Candace Falk – Emma Goldman: passion, politics, and the theatrics of free expression

The article is an exploration of the ways in which Emma Goldman was both a virtuoso of political theatrics – especially effective in a period when challenging ideas were suppressed – and an advocate of politically conscious theater. Goldman was among the first to bring awareness of European modern drama to the USA. Her appreciation for the theater was an integral part of her intellectual development and a strategic component of a political strategy that aspired to embrace all aspects of the human experience. The themes addressed in the plays about which she lectured and wrote served an integrative role – crossing class, ethnic, and national boundaries. Goldman herself lived with a high sense of drama, and played an imposing role on the
political stage, which resonates even today. 
Theatrical and sensuous outrage was the playful yet pungent strategic trademark of turn-of-the-century political luminary, Emma Goldman. A staunch supporter of freedom in all spheres of life, her anarchist vision extended to women, workers, and to all those hampered both by individual social prejudice and the heavy hand of the state. The gusto and eloquence with which she challenged convention became her hallmark. At a time when dissent was often suppressed, it was Goldman’s theatrical flair that conveyed her message perhaps even more effectively than her speeches themselves. A spectacle to behold, her appeal went beyond the predominantly ethnic immigrant enclaves – of Jews, Russians, Germans, and Italians – that constituted her anarchist audience as she added her voice to the ‘Americanization’ of the radical movement. People flocked to hear her lash out against hypocrisy wherever she found it. Goldman spared no one. Even the well-meaning hosts of lecture engagements were fair game for Goldman’s biting wit. For example, at a gathering in a labor hall in Detroit in 1919, Emma Goldman was introduced by an auto union official with the following words:
Because she is such a good talker and because she speaks so eloquently, the first syllable of her name is ‘Gold’, and because she speaks so vehemently, because she speaks with such authority, the last part of her name is ‘man.’ I want to introduce Emma Goldman.[1]

Goldman stepped up to the podium and addressed the crowd:
Friends: By the introduction of our good chairman, I can see that he is a man. The conceit of the male that when you think deeply and express yourself with intensity, you must be manly and not womanly. I want to tell him that I know any amount of men who neither think nor express themselves in any shape or form![2]

It was this kind of feisty, provocative irreverence that attracted audiences (sometimes numbering thousands) to her lectures. In one of the most embattled periods of America’s social history, when police and government routinely intervened violently in labor disputes, when battles were waged on the streets and in the factories, and women were an organized presence in the workforce without the right to vote, it took tremendous courage to speak out as Emma Goldman did. An anarchist who felt deeply committed to the belief that social harmony was within reach, Goldman took her message to the people wherever they might be, crossing class, ethnic, and language barriers to reach them. She delivered her lectures in large community halls and university lecture rooms as well as from open cars in crowded squares, and even in the backs of barrooms. She was as likely to deliver a lecture on the social significance of modern drama to an exclusive women’s drama club one night as to give the same lecture to coal miners in a mine shaft the next day. A firm believer that the message of the modern dramatists needed to be heard by working people, she sometimes slotted her talk into a lunch break to accommodate those who lacked the luxury of time and money to attend a theatrical performance, or a long afternoon or evening presentation. Her drama lectures became a staple of her tours from 1907 to 1916 and a vehicle for expressing an array of otherwise taboo and threatening topics.[3]
Emma Goldman was so accustomed to being banned from speaking that she always carried a book to her lectures, lest she spend a night in jail without something to read. In an era when the United States’ Constitution’s first amendment was honored in principle but often not in practice – subjectto the whims and political persuasion of the local mayor or the Police Chief – Goldman rarely could predict how or whether her talks would be received. Amplifying the political prejudice against anarchists, anti-obscenity laws, under the stewardship of postal inspector Anthony Comstock, broadened the definition of obscenity to include printed matter alluding to sexuality – with educational material on human reproduction especially suspect. Birth control advocates who critiqued the economic system that perpetuated the cycle of poverty were particularly vulnerable to arrest. Once, in Portland, Oregon, in 1915, Goldman gave a lecture on the revelance of Friedrich Nietzsche’s political philosophy to the issue of war. Three days later, after local authorities caught wind that birth control leaflets had been illegally distributed at the event, they showed up at her next talk, waiting to catch her in the act. Just as she opened her mouth to begin her formal lecture on the subject of birth control, she was carried off the stage. After one too many such events, Goldman came up with the idea of chaining herself to the platform. An apocryphal story circulated about a time when Goldman acquired a strong, heavy lock and chain, wound it around herself and the podium, then threw it out the window to have it attached to a pole outside. She anticipated that it would take the police so long to release her that they couldn’t possibly interrupt her lecture. According to reports in the Yiddish press, on this one occasion, the police never showed up! To emphasize the cumulative effect of the suppression of free speech, Goldman sometimes stuffed a handkerchief in her mouth and sat gagged before the audience on the stage during an evening lecture in which she was barred from speaking.
