Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


The Film & More
Special Features
Timeline
Maps
People & Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

Emma Goldman The film Emma Goldman and this companion Web site offer insights into topics in American history including free speech, individual activism, anarchy, socialism, self publishing, terrorism, workers' rights, women's rights, the Progressive Era, World War I, the Sedition Act, the Espionage Act, the Red Scare, immigration and deportation, the rise of Communism, and more. Use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: history, society, geography, and civics. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.


History | Civics | Economics | Geography

  1. Demonstrate that many of Goldman's views remain relevant today -- regardless of whether one agrees with them -- by creating a poster entitled "Emma Goldman: Ahead of Her Time." Focus your poster on a single major issue, such as war and peace, marriage, women's rights, workers' rights, or freedom of speech. (The Web site of the Emma Goldman Papers Project at the University of California, Berkeley, contains statements by Goldman arranged by topic.)

    Your poster might present two quotations side-by-side, one from Goldman and the other from a present-day public figure, and compare or contrast them. Alternatively, it might show how one of Goldman's statements relates to a specific present-day issue -- for example, how a statement by Goldman against war can be applied to the recent Iraq war, or how a statement by Goldman in support of workers' rights can be applied to the difficult conditions faced by workers in the U.S. or around the world. If you disagree with Goldmanšs viewpoint, you may want to prepare a brief statement examining the flaws you perceive in Goldmanšs position.

  2. The World War I era was a time of startling change in a number of areas of life, sparked by a number of extraordinary people -- and opposed by many other extraordinary people. To learn more about this era, hold an imaginary dinner party attended by notable persons such as Eugene Debs, Henry Clay Frick, Sigmund Freud, Emma Goldman, J. Edgar Hoover, James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin, Tsar Nicholas II, Pablo Picasso, John Reed, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, George Bernard Shaw, Oswald Spengler, Igor Stravinsky, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Woodrow Wilson, and Virginia Woolf.

    Each student should select a person to portray and then research this person's life, accomplishments, and beliefs so the student can represent his or her subject accurately during the party. When everyone is ready, arrange the desks in a circle and converse, as at a dinner party; the teacher should lead the conversation to introduce topics of conversation and ensure that everyone participates.


History | Civics | Economics | Geography

  1. Read about the Red Scare and the Espionage and Sedition Acts, and also see the text of the Sedition Act. As the film notes, restrictions on individual liberties have been imposed at other times of war and high tension in American history; examples include the Sedition Act of 1798, President Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Working with a partner, prepare a two-column chart that compares the Sedition Act of 1918 to one other example of a restriction on individual liberties. The chart should list the circumstances in which the restriction was imposed, the purpose of the restriction, its effects, and when and how it was lifted.

    Post the charts around the room for students to read. Then discuss as a class whether these restrictions were, in your opinion, justified by the circumstances.

  2. The film describes Alexander Berkman as a "suicide bomber" for his attempt to kill Henry Clay Frick at the risk of his own life. Emma Goldman claimed, in the context of Berkman's attempted murder, that the end justified the means, as an extreme form of political protest.

    Hold a class discussion starting with Emma Goldman's statement: "As an anarchist, I am opposed to violence. But if the people want to do away with assassins, they must do away with the conditions which produce murderers." Who were the "assassins" she referenced? What "conditions" do you think Goldman meant? What is your view of her statement?


History | Civics | Economics | Geography

  1. Divide the class into five groups and assign each group one of the following protections for workers: a 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, the ban on child labor, the right to form and join unions, and safety standards in the workplace. Each group should report to the class on the following: what the protection is (as defined by federal law), when it became law, and what events led up to its enactment. Each group also should present at least one example of how this protection has benefited a family member, friend, or neighbor, and at least one example of a recent news story (about events in the United States or some other country) involving this protection. When all groups have made their presentations, discuss as a class whether the information in the presentations has changed your view of Emma Goldman.

  2. Goldman spoke out against the widening gap between rich and poor Americans. In recent years as well, some people have argued that the rich-poor gap is growing and should be addressed. Conduct a class investigation into the issue and produce a report, slide show, video, or other form of presentation entitled "Rich and Poor in 21st Century America."

    Your investigation should examine what we mean by the terms "rich" and "poor" (for example, what is the "poverty line" as defined by the federal government?), whether the rich-poor gap is indeed growing (and if so, why), and whether government should be concerned about a widening income gap (and if so, what government might do about it). You might also address such questions as the cost of being poor (for example, are poor people less healthy than sick people?) and the benefits of being rich (such as the luxury items available to those for whom price is no object).


History | Civics | Economics | Geography

  1. Goldman was born a Jew in Russian-controlled Lithuania, and it was to Russia that she was deported from the United States in 1919. Research a topic related to these facts that interests you -- for example, how Russia gained control of Lithuania, how Jews were treated in Tsarist Russia, Jewish immigration to the United States in Goldman's era, what happened to the Jews of Lithuania (or the Soviet Union) during World War II, the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel following the creation of Israel in 1948, or Lithuania's independence in the 1990s. Report your findings to the class.

  2. Working with a partner, write a 500-word essay that Goldman might have written in the mid-1920s to express her disappointment at events over the previous decade in the United States and Russia, two countries that had not moved in the direction she had hoped. Begin by discussing which events in each country should be discussed, using information from the film, the timeline, and other sources. Then have one group member write the portion of the essay dealing with the United States, while the other writes the portion dealing with Russia. When you are done, assemble the pieces into a single coherent essay. End the essay by briefly discussing, from Goldman's perspective, which of the two countries had a more promising future as of the mid-1920s.

page created on 3.11.2004
Site Navigation

Emma Goldman Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1997-2004 PBS Online / WGBH



Emma Goldman American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: