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Primary Sources: Emma Goldman's Obituary

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This wire report of Emma Goldman's death appeared in The New York Times on May 14, 1940.

Internationally Known Figure, Deported From the U. S., Is Stricken in Toronto


Opposed Lenin and Trotsky as Betrayers of Socialism Through Despotism

TORONTO (Tuesday), May 14 (AP) - Emma Goldman, internationally known anarchist, died early today at her home here after an illness of several months. She was 70 years old.

Miss Goldman suffered a stroke in February and spent several months in a hospital. Until recently, she had appeared to be improving in health, however.

Present when she died were a brother, Dr. Maurice Goldman, and a niece, Mrs. Stella Ballantine, both of New York. A sister, Mrs. Lena Cummings of Rochester, N. Y., also survives.

Deported for Opposing Draft
Emma Goldman, apostle of philosophic anarchism and of "voluntary communism," was born in Russia, spent thirty-three years of her life in the United States fighting for her ideals, for which she suffered imprisonment, and was an incorrigible revolutionist to the end.

She was deported from the United States in 1919 for obstructing conscription, fled in 1921 from Soviet Russia, where she had hoped to find the realization of her social dreams but found only disillusionment, and saw her ideals defeated again in the civil war in Spain, in which she took an active part. In the social history of the United States she wrote a chapter all her own, and in the history of the world-wide revolutionary movement of her time she made a place for herself beside that of her teacher, Peter Kropotkin.

Miss Goldman was a writer of distinction and an able critic of the drama. Her autobiography, "Living My Life," published in 1931, is regarded as one of the important books of its kind.

Thought Ideal Betrayed
After fighting for a generation against what she considered the ills of the social system in the United States she opposed Lenin and Trotsky because she believed them guilty of betraying the Socialist ideal by establishing what she denounced as a new despotism. Her experience in Russia confirmed her in the belief that all government was wrong and that the new society for which she stood could be established only on the basis of anarchism through the free cooperation of the masses. She never ceased to search for that new society even after the defeat in 1939 of the social experiment in Catalonia, where she thought she had finally found it.

Miss Goldman always had a warm feeling in her heart for America despite the long years of conflict with the authorities and public opinion in this country. In 1934 she was permitted to visit the United States for ninety days, and she lectured on political and literary topics.

It was not only because she had found an America that had undergone a profound transformation from the days when she had first come to know this country but also because of the striking contrast presented by the United States in comparison with nations in the grip of totalitarian regimes that Miss Goldman hailed America as a land of hope. She said she had never ceased to regard this country as her real home.

Found U. S. Still Free
"You are still free in America," she said. "You are free to come here and listen to me, with no army of police descending upon you. No spies enter your homes for incriminating documents. No legalized assassins shoot you down in the streets."

Emma Goldman was born in Kovno, June 27, 1869. She spent her childhood in the Russo-German province of Kurland, where her father had charge of the government-subsidized theatre and where she received her early education. Later she was sent to her grandmother in Koenigsberg, the city of Immanuel Kant, in East Prussia, where she continued her education in schools and through private instruction.

In 1882, when she was 13 years old, her parents moved to St. Petersburg. It was a stormy period in the life of the Russian people. Alexander II had been assassinated the year before and Russian society was in violent fermentation, marked by the execution of the assassins and the imprisonment of their accomplices. It was the period of the celebrated revolutionary party of the Narodnaya Volia, of activist "nihilism." Young Emma was deeply impressed by figures like Sophia Perovskaya, who was among those executed for the assassination of the Emperor, and Vera Figner. She determined to seek independence and an active career of her own. At the age of 17, with her sister Helene, she emigrated to America. They settled in Rochester, where she obtained employment in a clothing factory at $2.50 a week. There she gained her first knowledge and impressions of the labor problem.

Entered Anarchist Movement
In 1887 she was married to Jacob Kersner but the marriage soon broke up because of differences of opinion and ideas. Miss Goldman moved to New Haven, Conn., where she obtained employment in a corset factory. In New Haven she came into contact for the first time with anarchist circles. She read the Freiheit, the paper published by Johann Most.

These contacts, together with the impression made upon her by the execution of the Chicago anarchists in the Haymarket bombing tragedy of 1886, brought her actively into the anarchist movement. Made ill by her factory work, she returned to Rochester, where she remained until August, 1889, when she came to New York. Here she met Alexander Berkman. They became close friends and collaborators in anarchist work and propaganda.