Her theatrical stunts were not limited to the lecture platform. Goldman poked fun at her own kin – the Russian-Jewish community – some of whom considered her pranks endearing, others antagonizing. She and the Yiddish anarchists often staged Yom Kippur picnics on the holiest of Jewish holidays designated for fasting and atonement. Once, when the Masses magazine held
its annual holiday ball, Goldman was reported to have come in costume as a nun – dancing ‘the nun’s slide’ into the small hours of the night with great abandon. (Perhaps Goldman’s penchant for dancing led to the popular expression attributed to her, ‘If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution!’[4]) 
Like stage actors, most successful public speakers are performers, political entertainers skilled in the art of creating a strong connection with their audience. But unlike most political lecturers, Emma Goldman identified with performing artists, studied the dramatic form, and on the lecture platform, she integrated both the theory and practice of political theater throughout her flamboyant career. Under the name E.G. Smith, Goldman even took on the role of tour and publicity manager for the Russian theater troupe of Pavel Orlenov and Alla Nazimova in the period shortly after her unjust implication in the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley. From 1904 to 1906, she promoted their work and arranged for their performances. In gratitude, before returning to Russia, a benefit show provided the seed money for the founding of Goldman’s Mother Earth magazine. 
She was so committed to the advancement of theater in America and convinced of its crucial role in the political awakening of the country that she not only incorporated modern drama into her lecture series, but encouraged the training of young performers. In 1914, Goldman proposed the creation of Little Theaters in each town and city along her lecture tour route throughout the country. She hoped these companies would produce modern plays with socially significant themes and also eventually overthrow the ‘one star’ system. This interest in developing local dramatic talent was inspired in part by the model of English stage societies, and the music talent spawned by a recent association of music teachers in Los Angeles.[5]
People gathered by the thousands to hear Goldman’s voice – ‘the power of the Ideal.’ Often press reporters were swayed by her message, humored by her free flowing jabs at the hypocrisy of big government and of conventional norms – all grist for wonderfully entertaining newspaper articles. Roger Baldwin, the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, attributed his political awakening and commitment to free speech to Emma Goldman, who admonished her audience that free speech meant either the unlimited right of expression or nothing at all. She warned that the moment any man or set of men could limit speech, it was no longer free. In his recollections, Baldwin wrote that in his youth he came to hear Goldman speak only upon a dare by a friend who thought that he was too proper a Harvard gentleman to handle her notoriously bawdy and irreverent public lectures.[6] 
Vulnerable, yet intrepid, in the early 1910s, few other women shared the radical spotlight. (Among those who did were socialist peace activist Crystal Eastman, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, and I.W.W. [Industrial Workers of the World] leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.) Goldman’s anarchist stance separated her from those linked more closely to specific issues, tempering their comprehensive social critique in the name of pragmatism. Her voice emerging from the outer fringes of respectability allowed her the freedom to be outrageous. She engaged the audience in a unique spectacle of political theater– often combining emotional catharsis with imminent danger – and a healthy, humorous repartee with the audience that was so lively that she was even solicited for a vaudeville act.[7] Making fine distinctions between political theater and the vulgarity of the vaudeville stage, Goldman cringed at the prospect of being placed between two animal acts, no matter how desperate for money she may have been.
