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University of Illinois Press
Emma Goldman, Vol. 1: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 1: Made for America, 1890-1901

Emma Goldman, Vol. 1: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 1: Made for America, 1890-1901

by Emma Goldman, Candace Falk


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252075414
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 07/16/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 680
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Candace Falk is a Guggenheim Fellow and the founding director of the Emma Goldman Papers research project at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of New York Times Notable Biography of the Year Love, Anarchy, and Emma Goldman. Barry Pateman is the associate editor of the Emma Goldman Papers, curator of the Kate Sharpley Library, and editor of Chomsky on Anarchism. Jessica Moran is a former assistant editor of the Emma Goldman Papers and is an archivist and scholar of anarchist history.

Read an Excerpt

Emma Goldman Volume I

A Documentary History of the American Years Made for America, 1890-1901

By Candace Falk


Copyright © 2016 Candace Falk
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-252-07541-4


FORGING HER PLACE: An introduction


History is the evocation of an authentic past, built through innuendo and inference — a pursuit both palpable and elusive. A small detail illuminates history's subtleties, performs its alchemy, as a photographic image holds time luxuriously still — creating a sacred space for reflection and the illusion of comprehending the intricacies of a world long past. Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years is comprised of selected documents — rare glimpses of a valiant life dedicated to the creation of a radically new social order: "freedom, the right to self expression, everybody's right to beautiful radiant things."

As in a photographic album, where the spaces between the images — the unrecorded intervals — create an imagined narrative, portraying a single life in constant interplay with others, so do the documents in this selected edition, chronological but not linear, form a montage of the unfolding of Goldman's public life. Personal correspondence, newspaper reportage, government surveillance reports trailing her in Europe, court transcripts showcasing the drama of her arguments before judges and jurors, lecture notes and manuscripts, and previously unpublished documents reflecting the international reach of the anarchist movement all tell a story not only about Goldman, but about a time and place when the price of freedom was inordinately high.

In every age, there are individuals who assume the role of public guardians of freedom. Emma Goldman, complex and often paradoxical, merits a place among such transcendent spirits. Her words live on as a reminder — and as a warning.


The format for the presentation of historical material in this multi-volume documentary history of Emma Goldman is consistent with her core role as a champion of independent thought. Each document is anchored by annotations that explicate the historical context, deepen and invite interpretation, and illuminate a vast and relatively unknown world. Searching for sources on the complex political history of anarchism took years of collaborative and global detective work. Unearthing significant papers and unraveling the underlying stories of the people and events have required — and inspired — the scholarly devotion, intellectual balance, and careful preservation of authenticity upon which these volumes rest. While the selected documents cannot capture the whole of Goldman's life nor describe all the people and events surrounding her, this multi-volume edition does serve as a road map to the past and a route into a rich and not yet fully explored terrain of history — especially of the history of anarchism.

Even though in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries anarchism's challenge was largely dismissed by historians, who purged this marked political history from U.S. tomes, because there was a strong written and oral tradition among anarchists, the continuity of their culture and lore was assured. Served by a collective memory, the survival instinct of anarchists was anchored in the heroics of their movement. Pamphlets and newspapers expressing a variety of ideas were the anarchists' epicenter — they read, republished, and honored political tracts from their past. Anarchists retold the inspiring stories of their courageous predecessors, building on their own history to create a bond between the past and the present. With tremendous fanfare, they celebrated anniversaries — honoring the defeat and loss of life in the uprising of the Paris Commune of 1871,and the death and hallowed last words of the Haymarket anarchists in 1887. They modeled themselves, their lives, their cooperative efforts, and their political strategies in relation to those who preceded them. Ritual remembrances allowed for the renewal of a vow not to forget those whose sacrifices and challenges might otherwise have been obliterated by the conservators oftraditional history. What anarchism might signify in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century was in flux and took shape through varied forms of collective meditation on the relationship between political theory and practice. The young Emma Goldman would play a significant role in the anarchists' — and the nation's — ongoing discussion about the concept of, and possibilities for, freedom.

It is in the spirit of the tradition of remembrance and respect that we present this documentary history of Emma Goldman's American years, along with a chronology of her life and the anarchist movement as well as biographical appendices of prominent individuals, periodicals, and organizations. Pieced together, these texts fix a moment in time, add clarity and nuance to Goldman's work, to the surrounding culture, and to the ideas and activities of the anarchists. Offering a critical engagement with the past, the array of original sources presented in these volumes promote accuracy and fairness. The documents display the anarchist movement at its best and its worst — in its reach for egalitarian cooperation and in the depth of its sectarian controversies, in its articulation of a "beautiful ideal" and in its engagement with the prevailing undercurrent of political violence in a violent era. Each volume in this documentary edition provides the back-grounding data from which those who yearn for social equality and freedom will find much to admire about Goldman — and also a fount of new material from which to raise important, and possibly disconcerting, questions about her life and times.


