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
People & Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Timeline: Anarchism and Emma Goldman

1859-1912 | 1913-1940  


January 23: Approximately 800 broad-silk weavers at the Doherty Company mill in Paterson, New Jersey leave work. Within a month, between 4,000 and 5,000 silk workers join them in protest of the introduction of the multiple-loom system, leading to a drop in wages, and the Paterson Silk Strike begins.

May 20: Goldman and Reitman return to San Diego a year after Reitman's abduction. Goldman is scheduled to lecture on "Ibsen's Play, An Enemy of the People." Upon their arrival, they are taken to a police station under police protection, surrounded by a mob, and later escorted and placed aboard the afternoon train to Los Angeles "for their own safety."

July 18: The Paterson ribbon weavers vote to abandon the general strike and seek a shop-by-shop settlement. The strike dwindles as silk workers gradually return to work.

September 23: Miners working for the John D. Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company go on strike. Organized by the United Mine Workers Association, the miners move their families to union tent colonies in the countryside away from the mining camps.


Ludlow April 20: Colorado National Guards volley machine-gun fire into the union tent village in Ludlow, Colorado. Tents are set on fire. At least five miners, twelve children and two women are killed. The event leads to a series of demonstrations against the Rockefeller family at their home in Tarrytown, New York, as well as to further violence in Colorado as hundreds of miners take up arms and attack mines.

April 29: Upton Sinclair and his wife organize a "Silent Parade" in front of Rockefeller's New York Standard Oil offices to protest the Ludlow massacre. Sinclair is arrested along with four women.

June 28: Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, is assassinated by a Bosnian Serb anarchist.

August 4: At midnight, Britain declares war on Germany, marking the official beginning of World War I.

November 29-December 6: Goldman is scheduled to speak on topics including "War and the Sacred Right of Property," "The Sham of Culture," "The Misconceptions of Free Love," and "The Psychology of Anarchism" in St. Louis, Missouri.


Ben Reitman and others holding sign August 6: In Portland, Oregon, Goldman and Ben Reitman are arrested for distributing literature on birth control. Goldman is released on $500 cash bail and announces that she will try to speak on the subject of birth control on August 7. Reitman remains in jail.

August 7: Goldman and Reitman are fined $100 for having distributed birth control information the day before. Goldman speaks that evening on "The Intermediate Sex (A Discussion of Homosexuality)" at Turn Hall. In the audience are policemen in plain clothes, a deputy district attorney, and a deputy city attorney. She is not arrested.


Handbill, Goldman Lecture Topics: February 11: Goldman is scheduled to lecture on the "Philosophy of Atheism" at Vorwart Hall, New York City. She is arrested as she is about to enter the building, and charged with violating Section 1142 of the New York State Penal Code for lecturing the previous Tuesday (February 8), on a medical question (birth control) in defiance of the law. Goldman is released on $500 bail.

March 1: Goldman speaks at a birth control mass meeting held at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Other speakers include Margaret Sanger, Leonard Abbott, Gilbert E. Roe, Theodore Schroeder, Bolton Hall, John Reed, Anna Strunsky Walling, Dr. William J. Robinson and Dr. A. L. Goldwater.

April 20: Goldman is tried at Special Sessions for lecturing on birth control; she is sentenced to fifteen days in Queens County Jail after refusing to pay a $100 fine.

May 5: Goldman speaks at a birth control meeting at Carnegie Hall, New York City.

July 22: A bomb explodes during the Preparedness Day parade in San Francisco, killing 10 people and injuring 40. The press immediately blames labor organizers and anarchists.


marchers January 8: A New York court acquits Goldman of the charge of circulating birth control information.

February-March: Revolution in Russia. Strikes, bread riots, and mass protests against the government break out in Petrograd. Troops sent to subdue the crowd join in the protests.

April 6: Congress approves U.S. entrance into World War I.

May 18: Congress passes the Selective Service Act, authorizing the president to use a draft to increase the size of the military.

June 14: Goldman and Berkman speak at a No-Conscription League mass meeting. After the meeting, the police require men of draft age to show their conscription cards. As a result 30 men are detained, and two arrested.

Woodrow Wilson June 15: President Woodrow Wilson signs the Espionage Act, which sets penalties of up to thirty years' imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 for persons aiding the U.S.'s enemies, interfering with the draft, or encouraging disloyalty in the armed forces.

On the same day, Goldman, Berkman, and William Bales are arrested at the Mother Earth offices. Manuscripts, letters and subscription lists, as well as subscription lists for the No-Conscription League and another publication, The Blast, are confiscated.

