Critics & Crusaders: A Century of American Protest

By Charles A. Madison | Go to book overview

EMMA GOLDMAN


ANARCHIST REBEL

THE HANGING. of several anarchists in 1887 as a consequence of the Haymarket bombing in Chicago caused man Americans to sympathize with the gibbeted radicals. Youths swathed in bright idealism, men and women rooted in equalitarian democracy, workers trusting in the rectitude of their government -- all doubted the guilt of the condemned prisoners and were deeply perturbed by the egregious miscarriage of justice. Many of them for the first time became aware of the state's ruthless arrogation of power, and scores upon scores remained to the end of their lives inimical to government and apprehensive of all forms of authority.

Emma Goldman was one of these converts. Resentment against the restraints of authority was no new experience for this spirited girl. As far back as she could remember she had hated and feared her father, a quick-tempered and deeply harassed Orthodox Jew who had vented his emotional and financial vexations on his recalcitrant daughter. Unable to get from him the love and praise she craved, she had refused to submit to his strict discipline and had preferred beatings to blind obedience. Consequently she grew up in an atmosphere of repression and acrimony. "Since my earliest recollection," she wrote, "home had been stifling, my father's presence terrifying. My mother, while less violent with her children, never showed much warmth."

At the age of thirteen she began to work in a factory in St. Petersburg, and her life became doubly oppressive. She soon learned of the revolutionary movement and sympathized with its agitation

-214-

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