Goldman’s capacity to emulate high drama was in part inculcated by her lifelong love of opera and the theater – and her desire to be lifted to a more profound plane. The theater as a critical integrative force with her political beliefs, however, came with the formative tutelage of the dramatic public speaker and popular German anarchist theorist, Johann Most, whom Goldman referred to in her autobiography as ‘the leader of the masses, the man of magic tongue and powerful pen.’[8] Johann Most had been an actor himself, wrote plays, and believed that had he not been afflicted with a facial malformation, he would have found his place among the great thespians of his day. He was the first to recognize Goldman’s talents. Her ability to relate the story of her early life with such a finely tuned sense of drama and emotion made him determine to mold her in his image as ‘a great speaker’, perhaps even to take his place when he was gone. A complex and turbulent relationship between Goldman and Most developed. (One may recall from Living My Life that she horsewhipped him when he criticized Alexander Berkman’s attempt on steel magnate, Henry Clay Frick’s life, who had been responsible for the shooting of striking workers.[9]) Intoxicated by her newly discovered oratorical power, she was shocked and disgusted to realize that Most’s overriding interest in her was more sexual than political.
Thrusting herself into the world of anarchist speakers, gradually Goldman addressed issues of internal as well as external oppression and thus broadened the class and ethnic base of her audience. As a woman, she felt comfortable traversing a terrain of issues much later identified with the construct, ‘the personal is political.’ Frustrated with the rhetoric of her radical political colleagues whose words ‘economic determinism’ or ‘class consciousness’ alone could not move the masses [10], Goldman linked her thoughts with emotions and rooted her beliefs in the politics of daily life – issues addressed so naturally in the contemporary plays of Europe and Russia. Appealing to the whole person, she believed that a play could reach people more deeply and more emphatically than the ‘wildest harangue of the soapbox orator.’[11] Especially for those whose lives were relatively untouched by poverty and persecution, a forceful dramatic production on the subject could elicit sympathy for the suffering masses with disarming authenticity. Goldman saw the theater as an arena in which profound feelings could be linked to political thought because she believed that the theater ‘mirrors every phase of life, and embraces every strata of society.’[12] As a lecturer, she too aspired to ‘embrac[e] the entire gamut of human emotions’ [13] in the manner of the theater.
As an orator, Goldman’s attraction came in part from her charisma, in part from the range of issues she addressed, and her provocative belief that the measure of one’s freedom was proportional to one’s capacity to ‘question authority.’ She moved easily from a discussion of labor issues to issues of women’s sexual and reproductive freedom, the education of children, religious moralism, the drama, war, and the economy. Emma Goldman’s lectures were varied – issues of personal life always on a par with those more conventionally associated with politics. No topic was taboo. She discussed ‘The Place of the Church in the Economic Struggle’ on the same bill with ‘Sex, the Great Element in Creative Work.’ Goldman dared to advocate ‘Birth Control,’ and defend ‘The Intermediate Sex’ (a phrase used to describe homosexuality), and explain ‘Why and How Small Families are Desirable,’ and in the spirit of the present debate over when life technically begins, address ‘The Child’s Right Not to be Born.’ Goldman was among the first birth control pioneers in America. In fact, she acted as a mentor to Margaret Sanger. The Emma Goldman Papers feature letters between the two women in which Goldman asserted the critical importance of the issue, and counseled Sanger on the handling of her impending prison sentence. 
In 1916, crowds gathered around Goldman to hear her message:
From whatever angle, [then] the question of Birth Control may be considered, it is the most dominant issue of modern times and as such it cannot be driven back by persecution, imprisonment or a conspiracy of silence.[14]
 Every woman should have the right to say whether she shall have a child or not. Motherhood should be a voluntary act; not the act of a slave.[15]

She elaborated on ideas and sentiments she had been developing since 1897 when she was in her twenties and had published her very first essay on marriage:
I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.[16]

This message was echoed in her drama lecture on Brieux’s play, Maternity, in which she asserted that its ‘revolutionary significance’ was:
the demand that women must be given means to prevent conception of undesired and unloved children; that she must become free and strong to choose the father of her child and to decide the number of children she is to bring into the world, and under what conditions. That is the only kind of motherhood which can endure.[17]

Goldman gave her politics a heart by bringing her longings for love into the public sphere. In so doing, she articulated commonly held, but rarely voiced, yearnings. In a sexually repressive era, she dared to speak about intimacy in a political context. Although her refusal to join with any separatist women’s factions of the movement sometimes branded her as a ‘man’s woman,’ she was among the very few voices of either sex to eloquently address the political dimensions of personal life, discussion directed ultimately against the social conventions which diminished women’s freedom.