June 16: Goldman and Berkman are indicted on the charge of obstructing the Draft Act (Selective Service Act) in New York City. They plead not guilty. Bail is set at $25,000 each.

July 9: Berkman and Goldman are found guilty of conspiracy against the selective draft law in New York City. They are fined $10,000, sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and immediately transported to federal penitentiaries: Berkman is sent to Atlanta State Penitentiary in Georgia and Goldman is taken to Jefferson City Penitentiary in Missouri.

September 11: Mother Earth is excluded from the mails under the Espionage Act.

November 7: The Bolshevik Revolution begins in Russia.


May 16: Congress passes the Sedition Act, an amendment to the Espionage Act passed the previous year. The act prohibits anti-government speech, activities or publications, including anti-conscription or strike activities. Under this act, the government effectively censors any criticism of itself or its war effort.

August 30: Ninety-three I.W.W. members in Chicago are sentenced from one to twenty years' imprisonment at Leavenworth, Kansas, for violating the Espionage Act. The defendants are also assessed fines from $20,000 to $30,000.

Eugene Debs in prison September 14: In Cleveland, Ohio, Eugene V. Debs is sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for violating the Espionage Act.

November 11: World War I ends. The army mobilization call is cancelled.


April 30: California passes the Criminal Syndicalism Act of 1919, making it a felony to encourage or provoke, in any way, violence with a political motivation. It is used to outlaw anti-government speech and to punish outspoken individuals. The act's main target is the I.W.W.

Newspaper headline September 27: Goldman's federal prison term ends. She leaves for Rochester, New York, knowing she will soon receive deportation orders.

December 1: The Department of Labor orders Goldman and Berkman to appear at Ellis Island on December 5 for deportation to Russia.

Emma Goldman deportation December 21: The Buford, an army transport ship from the Spanish-American War, departs at six in the morning from Ellis Island, bound for Soviet Russia, with Goldman, Berkman, and 247 other radical aliens on board.


The Buford January 17: The S.S. Buford lands at Hangö, Finland. On January 19, the deportees are met at the Russo-Finnish border by Russian representatives, and received warmly at a mass meeting of soldiers and peasants in Belo-Ostrov.

February: Goldman and Berkman settle in Petrograd, where they renew their friendships with William Shatoff, now working as Commissar of Railroads, and John Reed. They also meet with Grigory Zinoviev, director of the Soviet Executive Committee, and, briefly, with the writer Maxim Gorky.

April: Goldman and Berkman, frustrated with the Bolshevik leaders' pettiness and gross mismanagement, express dissatisfaction with their work assignments. Goldman tours Soviet factories in Petrograd with journalist John Clayton of the Chicago Tribune. She learns firsthand of the poor conditions and dissatisfaction among the workers.

June: Goldman tours two legendary Czarist prisons. She is shocked to discover that many members of the intelligentsia were routinely executed following the October Revolution. John Clayton's interview with Goldman is published in several American newspapers. The interview includes her blunt criticism of the Bolshevik regime and her longing to return to the U.S.

June 30: Goldman and Berkman agree to work for the Petrograd Museum of the Revolution because the extensive traveling will give them an opportunity to study Russian conditions with the least interference from the Bolsheviks.


February: Prince Peter Kropotkin, a preeminent figure in the history of anarchism, dies in Moscow.

March 1-17: In solidarity with striking factory workers, sailors at the Kronstadt naval base demand democratic election of Soviet representatives. Goldman, Berkman and others send a letter of protest to the Petrograd Soviet, but receive no response. Leon Trotsky orders the artillery bombardment of Kronstadt, long considered heroes of the revolution.

December: Disillusioned, Goldman and Berkman leave Russia.


March 26-April 4: The New York World publishes a series of controversial articles by Goldman exposing the harsh political and economic conditions in Russia.

July-December: Goldman completes a manuscript, My Two Years in Russia and sells the rights to the book.


Goldman's manuscript is published under the title My Disillusionment in Russia.


January: In London, Goldman continues her efforts to expose the Bolsheviks as betrayers of the revolution and violators of civil liberties, a task made more difficult by the return of a British trade union delegation that reports favorably on conditions in the Soviet Union.

June: Discouraged by the public response to her lectures on Russia, Goldman focuses on earning money by writing a new series of lectures on drama.

June 27
On her birthday, Goldman marries James Colton, an elderly anarchist friend and trade unionist from Wales, in order to obtain British citizenship and the right to travel and speak more freely.