The historical documents in this selected edition, especially those in vol. 1, Made for America, 1890-1901, that chronicle the initial decade of Emma Goldman's political life, may surprise those whose image of Goldman has been colored by the softening filter of her autobiography, Living My Life (1931). A lighthearted portrait of Goldman as a cultural rebel, the woman who dances in the revolution has been evoked on t-shirts and etched into the public consciousness for more than thirty years since the reprint of her autobiography in 1970. Although not completely inaccurate, this image obscures the darker shadows of her political militancy.

In her autobiography, Goldman couches her militant political engagement in a novelistic and stylized optimism and masks her intermittent despair. She tilts her paradoxical and all-encompassing political stance, one that mirrored the poles of her own personality, to emphasize her seemingly boundless empathy, while still brandishing her piercingly sharp-tongued severity. Casually embedded in the recounting of her life and passionate loves in the autobiography is a casting of herself as a modern-day counterpart to Judith, the biblical heroine of bloody justice who cut off the head of Holofernes to avenge the wrongs of her people.

Goldman used her autobiography as an opportunity to reveal and finally unburden herself of years of secrets about her clandestine involvement with her closest friend and comrade — Alexander Berkman — in his attempt to assassinate the steel magnate who had ordered the use of violence against angry locked-out workers. She conceptualized her autobiography as adding her voice to Berkman's prison memoirs, foregrounding Berkman as "the pivot around which my story was written," and asserted that "my connection with Berkman's act and our relationship is the leitmotif of my 40 years of life." Goldman in her memoir revealed her belief that her shadowy engagement with the violent edge of the revolutionary anarchist movement was in complete harmony with her less fearsome role as a luminary of women's freedom and free expression, thus distinguishing herself from her mainstream and liberal contemporaries, who struggled to reconcile the cloak-and-dagger impression of her political work. Shrewdly, however, as she composed her dazzling autobiography and epic entry into the historical record, she chose not to brandish these outwardly contradictory traits.

In one of the most remarkable memoirs of the twentieth century, and among the very few written so eloquently about a woman's experience by an American immigrant engaged in the realm of political dissent, Goldman documents the passionate intensity of a life lived in the service of an ideal and creates a narrative coherence through her portrayal of the tireless pursuit of a singular vision. A major literary accomplishment, the autobiography was intended to sweep the reader into history, rather than to expose and explicate its precise detail.

Goldman was profoundly aware of the difference between the act of reporting history as it happens and of writing from hindsight and remembrance. She recounted her refusal, when asked while still young to write the story of her life: "I have barely begun to live." Then only in her twenties, Goldman was too busy witnessing and participating in her era to step back and to record the amazing events; she explained that "When one is standing right in the middle of the battlefield surrounded by enemy fire ... one can not judge things objectively" (see Letter to Max Nettlau, 24 November 1901).

But by 1927, she had the "leisure" of exile and almost four years to write her autobiography. Deported from the United States during the Red Scare of 1919 after opposing conscription during the First World War, she had made an attempt to serve the revolution in Russia but fled to Europe for refuge from disappointment, settling briefly in France, the place where she would ponder and write about her life. At the age of 58, she was a battle-scarred warrior, far away from the intensity of political activism of her youth and from the United States, the country where she felt most at home. She was possessed with a longing to return and a determination to assure that she would not to be forgotten and thus anxious to record her life and times. Her American friends even hoped that her book would attract a popular readership that might sway the U. S. government to allow her reentry.

Outwardly shunning the fantasy that the book would facilitate her return, she drew the broad canvas of her life without excluding elements that still might seem threatening to the government authorities that had expelled her only a decade before. Not surprisingly, however, as an exiled anarchist, she underplayed the extent of her clandestine entanglements. The silent omissions from her narrative create a more uniformly positive rhetorical effect, protect aging militant comrades from the censure of public exposure and prosecution, and perhaps shield her from the embarrassment and dangers of full personal and political disclosure. Instead, she chose to foreground her inner drama and to embed the specifics of her varied political activity with the forces of history around her, "in bitter sorrow and ecstatic joy, in black despair and in fervent hope."

