Emma Goldman: A Threat? - Essay Sample

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Carnegie Mellon University
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The book narrates the story of an American individualist, Emma Goldman who dedicated her love, life and stood up for what she believed in. She was born on June 27, 1869, in Kovno city situated in Russian Empire, previously known as Kaunas in Lithuania, and in a Jewish family. During this time, a significant number of men preferred male infants and Goldman's father; Abraham Goldman was not left behind. Goldman's mother showed a high level of commitment with the sisters, Helena and Lena and preferred not to add more children to the family (Chalberg, 46). By the time Goldman was born, she was rejected by the father. The rejection had a significant influence on the life of Goldman throughout her life.

While in the father's house, she was subjected to different forms of abuse by the father and the mother lacked emotion towards her. For that reason, the sister, Helena showed love to Goldman as much as possible, but this was not felt. Helena could not fill the void in her heart. At a later date, the father moved the family to another small Jewish town known as Papile when he became an innkeeper. At six years, Goldman was frustrated and became close to their family servant by the name Petrushka. During their engagement, Petrushka told Goldman how the world ought to be; without punishment and rules. The father heard about Petrushkas teaching to Goldman and Petrushka was dismissed. Her carefree world came collapsing down(Chalberg, 83). At 7 years, she was forced to move to live with her aunt and uncle and attend a private elementary school while living with the aunt. It was more unfortunate since the uncle was crueler than the father. The uncle believed that it was purely a waste of resources to educate a girl child and for that reason remove her from school.

Her radical activities led to a proposal with Berkman to indulge in an anarchist "dead" against Henry Frick, who was working at Carnegie steel company and was against his worker's unionist efforts. Even though she was not with Berkman when he shot and wounded Frick, she later went to prison for allegedly inciting unemployed to take forcefully what they wanted. She later ceased advocating for violence and continued fighting for those who did. Soon after her release from the prison, she practiced nursing and became a midwife. Later she traveled across the globe and gained a broader perspective towards life and women struggles.

Emma Goldman resurfaced later in 1901 and undergone an unwarranted harassment when the assassin of President William McKinley who was later found to have psychological issue linked his actions to Emma Goldmans speeches. After Berkman was released from prison, he decided to join Goldmans publication Mother Earth to help Emma Goldman in her struggles for women in the society. With the maturity she had acquired through her experiences, she focused on drama and literature and also wrote on daily issues of the day. For this reason, she wrote a book the social significance of the modern drama which came to be one of the most superficial books. A stronger and more varied work was anarchism and other stories published in 1910.

Goldman acquired significant fame during the youth movement which happened in the 1910s and through this, she fought for the birth control and related matters of specific concern to the women. Electrified with the obstruction procedure of the Conscription Act in World War I, she worked with Berkman in the movements and was again finned and sentenced in 1912 to a two-year jail term. This led to lengthy retaliatory court proceedings which culminated to her being deprived citizenship on foundations of technicality and was extradited to Russia (Ferguson, 79). Russia was undergoing a revolution, and Emma Goldman hailed it. She again found herself revolted by the then dictatorship and left Russia. Her Cynicism in Russia in 1923 stirred controversy. She later married a Welsh miner to acquire a British citizenship thereafter was bought a house by friends. During the Spanish civil war, Emma Goldman also supported the women anarchist (Goldman and David, 47). Emma Goldman was seen as a threat and was barred from visiting the US. However, when she died, her body was permitted and buried in Chicago.

The author, John Chalberg has taken the reader through Goldman's life as a poor and abused woman. The author has not only focused on her life and the anarchism but also provides other radicals of the time such as socialism and communism. It provides an excellent source of American history and political issues into the age of industry. It also presents her not as evil, unruly but as one of the dedicated, motherly and sympathetic women with the mission of helping those struggling in the society. It is an open-minded approach to one of the most vocal anarchists of the twentieth century and reduces her anarchism to an expression of the American individualism. There are various discussions concerning her thoughts and influence which has been fundamental in the struggle for women and their empowerment.

Works Cited


Chalberg, John. Emma Goldman: American Individualist. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. Print.

Ferguson, Kathy E. Emma Goldman: Political thinking in the streets. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011. Print.

Goldman, Emma, and David Porter. Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006. Print.


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