People flocked to listen to Goldman voice the usually unspeakable contention that marriage and love were incompatible. In Goldman’s lecture on ‘Marriage and Love,’ for example, she stated: 
Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Yes, love is free … [18] it gives of itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent.[19] 

This message was echoed in her drama lecture on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, which mocked the false pretenses of the marriage institution with its underlying social conception of duty surreptitiously reliant on the presence of a wife expected to be nothing other than ‘a play thing, a doll, a non-entity.’ Goldman asserts:
When Nora closes behind her the door of her doll’s house, she opens wide the gate of life for woman and proclaims the revolutionary message that only perfect freedom and communion make a true bond between man and woman, meeting in the open, without lies, without shame, free from the bondage of duty.[20] 

Her perceptions on the issue were especially acute because in her public life, as an unmarried woman in the spotlight, Goldman bore the brunt of pervasive moral censorship, especially when she critiqued marriage and upheld a vision of free love and independence from the shackles of monogamy. The political stage offered her an opportunity to play the role of one who was above conflict, whose anarchist vision was a beacon of light and protection from the darker, murkier weakness of possessiveness which was considered a remnant of capitalist greed. 
Yet, Goldman grappled daily with the common demons of jealousy and longing for the security of a dependent relationship; her lover and manager, Ben Reitman, tested her desire to live as ‘the great example.’ Known for his sexual prowess, he often scanned lecture halls for a willing one night stand as Goldman addressed the audience on the ‘Misconceptions of Free Love,’ or ‘Jealousy – Its Cause and Possible Cure,’ or ‘Variety or Monogamy, Which?’ She intended these lectures not only as an  opportunity to clear ‘free love’ of any association with promiscuity or lack of commitment, but also to chastise and educate her wayward lover to reform his behavior. A common theme emerged in Goldman’s love letters to Reitman: ‘My lecture on Marriage and Love is hateful to me, hateful because my faith in the power of love has been shattered. I used to think it could perform miracles, poor fool that I was.’[21] She wondered whether she had the ‘right to bring a message of freedom to the people, when [she herself] had become an abject slave to [her] love.’[22] Yet, I would argue that it was precisely Goldman’s willingness to bring the high drama of her own life into political focus that created immediacy to her message. The power of her ideas about love and social harmony came in part from her willingness to work with the emotional charge of unresolved issues that arose from the drama of her own intimate life. This approach reached not only beyond immigrant radical audiences to an American public whose social values were shifting, but also to a reading public whose appreciation for her message of freedom in love continues to extend far beyond her own time. 
Interestingly, the high road she represented in the persona she adopted on the platform – her self-created theatrical public character – continues to perform an important social and political role, and occupies a ‘public space’ similar to that which she designated for the theater. Goldman played (and lived as) the protagonist of good, the person who scoffed at hypocrisy, who had the courage to live with dignity outside of conventional norms. She considered modern drama to be the medium that revealed ‘the complex struggle of life’ [23], which was ‘at once the reflex and the inspiration of mankind in its eternal seeking for things higher and better.’[24] Using the metaphor of the drama was not only a winning strategy to avert the gaze of her censors, but also a vehicle with which to tap into a shared humanity with her audience. It is important to reiterate that she was especially effective in her ability to evoke empathy from comfortable intellectuals, spurring them into constructive action and a growing awareness of the plight of common people. Goldman became a voice for those ‘thrown in prison … mobbed, tarred, and deported’ [25], creating bridges to patch the ever-widening gap of privilege and class. Informed by the ominous experience of Europe, where intellectuals and laborers endured the effects of political repression more equally, Goldman recognized the critical importance of building links between the two groups in America. In her 1914 book, The Social Significance of Modern Drama, Goldman identified theater as ‘the dynamite which undermines superstition, shakes the social pillars and prepares men and women for the reconstruction’ [26] – ultimately, a role that she too hoped to play in the grand theater of history.
