DOCUMENTARY - Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman

Emma Goldman anarchist documentary by Penny Post Productions

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This is an English language version of the film EMMA GOLDMAN – AN EXCEEDINGLY DANGEROUS WOMAN which explores the incredible, yet troubled life of one of the world’s most extraordinary women.


Brief biography. Emma Goldman, (born June 27, 1869, Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania, Russian Empire—died May 14, 1940, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), was an international anarchist in the United States from about 1890 to 1917.

Goldman grew up in Lithuania, in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), and in St. Petersburg. Her formal education was limited, but she read widely and in St. Petersburg associated with a radical student circle. In 1885 she immigrated to the United States where she settled in Rochester, New York. There, and later in New Haven, Connecticut, she worked in clothing factories and came into contact with socialist and anarchist groups among her fellow workers. Moving to New York City in 1889, Goldman formed a close association with Alexander Berkman, who was imprisoned in 1892 for attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead steel strike. The following year she herself was jailed in New York City for inciting a riot when a group of unemployed workers reacted to a fiery speech she had delivered.

In 1895, upon her release, Goldman embarked on lecture tours of Europe and the United States. Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of President William McKinley, claimed to have been inspired by her, although there was no direct connection between them, and by that time she had repudiated her earlier tolerance of violence as an acceptable means of achieving social ends. In 1906 Berkman was freed, and he and Goldman resumed their joint activities. The same year she founded Mother Earth, a periodical that she edited until its suppression in 1917. Her naturalization as a U.S. citizen was revoked by a legal stratagem in 1908. Two years later she published Anarchism and Other Essays.

Goldman spoke often and widely, not only on anarchism and social problems but also on the contemporary dramatic works of Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, George Bernard Shaw, and others. She was instrumental in introducing the American audience to many European playwrights, and her lectures on their work were published in 1914 as The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. She also lectured on “free love,” by which she meant an uncoerced attachment between two persons for whom conventions of law and church were irrelevant, and she was jailed briefly in 1916 for speaking out about birth control.

When World War I broke out in Europe, Goldman opposed U.S. involvement, and later protested against military conscription. In July 1917 she was sentenced to two years in prison for these activities. By the time of her release in September 1919, the United States was caught up in hysteria over a largely imaginary network of communist operatives. Goldman—“Red Emma,” as she was called—was declared a subversive alien and in December, along with Berkman and 247 others, was deported to the Soviet Union. Her stay there was brief. Two years after leaving, she recounted her experiences in My Disillusionment in Russia (1923). She remained active, living at various times in Sweden, Germany, England, France, and elsewhere, continuing to lecture and writing her autobiography, Living My Life (1931). At the time of her death, she was working for the antifascist movement in the recent Spanish Civil War.


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What is anarchism?


Anarchism (or libertarianism) is the idea that relationships should be based on mutual associations and not violence and coercion. Anarchists reject slave-master relationships and usually oppose hierarchical top-down political structures, the military, particularly the state-run military industrial complex economic model and also state-run authoritarian schools and education. Anarchists view as highly suspect, patriarchal family structures. Likewise, anarchists oppose dictatorial religious leaders and groups who ostensibly promote religion while really practicing politics. In fact, one of the most famous anarchist slogans is ‘No Gods, No Masters’. The ‘No Gods’ part is generally considered to refer to anti-clericalism, that is, opposing religious-based political, hierarchical power structures.


The key to understanding anarchism is to understand that social organisation should be done bottom-up, where people have control over their lives, rather than top-down governance enforced by violence or threats.


Anarchism is social order, not political order.


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