Goldman, Emma

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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Emma Goldman was a crusader for ANARCHISM, feminism, and the labor movement. She was also an essayist and is best known as the first editor of Mother Earth, a magazine providing a forum for feminist and anarchist writers.

Goldman was born June 27, 1869, in Kaunas, Lithuania, a province of the Russian Empire, during the early stages of revolt against czarism and the rise in popularity of COMMUNISM. The seeds of the Bolshevik revolt were already being sown in the towns and villages throughout the country where discontent with czarist rule was strongest. Goldman, who described herself as a born rebel, came into the world as the third daughter of Abraham Goldman and Taube Goldman. Her parents' marriage, like many Jewish Orthodox unions of the time, had been arranged.

Goldman suffered the fate of being a female in a culture that valued males. When she was young, her father made no effort to disguise his disappointment at having still another daughter instead of the much-prized son he hoped for. He has been described as hot tempered and impatient, particularly with Goldman's rebelliousness, which she showed at an early age. He was a traditional Jewish father, and he planned to arrange a marriage for his daughter when she was 15. Goldman, however, had different ideas: she longed for an education and hoped someday

Emma Goldman.


to marry someone she loved. Goldman described her mother as cold and distant, but also strong and assertive, and she may have served as a role model for Goldman's own forthright manner.

After spending her childhood in Kaunas, Königsberg, and St. Petersburg, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885 with a sister. They joined another sister who had settled in Rochester, New York, where Goldman found work in a coat factory, sewing ten-and-a-half hours daily at a salary of $2.50 a week. She lived in a crowded apartment with her two sisters and her brother-in-law. Their working and living conditions, as well as those of others even more destitute, sparked her interest in anarchism and the labor movement, which was in its infancy.

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She joined radical groups agitating for an eight-hour workday and other improvements in factory conditions.

Goldman was intensely interested in the Haymarket Square incident in Chicago in 1886. A labor rally called by a small group of anarchists was interrupted by a bomb explosion and gunfire. When it...

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