In spite of her grand designs, Goldman’s tireless efforts were often thwarted by her inability to find a speaking venue because of landlords who were threatened with eviction and security patrols intent on stopping her from even entering a hall. Very often, women’s drama clubs were among the few places not stalked by the police. Here sexism worked in her favor to make women’s drama clubs safe havens for radical ideas. These clubs also doubled as sources of generous support from which, especially in hard times, Goldman could raise revenue for her political and literary magazine, Mother Earth. Her various drama series extended her individual lecture dates (with one publicity effort covering several lectures) and provided the added benefit of informal classes, contact with the same group several days or nights in a row and an opportunity to make lasting friends and gather new supporters.[27] In Denver, in 1912 and 1913, her Woman’s Club lectures focused on Russian, German, French, and English drama and addressed local communities with news of international trends in the theater. Goldman integrated her interests as a political performance artist, a proponent of the modern drama, and an occasional drama critic for the press.[28] She appreciated the flexibility and range of topics she could address in her drama series. Unencumbered by government stenographers and the heavy hand of the law, especially in the repressive years before the US entry into World War I, that led to Goldman’s devastating deportation. She employed literary and dramatic allegory to keep messages of political and social significance in circulation.
On the theme of suppression of ideas – a striking example of the interaction between life and art came years before, in 1912, during the period of America’s great Free Speech Fights. Goldman’s tour was to include a lecture on Ibsen’s An Enemy of Society – a play about a doctor who was run out of town for trying to reveal the truth about the corruption at the root of the illness he attempted to treat. Ironically, rather than delivering this lecture on Ibsen’s play, Goldman and her lover-manager, Dr Ben L. Reitman, were brutally chased out of San Diego. Reitman was tarred and sage brushed, stripped naked in the desert with ‘I.W.W.’ [29] branded on his behind, as Goldman, humiliated and terrified, accepted a police escort while an angry, hostile mob shouted threatening insults at her.[30] 
When Goldman had the attention of the press and the courtroom against such increasing repression, her eloquence became her weapon for retaliation. Her theatrical panache was especially evident in 1917 when she and Berkman dramatically pled their own case at their anti-conscription trial. Thrown in jail for their advocacy of a youth’s right to choose whether or not to serve in the military, Goldman’s dissent later would be considered a ‘clear and present danger’ to the security of the nation. As the USA entered World War I, the country was polarized. Political stakes were high, each side acutely threatened by the other. It was then that Goldman delivered what would be the most moving performance of her life, one that prompted the US Attorney General to comment that Emma Goldman’s ‘persuasive powers’ were ‘so strong as to render her dangerous.’
Rumor has it that her last confrontational act of political theatrics came in the small hours of the morning in December 1919. Evidently, when a US Congressman dared to shout ‘Merry Christmas, Miss Goldman!’ as her deportation ship left the shore, she raised her hand, in a gesture that defied any hint of defeat, and thumbed her nose. With 249 other alien radicals, headed for Bolshevik Russia, the saddened Emma performed this comical charade like a clown laughing through tears.[31]
Focusing on the heroism of the Russian people, among the notables she would encounter was the playwright Maxim Gorki, who was more eager to share his disaffection with the revolution than his ideas about the theater.[32] Goldman briefly visited Stanislavski [33], the originator of the concept from which ‘method acting’ evolved – a technique in which the actor draws upon his or her well of past experience to develop their character more fully – creating a more instinctive and natural performance. Although she wrote very little about this experience, it may have influenced Goldman’s later desire to publish a manuscript about the intersection of the lives and social conditions from which many of the great Russian plays emerged.[34] Her love of Russian literature and theater would ultimately anchor her positive feelings for a homeland in which the authoritarian course of the revolution betrayed her original trust and aspirations.
Cartoon from Der Grosse Kundes (The Big Stick), November 1909. Courtesy of the Emma Goldman Papers.
