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Emma Goldman Biography

(1869–1940), Die Freiheit, Mother Earth, Anarchism and Other Essays, My Disillusionment in Russia, Living My Life

usa anarchist anarchism russia

American essayist, critic, and editor, born in Kovno, Lithuania, of Jewish parents, educated at the Realschule in Königsberg; she emigrated to the USA in 1885. She was ‘radicalized’ by the events surrounding the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in May 1886. Within a few years she had established herself as a leading advocate of anarchism in the USA, notably through her reading of Johann Most's anarchist newspaper Die Freiheit, with which she was later associated, and her familiarity with the writings of Bakunin and Kropotkin. She founded the anarchist monthly magazine Mother Earth in 1906 and became a well-known public speaker promoting such causes as anarchism, birth control, and feminism. Her Anarchism and Other Essays was published in 1910. During the First World War she was a prominent opponent of conscription and in June 1917 she was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy; Mother Earth was suppressed in the same year. In 1919 she was deported from the USA (her citizenship, obtained by marriage to Jacob Kershner in 1887, was rendered invalid by her divorce) and returned to Russia; here, her criticism of the centralization of the Soviet state took shape and gave issue to her important book, My Disillusionment in Russia (1922). She left Soviet Russia and lived for two years in England where she married James Colton, a Welsh miner. She subsequently took up residence in St Tropez in the south of France where she wrote her autobiography Living My Life (1931), and died. Her most important work of literary criticism is The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (1914). Red Emma Speaks (1972), edited by Alix Kates Shulman, is an anthology of her writings and speeches; Alice Wexler's Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life (1984) is a study of her anarchist years.

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