This association was interrupted for fourteen years during which Berkman served a term of imprisonment in Atlanta for his attempt to assassinate Henry C. Frick during the Homestead steel strike in 1892. After his release from prison Berkman rejoined his companion in her work of going up and down the country preaching the abolition of government through education of the people to the point where they could govern themselves.

Miss Goldman's first imprisonment was in 1893, when she was arrested for inciting to riot at a Union Square demonstration in New York held in support of the Debs railway strike. She served seven months on Blackwell's Island. While in prison she acted as nurse in the hospital and devoted her leisure time to intensive study of American literature, with special attention to Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Thoreau and Emerson. She also studied particularly Fourier, the French Socialist. These and other studies fortified her for the literary aspect of her career.

Miss Goldman was 25 years old when she left Blackwell's Island in 1894. In addition to her work as a propagandist of anarchism she published for many years The Blast, and later, until her deportation, Mother Earth, a literary and philosophic journal which came to be recognized as the authoritative spokesman of philosophic anarchism in this country.

On Sept. 6, 1901, Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley at Buffalo. In his confession the assassin said he had been influenced by the writings of Emma Goldman and by some speeches which he had heard her make in Cleveland. She was arrested in Chicago and questioned for two weeks, the authorities being compelled to release her because of lack of evidence linking her in any way with the assassination. Eighteen years later, however, when the deportation proceedings were brought against her and Berkman, A. Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, revived the subject, contending that there was some evidence that she knew Czolgosz, at least by sight.

While she was often in trouble with the authorities because of her work on the lecture platform and in labor struggles, it was not until the war that Miss Goldman came into serious conflict with the government.

Served Two Years in Jail
Because of their agitation against the war draft and their opposition to the war Berkman was sent to Atlanta and Miss Goldman fined $10,000 and sentenced to two years in jail in Jefferson City, Mo. The deportation proceedings were brought by the government upon their release. The case was fought through the Supreme Court and, finally, on Dec. 1, 1919, together with 247 other aliens, they were deported on the transport Buford.

"We expect to be called back to Soviet America," she said as the Buford drew away from the pier.

Because of the absence of diplomatic relations with Russia at that time, the deportees were landed in Finland, whence they traveled by rail to Petrograd. They received a gala reception from the Bolsheviki, but it was not long before Miss Goldman and Berkman discovered that the regime set up by Lenin and Trotsky did not correspond to their conception of the new society. Within six months she wrote to a niece in Rochester that the Soviet regime was a new despotism under which the Russian people were deprived of all liberty.

The suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion of the Spring of 1921 moved them to open opposition against the Bolsheviki. They fled to the Ukraine and in December of the same year arrived in Riga, enemies of the Bolshevik system. Early in 1922 Miss Goldman was in Stockholm, going in April to Prague and thence to Berlin. Berkman wrote a book called "The Bolshevik Myth," while Miss Goldman traveled about Germany lecturing against bolshevism.

Wrote Two Books on Russia
In 1924 she published her book "My Disillusionment in Russia," followed next year with "My Further Disillusionment in Russia." This disillusionment was again emphasized in her autobiography. Incensed by her criticism, Communists in Germany tried to break up her meetings, just as the American police had frequently done in the earlier part of her career.

In 1924 Miss Goldman arrived in England, and two years later she turned up in Montreal as Mrs. E. G. Colton, wife of James Colton, a Welsh miner whom she had married in order to obtain British citizenship, having in the meanwhile lost her status as a Soviet citizen and become a woman without a country. From Canada she returned to the South of France, where she lived quietly and wrote "Living My Life."

Three years later came her American visit. She did not conceal her happiness at having been permitted to return to this country, if only for a brief span. She was warmly received here by old friends and left with deep regret and some hope that she might yet be permitted to return to the United States permanently.

Her antipathy to bolshevism was based upon a conclusion that the system had given "unhappy Russia a far worse tyranny than under the Czar."

Her impression of Russia was confirmed through the years in the establishment, finally, of the dictatorship of Stalin after the execution or exile of most of the old Bolshevik leaders. Lenin died in January, 1924. Ultimately, as Miss Goldman believed, Leninism, too, was dead, while nearly all the leading Leninists had been exterminated.

In July, 1936, while living at Nice, France, Miss Goldman suffered a shock in the death of her friend Berkman, who had committed suicide in a place near by.


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