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Timeline: Anarchism and Emma Goldman

1859-1912 | 1913-1940  


John Brown October 16: Abolitionist John Brown leads a raid on a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

October 19: Henry David Thoreau publishes his essay, "A Plea for Captain John Brown," which will later influence Emma Goldman's views on violence as a justifiable means to an end.


June 27: Emma Goldman is born in Kovno, Lithuania, a province of the Russian empire.


November 21: Alexander Berkman is born in Vilna, Lithuania.


March 2: The United States becomes the only Western country to criminalize the use or distribution of birth control when Congress passes the Comstock Act.

September 18: On a day dubbed "Black Thursday," the stock exchange crashes; the nation begins a six-year economic depression.


April-May: Following the assassination of Czar Alexander II in Russia, Jews are subjected to pogroms and violent attacks. Rumors circulate that the Czar's assassins were Jewish radicals.


A. Goldman house in Rochester, NY December 29: Goldman arrives in the United States with her sister Helene; they settle in Rochester, New York, with their sister Lena.


Goldman finds a job as a garment worker.

February: Emma Goldman marries Jacob Kershner, gaining U.S. citizenship.

Haymarket Riot May 3: In Chicago, striking workers from Cyrus McCormick's Harvester plant clash with police. Four workers are killed, and several are wounded.

May 4: In one of 19th century America's most shocking labor incidents, someone throws a bomb into crowd of policemen at a rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square. Seven policemen are killed, sixty are injured, and civilian casualties are likely as high. Eight anarchists are arrested and charged with the murders, based on their militant proclamations against industry, capitalism, and government.

Anarchists hung August 20: Seven of the Haymarket anarchists are found guilty and sentenced to death (August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel and Louis Lingg). Oscar Neebe is found guilty of murder and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

November 11: Haymarket anarchists George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons and August Spies are executed; the date will be commemorated as "Black Friday" in radical circles.


Goldman leaves her husband and moves from Rochester to New Haven, Connecticut. There she meets Russian socialists and anarchists.


August 15: Goldman arrives in New York City. She meets a man who will become her lifelong friend, Alexander Berkman, at Sachs' Café. Soon afterward she meets a prominent anarchist who will become her mentor, Johann Most.

August-December: Goldman finds work at a corset factory. She also works at the office of an anarchist newspaper, Freiheit, and helps organize the November 11 Haymarket Commemoration. She and Berkman share an apartment with Modest Stein, Helene and Anna Minkin.


Emma Goldman January: Johann Most arranges Goldman's first public lecture tour to Rochester, Buffalo, and Cleveland to speak on the limitations of the eight-hour movement.

October 19: Goldman speaks in Baltimore to members of the International Working People's Association in the afternoon. She later speaks in German to the Workers' Educational Society at Canmakers' Hall. Michael Cohn and William Harvey also speak. This is the first lecture by Goldman to be reported in the mainstream press.


Ellis Island January: In New York harbor, Ellis Island begins operation as an immigration depot.

Winter and Spring: Goldman moves to Springfield, Massachusetts. There, she and Modest Stein work in a photography studio. In Worcester, Massachusetts, Berkman, Stein, and Goldman open an ice-cream parlor. In May, they close their business in response to the Homestead strike.

July 6: In a battle with Pinkerton guards, at least nine striking Homestead workers and three Pinkerton detectives are killed.

Henry Clay Frick July 23: Alexander Berkman shoots and stabs Henry C. Frick, Andrew Carnegie's steel manager, wounding, but not killing him. In the aftermath, Goldman is suspected of complicity but not charged. Police raid her apartment, seizing her papers. The press refers to Goldman, temporarily in hiding, as the "Queen of the Anarchists."

September 19: Berkman is sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for the attempt on Frick's life.


Cover of Judge May: The stock market crashes. A series of financial disasters, beginning with the failure of a major railroad, leads to the Panic of 1893. The U.S. Treasury is bankrupted for first time in its history, threatening the collapse of the U.S. government, and inciting public panic and a subsequent rush to withdraw money.

June: Governor John Peter Altgeld pardons three men found guilty of the Haymarket bombing, effectively ending his political career.

August: Goldman addresses a public meeting, urging those in need to take bread if they are hungry. Four days later, she leads a march of 1,000 people to Union Square, where, speaking in German and English, she repeats her belief that workers are entitled to bread. The speech leads to her arrest.

October 4-16: Goldman is tried and found guilty of inciting to riot. She is sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on Blackwell's Island in New York's East River.


May 12: Led by Eugene Victor Debs of the American Railway Union, the future founder of the Socialist Party of America, workers at the Pullman factory begin a strike that leads to the death of 34 people after violence breaks out between workers and federal troops deployed by President Grover Cleveland.

August 17: Goldman is released from prison. Her account of the experience appears in the New York World the next day.