Goldman’s longtime interest in playwrights had been reciprocal. Her focus on their life and work can be traced back to her 1907 lecture series – ideas crystallized in her 1909 essay, ‘Modern Drama, the Strongest Disseminator of Radical Thought,’ and spread in translation to Japan, China, Latin America, and Spain. Among the many dramatists interested in her was Eugene O’Neill, who incorporated the character Rosa Parritt (a loose composite of Goldman and Gertie Vose, the mother of the young boy who had betrayed the trust of the anarchists of the Caplan-Schmidt Case [35]) into his play The Iceman Cometh. To express his appreciation and respect, O’Neill made a special effort to present Goldman with copies of his plays to read in prison during her eighteen-month incarceration.[36] Later, after his play Desire Under the Elms was banned, she expounded on his case to the Europeans, whose plays already exhibited similar challenges.
In exile, especially in England, Goldman had a ready audience for her ideas among the British theater groups – in 1925 touring under the sponsorship of the British Drama League. Reversing her previous emphasis, she attempted to interest London producers in American plays, acting as a representative for the Provincetown Playhouse. There she met with Sir Barry Jackson, Walter Peacock, Geoffrey Whitworth, the Birmingham Players, who invited her to speak, and George Bernard Shaw, who even attended one of her lectures.[37] Building upon the pervasive interest in the theater in England, she continued to refine and expand her earlier lecture essays on the drama, including a piece on the works of the English playwright George Bernard Shaw. Tapping into the craze of interest in the Russian dramatists, Goldman prepared a book-length manuscript, spending months at the British Museum researching and reworking a composite of her lectures there. The draft included essays on Griboyedov, Gogol, Ostrovsky, Pissemsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Tcheckhov, Gorki, and Andreyev.[38] She expanded her repertoire to include Yiddish playwrights such as Ash, Peretz, Hirshbein, and Gordin, for the Bristol Jewish Literary Society. Her drama series extended from Bristol to Liverpool and Manchester (later touring Canada with a similar program). She even traveled to Birmingham to attend the 1925 British Drama League conference. 
It was also in England where she met African-American vocalist Paul Robeson and finally crossed the color line that so dominated the Left during her time in America. In his 1933 testimony to her, he documented the fact that in 1925, in London, after Goldman took an interest in his portrayal of the ‘Emperor Jones,’ he changed his career path from the law to the arts. In
1933, he noted how touched he was by her enthusiasm, how he had thought, ‘If a person like [Goldman] feels that way I will get along.’[39]
Goldman continued to hold theater firmly within the boundaries of her conception of political activism. In the 1950s, literary historian Van Wyck Brooks observed:
No one did more to spread the new ideas of literary Europe that influenced so many young people in the West as elsewhere – at least the ideas of the dramatists on the continent and in England – than the Russian-American Emma Goldman who established in New York, in 1906, the anarchist magazine Mother Earth.[40] 

In America, Goldman’s drama lectures reported and commented on Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw, Brieux, and Rostand, familiarizing an otherwise uninitiated audience with the European craze for theater artfully engaged in the projection of a political message. During her twenty years in exile, she continued to lecture on modern drama, focusing on Russian playwrights, though she had failed in her attempt to publish a manuscript on the social and personal roots of their art.
