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Emma Goldman | Timeline

Anarchism and Emma Goldman

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International Institute of Social History

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Worders of World (IWW) 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".

February 8: A San Diego city ordinance estricting 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 JohnReed. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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