Emma Goldman was, by all accounts a fierce and formidable women. Lithuanian born, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885, where she quickly became known for her political activism, writing and speeches: she was a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. In an arena otherwise dominated by men, she played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century, and in 1906 founded the seminal anarchist journal Mother Earth. Goldman was imprisoned several times for ‘inciting to riot’ (you go girl!) and illegally distributing information about birth control (again, I’d be in jail right along side her on that one).
During her life, Goldman was lionized as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and derided by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Most importantly to me, Goldman is famous for saying ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution’, for as she explained ‘I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to self determination, and to beautiful, radiant lives… Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.’
If in my life I can manage to hold true to my ideals and live my politics as well as Emma Goldman did hers, I will count all that I’ve been a success.
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