Drawn to the ways in which the theater was so firmly embedded in the emotional details of life and the subtleties of human interaction – the ways in which it linked personal courage to political ideals, making political action an everyday, common opportunity for all – Goldman used theater as a ‘bridge.’ Plays were a vehicle for universality outside the exclusive domain of the intellectual elite. Everywhere she could, Goldman spread the word, both of the magic and artistry of the theater and of the potential power of its political message. She underscored the words of Leonid Andreyev’s King Hunger:
‘We shall yet come!’ cry the dead. For they who died for an ideal never die in vain. … They will come, and take possession – no longer the wretched scum, but the masters of the world.[41] 

She resonated with the revolutionary subtext of his play: ‘illumined with glorious hope … to the disinherited of the earth.’[42]
Ultimately, Goldman, too, wanted to dispel the social forces of darkness. In part, the pathos of her deportation and her longing for America was also the plight of a performer left without an ample stage for her message or a wide enough audience for the controversial ideas that were at the center of her life. Set back by her disillusionment with the Soviet political experiment, she strove for a counterbalance with her love of its people and of the Russian literary tradition. Cast out of the USA, Goldman, undeterred from her desire to play a significant role in history, entitled her autobiography Living My Life. The book is a self-conscious re-creation of the drama of her life, a self-portrayal that is, at once, didactic and inspirational. She summed up her life story from exile in St Tropez in two volumes that became a magnum opus, taking almost four years to write, from 1928 to 1931:
My life – I had lived in its heights and its depth, in bitter sorrow and ecstatic joy, in black despair and fervent hope. I had drunk the cup to the last drop. I had lived my life. Would I had the gift to paint the life I had lived![43]

Emma Goldman will be remembered not only for her courage to insist on her right to speak on any topic, no matter how challenging to the status quo, no matter what the personal cost might be, but also for her creative methods of subverting the suppression of free speech, through her own political ‘performance’ and as a proponent of the modern drama. Goldman’s imaginative use of the theatrics of free expression is a critical element of her passionate political legacy that continues to reverberate across time. With the studied eye of a political drama critic and the grace of an accomplished actress, Goldman played her part in history with panache. She was an inspired presence on a simple stage, presenting a commonly longed-for inner and outer harmony, through a plot in which danger served a higher cause, improvising valiantly with an array of people and dramatic events, embodying a strength and courageous vision against adversity that few have matched, even today.
Many thanks to my fine colleagues at the Emma Goldman Papers, past and present, for their role in creating a scholarly resource far greater in scope and depth than I myself could ever have imagined possible.
[1] Chairman I. Paul Taylor. Speech on Political Deportations, Hall of Local 127, United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America, Detroit, Michigan. November 26, 1919. Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation transcript, p. 43, EGP reel 64. Original located at United States National Archives.
[2] Speech on Political Deportations, Hall of Local 127, United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America, Detroit, Michigan. November 26, 1919. Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation transcript, p. 45, EGP reel 64. Original located at United States National Archives.
[3] The following outline demonstrates the proliferation of Goldman’s speeches on drama during the period 1907 to 1916. In 1907, Goldman began to lecture on drama, delivering speeches in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, and New York. In 1908, Goldman delivered drama lectures in Utica, Rochester and New York City in New York; in Washington, DC; in London, Ontario; in Portland; and in Butte, Montana. In 1909, Goldman lectured on ‘The Drama, the Most Forcible Disseminator of
Radicalism,’ in Los Angeles, New York, and East Orange, NJ. In 1910, she reworked her lecture as ‘The Drama as a Revolutionary Agency,’ for audiences in St Louis, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver, and Portland, and in 1911 delivered it in New York and St Louis. In 1912, she lectured on drama in Chicago and New York, and conducted a drama lecture series in Denver, continuing to speak throughout the year on Brieux’s Maternity and Rostand’s Chantecler. In 1913, Goldman moved her drama lecture series from New York to Denver and then San Francisco, intermittently lecturing on drama in Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and Trenton. In 1914, Goldman’s drama lecture series took place in New York and Chicago, with intermittent lectures on drama in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland. In 1915, the series was held in Albany, and Goldman presented a drama lecture in San Diego, CA. Goldman brought her drama lectures to Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh in 1916, as well as to New York, Ann Arbor, and Rochester. 
[4] For an explanation of the source of this expression, refer to Alix Kates Shulman’s article, ‘Dances with Feminists,’ published in the Women’s Review of Books, IX(3), December 1991.
[5] Butte Miner, 29 August 1913. Reproduced in Emma Goldman: selections from the American years. A Documentary Edition – Four Volumes, vol. 3: Light and Shadows in the Life of an Avant Garde (University of California Press, forthcoming 2003).
[6] Roger Baldwin (1975) Recollections, Civil Liberties Review, 2(2), p. 43.
[7] Letter, Emma Goldman to Ben Reitman, February 22, 1914. Correspondence files, EGP reel 7. Original located at University of Illinois-Chicago.
[8] Living My Life, p. 35.
[9] Living My Life, p. 105.
[10] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 4.
[11] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 5.