Remarkably exacting in its presentation of the character of Goldman's emotional life, the autobiography fills in the story of Goldman's family, childhood, and personal development, her sense of adventure, and her love and appreciation for those in, and close to, the anarchist movement around her, and also delineates her major life shifts. Yet, Living My Life, like most memoirs, while a treasure trove of information, ideas, and emotion, still never offers the reader the full story of her personal life, nor could it have presented a completely accurate historical record. Writing mostly from memory rather than written records, and prey to lapses, Goldman understandably conflated past events. Especially in light of repeated government confiscations of her personal papers, she rarely could confirm dates and places. She gathered only relatively few of her letters from friends who had saved and cherished them over the years. She complained throughout the writing process that she had no access to articles from early periodicals to refresh her memory. Among the more poignant and benign examples of her conflations of history was her account of coming to the United States in 1885 with her sister Helena, "eyes filled with tears" as they "stood pressed to each other, enraptured by the sight of ... the Statue of Liberty suddenly emerging from the mist ... the symbol of hope, of freedom, of opportunity! She held her torch high to light the way to the free country, the asylum for the oppressed of all lands." In fact, she imagined herself approaching the statue, which was still in process, not yet fully assembled nor on its pedestal.

Although the autobiography remains a compelling narrative of Goldman's personal and political evolution, it now has an apt complement in this documentary edition of Goldman's papers. Selected essays and travel letters, personal correspondence, interviews, newspaper accounts of her speeches, and government surveillance reports extended beyond a narrow interest in Emma Goldman the individual. These volumes display her impressive engagement with the complexity and depth of the fin de siècle world she inhabited and the broad spectrum of people, events, and ideas brought together by her expansive and inclusive philosophy of anarchism.


Documents from Goldman's early life, now pieced together for the first time in this debut volume, create a dramatic representation of little-known aspects of her personality, thoughts, and activities. Mentored by the most powerful and talented anarchist speakers and many of the most challenging radical thinkers of her time, Goldman incorporated their voices and created a unique harmony of ideas and sentiments, at once identifiable with a particular time and place in history, and profoundly universal. Marked by a politics born of youth, the lure of freedom remained her vital center.

These early documents also reveal Goldman's prescient and unusual belief that it was not only possible, but in fact preferable, to frame the seemingly contradictory forces of destruction and construction, of chaos and harmony, within one's self and one's vision. We offer our work as a primary source for assessing the work of the young Emma Goldman in all her complexity, a woman who had the courage to look straight into the fires of despair and violence raging around her — and as an illuminating exposé of her quest to "contain multitudes."


Made for America, 1890-1901, vol. 1 of this documentary history of Emma Goldman's American years, opens with a brief newspaper report of an 1890 lecture by "an eloquent woman." It was uncommon in the 1890s to see a woman on the lecture circuit, especially one in her early twenties. Goldman later would attribute her success as a lecturer in part to being a woman, claiming that the novelty of a female speaker always guaranteed an inquisitive audience. After more than a decade on the road, she mused that in the end, however, the real challenge was "to hold them. ... not talk to them as a woman, but as a comrade." She often remarked that her desire was not to "topple men off their pedestal in order to take it" but rather "to share it" (see "Talk with Emma Goldman," Interview in the New York Sun, 6 January 1901). One newspaper reporter of the time observed: "No care of the prettiness of manner or speech can stay her. Her voice may break, her knowledge of English may fail her: but she is more effective than art could possibly make her, more eloquent than the completest elegance of speech could give. She snarls, she sneers, she thunders at her audience, and she is as indifferent to their rage as to their approval" (see "A Character Study of Emma Goldman," Interview in the Philadelphia North American, 11 April 1901). In 1890, when Goldman stepped onto the political stage at the age of twenty-one, eager to hold and inform her audience, the seeds of her uncompromising vision, emotional intelligence, and razor-sharp analyses of an array of political and cultural issues had already taken root.

She had immigrated to a country of rebels, a destination of choice for those who fled oppression. Born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1869, she left Russia and her father's stern patriarchal hold when she was sixteen, settling in Rochester, New York, at the end of December 1885 with a married sister. After three years, she fled a brief, and for her, distasteful marriage.


Excerpted from Emma Goldman Volume I by Candace Falk. Copyright © 2016 Candace Falk. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


List of Documents, xi,
List of Illustrations, xv,
Foreword, xvii,
Forging Her Place: An Introduction, 1,
Editorial Practices, 85,
List of Abbreviations, 91,
DOCUMENTS, 1890-1901, 93,
Chronology, 489,
Individuals, 516,
Periodicals, 563,
Organizations, 570,
Selected Bibliography, 581,
Emma's List, 591,
Acknowledgments, 601,
Index, 619,

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