Fall: Goldman addresses crowds at open-air meetings in London, and travels to Vienna to begin formal training in nursing and midwifery.


William McKinley Buoyed by a $250,000 contribution from the Standard Oil Trust, William McKinley is elected president of the United States after running on a platform that favors American industries and Eastern manufacturers.


February-June: Goldman addresses sixty-six meetings in twelve states and eighteen cities; reporters note Goldman's improved command of English.

April 25: The Spanish-American War begins when, at President McKinley's bidding, Congress declares war on Spain. As a result, the United States annexes Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.


Late January-September: Goldman conducts a nine-month lecture tour of eleven states.


Emma Goldman mug shot September 6: Leon Czolgosz shoots and severely wounds President William McKinley. Czolgosz later confesses to the crime, signing a statement saying that the last public speaker he had heard was Goldman, but adding she had never told him to kill the president.

September 10: A warrant is issued for Goldman's arrest in connection with the assassination attempt. Goldman gives herself up and is subjected to intensive interrogation. Though initially denied, bail is set at $20,000. She is never officially charged with a crime.

September 14: President McKinley dies of a gangrenous infection stemming from his wounds.

September 24: Goldman is released after two weeks in jail; the case is dropped for lack of evidence.

October 29: Czolgosz is executed.


May-December: Goldman resumes her political work.


March 3: An Immigration Act is passed by Congress, including a section barring anarchists.


June 27: The founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World opens in Chicago.


Upton Sinclair publishes The Jungle, his muckraking work detailing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the United States meat-packing industry.

Mid-March: The first issue of Mother Earth is published. Goldman launches a speaking tour to raise money for the publication.

May 18: Berkman is released from prison after serving nearly 14 years of his 22-year sentence.

October 30: Goldman is arrested in Manhattan while attending an anarchist meeting called to protest police suppression of free speech at a previous meeting. She is charged with unlawful assembly for the purpose of overthrowing the government under the new criminal laws against anarchy.


January 6: Goldman is arrested while speaking on "The Misconceptions of Anarchism" at an afternoon meeting of 600 people in New York City.

March 3: Goldman leaves New York City for series of lectures in Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Toronto.


February 13: Goldman begins a western tour to speak on "The Crisis: Its Cause and Remedy," "The Relation of Anarchism to Trade Unionism," "Direct Action as the Logical Tactics of Anarchism," "Syndicalism: A New Phase of the Labor Struggle," and "Woman under Anarchism."

March: Goldman meets Ben Reitman in Chicago.

April 26: Goldman lectures on patriotism at Walton's Pavilion in San Francisco. A United States soldier (private first-class), William Buwalda, attends the lecture in uniform and is witnessed shaking her hand. Within two weeks, he is court-martialed in violation of the 62nd Article of War, and found guilty by a military court, dishonorably discharged and sentenced to five years at hard labor on Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California.

May 22: William Buwalda's sentence is commuted to three years' hard labor, in deference to Buwalda's 15 years of excellent military service and the assumption of a temporary lapse in judgment under the sway of an "anarchist orator."


January 14: The January 1910 issue of Mother Earth is banned from the mails after Anthony Comstock complains about Goldman's essay, "The White Slave Traffic," under section 497 of the Postal Laws and Regulations Act of 1902. Later, the issue will be released by the Post Office after Comstock is forced to withdraw his objections.

March 26: An amendment to the Immigration Act of 1907 passes Congress. The 1910 Act, while not changing the language excluding anarchists, streamlines the methods of prosecution and deportation of excludable aliens, forbidding any anarchists into the U.S.

December 17: Goldman publishes her first book, Anarchism and Other Essays.


January 6: Goldman embarks on her annual lecture tour, visiting 40 American towns in six months and delivering 150 lectures on subjects including "Tolstoy - Artist and Anarchist", "Marriage and Love", "Danger in the Growing Power of the Church", and "Anarchism Versus Socialism".


Crowd February 8: A San Diego city ordinance restricting street meetings in the central business district goes into effect. Almost immediately, forty-one I.W.W. members are arrested for violating the ordinance.

March: The I.W.W. holds a protest meeting in front of the San Diego city jail. Police call in the fire department to disperse the crowd, spraying them with water from fire hoses.

May 14: Goldman and Reitman arrive by train in San Diego to support the efforts of the I.W.W. An angry crowd of 2,000 surrounds Goldman's hotel. Reitman is seized by vigilantes, and later tarred and "sagebrushed." The letters "I.W.W." are burned into his skin with a cigar. The vigilantes also force Reitman to kiss the American flag and sing "The Star Spangled Banner." He later makes his way back to San Diego, and then to Los Angeles, where he reunites with Goldman.

1859-1912 | 1913-1940  

page created on 3.11.2004
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