[12] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 7.
[13] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 4.
[14] The Social Aspects of Birth Control, Mother Earth, April 1916, p. 471. EGP reel 48.
[15] The Los Angeles Record, June 1, 1916.
[16] Emma Goldman, ‘Marriage.’ Published in Firebrand, July 1897.
[17] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 174.
[18] Anarchism and Other Essays, p. 245.
[19] Anarchism and Other Essays, p. 242.
[20] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 25.
[21] Letter, Emma Goldman to Ben Reitman, December 18, 1909, EGP reel 3. Original located at University of Illinois-Chicago.
[22] Letter, Emma Goldman to Ben Reitman, December 18, 1909, EGP reel 3. Original located at University of Illinois-Chicago.
[23] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 6.
[24] Ibid.
[25] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 7.
[26] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 8.
[27] See note 3 above.
[28] Goldman published in the 23 April, 1912 issue of the Denver Post a review of a local production of Edmund Rostand’s Chantecler, entitled ‘Fair Production Which Mystifies Society – Some Wonder What It’s About – More Interested in Themselves Than Symbolism.’ Reproduced in Emma Goldman Papers: selections from the American years. A Documentary Edition –Four Volumes, vol. 3: Light and Shadows in the Life of an Avant Garde (University of California Press, forthcoming 2003). 
[29] The brand of ‘I.W.W.’ identified him with the labor organization, the Industrial Workers of the World, although he was not a member.
[30] Mother Earth, June 1912, pp. 109-116.
[31] Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise, p. 222.
[32] Living My Life, pp. 741-744.
[33] Living My Life, p. 895.
[34] Goldman, Foremost Russian Dramatists: their life and work. Draft, 1926, EGP reel 50. Original located at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam.
[35] David Caplan and Matthew Schmidt, anarchists, were implicated in the 1910 Los Angeles Times building bombing. Both Caplan and Schmidt went into hiding following the bombing, and were exposed by Donald Vose in 1915 and subsequently arrested. Vose, who was working as a spy for private detective William J. Burns, was the son of Goldman’s friend and fellow anarchist, Gertie Vose, who resided at Home Colony, Washington. 
[36] Notes of Eugene O’Neill, in the reminiscences files of the Emma Goldman Papers Project. Original located at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
[37] Emma Goldman, letter of September 30, 1925, EGP reel 15.
[38] Goldman, Foremost Russian Dramatists: their life and work. Draft, 1926, EGP reel 50. Located at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam.
[39] Paul Robeson, ‘A Vote of Thanks,’ in ‘An Anarchist Looks at Life.’ Foyle’s Twenty-Ninth Literary Luncheon, March 1, 1933, London. Original located at the International Institute for Social History, Amserdam.
[40] Brooks, The Confident Years: 1885-1915, p. 375.
[41] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 315.
[42] The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, p. 315.
[43] Living My Life, p. 993. 
Brooks, Van Wyck (1952) The Confident Years: 1885-1915 (New York: E.P. Dutton).
Drinnon, Richard (1961) Rebel in Paradise (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
The Emma Goldman Papers: a comprehensive microfilm edition (Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey, 1991).
Falk, Candace, with Sally Thomas & Stephen Cole (Eds) (1995) Emma Goldman: a guide to her life and documentary sources (Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey).
Falk, Candace (1999) Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman, 2nd revised paperback edn (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).
Falk, Candace, Pateman, Barry & Moran, Jessica (Eds) (forthcoming 2002-2004)
Emma Goldman Papers: selections from the American years. A Documentary Edition – Four Volumes (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Goldman, Emma (1910) Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association).
Goldman, Emma (1931) Living My Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Goldman, Emma (1914) The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (Boston: Richard G. Badger).
Goldman, Emma (1923) My Disillusionment in Russia (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company).
The website of the Emma Goldman Papers Project can be found at:
CANDACE FALK is the editor/director of the Emma Goldman Papers, University of California, 2372 Ellsworth Street, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
( She is the author of the biography Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman (New York: Holt, 1984; New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univesity Press, revised paperback edition, 1990 & 1999), and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. This article is a preliminary exploration of themes she intends to develop more fully in later publications.

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