Biography of Emma Gold


Emma Goldman (Kaunas, June 27, 1869 – Toronto, May 14, 1940) was a Lithuanian political anarchist and writer of Jewish origin, known for her writings and her libertarian and feminist manifestos. She was one of the pioneers in the fight for the emancipation of women.

She emigrated to the United States at the age of 16, where she worked as a textile worker and joined the libertarian movement. In 1919 she was expelled from the country and deported to Russia. She lived for a few years in Europe, where she wrote her autobiography and various works.

Goldman was born in an orthodox Jewish family of Kaunas (called  Kovno at the time) who ran a small hotel. Kaunas, currently part of Lithuania, was part of the Russian Empire, and during the period of political repression that followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, when Goldman was 13 years old, he moved with his family to St. Petersburg.

She emigrated to the United States with a stepsister after the confrontation with his father, who intended to marry her at age 15. The hanging of four anarchists as a result of the Haymarket revolt encouraged a young Emma Goldman to join the anarchist movement and become, at age 20, an active revolutionary. At that time she married a Russian immigrant. The marriage barely lasted 10 months, Emma separated and went to New York. She remained legally married to retain her U.S. citizenship.

Emma Goldman

In New York she meets and lives with Alexander Berkman, becoming a fundamental pillar of the American anarchist movement. Her support for Berkman in the attempted murder of Henry Clay Frick made her even more unpopular with the country’s authorities. Berkman was jailed for several years.

Emma was also imprisoned in 1893 at the Blackwell Islands penitentiary. He publicly instigated unemployed workers to Demandez du travail, s’ils ne vous donnent pas de travail, demand du pain, s’ils ne vous donent du pain or du travail, prenez le pain (Ask for work, if they don’t give it to you, ask for bread, and if they don’t give you bread or work, take the bread). This quote is a summary of the principle of expropriation advocated by libertarian communists such as Piotr Kropotkin. Voltairine de Cleyre came out in defense of Emma Goldman at a conference given after her arrest ( In defense of Emma Goldman ). While in prison, Goldman developed a deep interest in the education of children, a commitment he became involved years later.

Together with 9 others, she was arrested again on September 10, 1901, for participating in the murder plot against President William McKinley. One of them, Leon Czolgosz, had shot him a few days earlier. Emma met him weeks later and met him once when she was arrested she said: Is it my fault that a madman misinterprets my words?

On February 11, 1916, she was arrested and imprisoned again for the distribution of a manifesto in favor of contraception. For several years, every time I gave a conference I expected to be arrested, so I was always equipped with a good book.

In 1917, and for the fourth time, she is imprisoned again with Alexander Berkman for conspiring against the law that forced military service. She made public her deep pacifist convictions during World War I and criticized the conflict as an act of imperialism. Two years later she was deported to Russia. During the hearing in which it was about his expulsion, J. Edgar Hoover, who was the president of the same, described Emma as one of the most dangerous women in America.

She resided in the Soviet Union with Berkman between 1920 and 1922, participating in the anarchist uprising of Kronstadt. At first, she supported the Bolsheviks, but the political repression, bureaucracy and forced labor that followed the October Revolution contributed greatly to change the ideas of Goldman and many other anarchists about them and about the way of using violence, except for self-defense.

From this time, they date their writings: My Disillusionment in Russia (My Disillusionment with Russia) and My Further Disillusionment in Russia (My subsequent Disillusionment with Russia). Disagreeing with the USSR system, it was definitely installed in Canada.

In 1936, Goldman collaborated with the government of the Spanish Republic in London and Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. It is worth noting the vehement article she wrote about the well-known Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti, entitled Durruti is Dead, Yet Living (Durruti is dead, but lives). Emma Goldman died in Toronto in 1940 and is buried in Chicago.

Photograph by Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman taken in 1917.
Photograph by Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman taken in 1917.

She is the author of Anarchism and other essays (1910) and the autobiography Living my life (1931). He was the first person to introduce and disseminate the works of Henrik Ibsen in the United States, where Goldman herself published between 1906 and 1917 Mother Earth, an anarchist magazine of a monthly nature.

  • “Emma Goldman, anarchist of both worlds.” Biography made by José Peirats with prologue by Ignacio C. Soriano Jiménez. Edited by La Lantern Sorda, 2011. ISBN 978-84-938273-0-4

Several books of her work in video books

My disappointment in Russia.


The hypocrisy of puritanism.


Marriage and love

The tragedy of the emancipation of women.

Female suffrage


Francisco Ferrer and the modern School.

Majorities and minorities.


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