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Emma Goldman

A Social Commitment, Radical Activities, New Criminal Laws, William Haywood, Adrift

Born June 27, 1869 (Kovno, Russia)

Died May 14, 1940 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Social activist

Emma Goldman came to America and made a career of challenging the legitimacy of government, religion, and property. Throughout her political life she championed the constitutional right to freedom of speech and worked to improve conditions for the poor, laborers, and immigrants. Goldman criticized the social and economic subordination of women and was a lifelong opponent of war.

Goldman was an anarchist (person opposed to organized governments), so she rejected any enforced political order by an individual or government. She believed people were essentially good and that all forms of government authority were unnecessary and undesirable. She argued for a new social order based on the voluntary cooperation of individuals and groups.

"The kind of patriotism that we represent is the kind which loves America with open eyes. . . . We love the dreamers and the philosophers and the thinkers who are giving America liberty. But that must not make us blind to the social faults of America."

Goldman reached beyond the predominantly ethnic, immigrant audience that typically constituted anarchists in the early parts of the twentieth century and helped make the radical movement more mainstream in America. Like many anarchists, Goldman proclaimed her mission as one of promoting critical thinking, cultural and political change, and Emma Goldman. (The Library of Congress)
social cooperation based on personal liberty. Emma's political activities inspired criminal laws banning the practice of radical politics. She was also a frequent defendant in criminal cases involving her political activities.

For More Information


Chalberg, John. Emma Goldman: American Individualist. New York: Longman, 1991.

Dubofsky, Melvyn. "Big Bill" Haywood. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. New York: Times Books, 1994.

Walker, Martin. America Reborn: A Twentieth-Century Narrative in Twenty-Six Lives. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Web Sites

"Emma Goldman." Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/bios/20.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

"William Haywood." The National Archives Learning Curve. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhaywood.htm (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law