May-September: Goldman travels to France and rents a cottage in St. Tropez, where she writes.

October: Goldman sails for Canada to lecture; proximity rekindles her hope for readmission to the U.S.


January-February: Goldman learns that friends, principally Peggy Guggenheim and Mark Dix, have contributed enough money to help her purchase the cottage in St. Tropez and ensure her a place to live and write. Goldman works full-time on her autobiography.

October 29: The stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins.


H.L. Mencken Journalist H. L. Mencken petitions the U.S. Department of State to revoke Goldman's deportation and grant her a visitor's visa. He also requests that the Department of Justice return her personal papers seized in the 1917 raid on the Mother Earth office, to no avail.


Emma Goldman working on memoirs May: The Knopf publishing company informs Goldman that, despite the depression, they intend to publish her autobiography, Living My Life, in two volumes, selling it for what she considers an exorbitant price.


February 16-20: Goldman begins a tour of Germany in Hamburg, followed by Bremen, Braunschweig, and Magdeburg. The second leg of Goldman's tour begins with two successful meetings in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).

October 20: Living My Life is published by Duckworth in London. Goldman is appalled at the book's high price -- two guineas.


Paul Robeson January: Goldman travels throughout Europe. In London, she stays with political associates and old friends, including Paul Robeson and Emily Holmes Coleman.


January: The U.S. Department of Labor approves a three-month visa, effective February 1, for Goldman to lecture in the U.S. on non-political subjects. Once word of her tour leaks out, many lecture agencies in the U.S. offer their services.

February: Goldman visits relatives in Rochester, New York, before arriving in New York City on February 2, where she is mobbed by reporters and photographers at Pennsylvania Station and the Hotel Astor.

March 21-April 2: Goldman delivers five lectures in Chicago. Sixteen hundred attend the lecture under the auspices of the Free Society Forum on March 22, twelve hundred at the University of Chicago on March 23, and a thousand at Northwestern University on March 26. Fifteen hundred attend a banquet held in her honor at the Medinah Hotel on March 28.

Emma Goldman with Canadian police April 30: Goldman leaves New York for Canada.

May: Goldman spends three weeks in Montreal organizing and delivering lectures.

November 14-27: Goldman travels to London, where she plans to make her home for the winter, and begins a series of lectures. Among her topics are "Traders in Death," "Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin," and "Fallacies of Political Action." Communist hecklers stalk her lectures.

December: Harper's publishes a Goldman essay, "Was My Life Worth Living?"


February: Berkman undergoes two prostate operations in Nice, unbeknownst to Goldman. She learns of his condition while completing her scheduled lectures.

June 28: Unable to endure the physical pain of his illness, Berkman shoots himself. The bullet lodges in his spinal column, paralyzing him. Goldman rushes to Nice to be at his side. He slips into a coma in the afternoon and dies that night.

July 19: The Spanish Civil War begins.

September 16-December 10: Based in Barcelona -- the Catalonian anarchist stronghold -- Goldman helps write an English-language information bulletin for the anarcho-syndicalist group C.N.T.-F.A.I (Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores/Federación Anarquista Ibérica). She also visits collectivized farms and factories, and travels to the Aragon front, to Valencia, and Madrid. Seeing anarchism as a living reality, she will later say the Spanish Revolution and civil war influenced her more powerfully than her experience in Russia.

October: Goldman returns to the Aragon front, where she meets Buenaventura Durruti, a leading F.A.I. activist and militia commander.

December: Goldman is named the official representative in London of the C.N.T.-F.A.I. and of the Generalitat of Catalonia.


Spanish Civil War April: In her correspondence with Spanish comrades, Goldman criticizes the C.N.T. for collaborating with the Communists and accepting Soviet support; publicly she remains an unwavering supporter.

April 25: Goldman organizes a benefit concert for Spanish refugees at Victoria Palace in London. Paul Robeson performs.

December 22: Goldman travels to Amsterdam to organize Berkman's and her papers at the International Institute of Social History.


April 1: Franco declares the end of the Spanish Civil War.

April 8: Goldman sails for Canada to live in Toronto.


February 17: Goldman suffers a stroke that leaves her paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak.

May 14: Goldman dies at the age of seventy. Tributes and messages of condolence arrive from around the world. Her body is taken to the Labor Lyceum in Toronto. The Rev. Salem Bland delivers a eulogy.

May 17: Goldman is buried in Waldheim Cemetery, Chicago, close to the Haymarket memorial.

1859-1912 | 1913-1940  

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