The human face of an anarchist
In the late 19th and early 20th century, amid the rise of American radicalism stood Emma Goldman (1869-1940), anarchist and feminist.
After reading about the Haymarket Affair in the newspaper, a riot at a demonstration in Chicago in May 1886 which left several dead, she was inspired to join the radical movement.
Her charisma and leadership captured the public imagination. She advocated free speech and free love and enthusiastically supported birth control, an extreme radical even among radicals.
The police and mass media called her “the queen of the Reds” and a lunatic and admirers worshiped her as a free thinker and a rebel woman.
She was, however, plagued with conflict between radicalism and emotion. She suffered betrayal by her philandering lover, Ben Reitman.
“Emma Goldman” by Candace Falk focuses on the private life of a woman who was struggling between ideology and personal feelings, instead of Goldman the public figure. Private letters that she wrote, including love letters, are the main sources of the book.
She got to know Reitman after reading an article about him getting hit by the police in a demonstration for the unemployed. Goldman was intrigued by the fact that he was living in a dark world of outcasts - including sex workers - despite his life of privilege as a doctor. However, in reality he had nothing to do with the anarchists. Goldman did not know that he had been mistaken for a demonstration leader when he was pushed by the crowd.
Goldman was said to have curly hair and blue eyes, with her passion etched on her face. Despite her inner struggles, she worked towards her ideals and cared deeply for those around her. This is why she feels so humane to us.