you feel about the question of Russia or the need of throwing light on it, but if the importance is as apparent to you as it is to me, 1 feel certain that you will not refuse to lend your help to make our first venture an overwhelming success. If you are able and willing to send a contribution, please send it to Freedom Office. And if you are in London, perhaps you will also help with the announcements and the sale of tickets.

I remain fraternally,

Emma Goldman.

Emma Goldman, “Letter from Emma Goldman,” Freedom (London) 28 no. 422 (November-December, 1924): 61.

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Filed under 1924, Emma Goldman, Freedom (London), published letters