October 19, 2003
The Emma Goldman Papers
Our October 19 speaker was Barry Pateman of the Emma Goldman Papers project at the University of California at Berkeley. The people on the project are working on a seven-volume edition of the papers of Emma Goldman, an outspoken and famous Russian-born anarchist, feminist and freethinker who gave lectures where she could in late 19th century and early 20th century America. Often she was unable to find a place to speak and sometimes she ran into legal problems when she did speak. One place where she was usually allowed to speak was in Unitarian churches!
Barry Pateman started by expounding the importance of having knowledge of the history of non-establishment figures of the past and of the danger of consigning that past into a memory hole. Such figures pushed the envelope of free speech and left us a legacy of thought, actions and legal rights that we often take for granted. Emma Goldman was such a person. She became an anarchist as a result of the executions resulting from the 1887 Haymarket bomb explosion in Chicago, which killed several policemen. (Nobody proved that any of the persons executed had anything to do with planting the bomb.) She was a dynamic speaker who traversed America supporting causes such as union organization, birth control, women’s equality and opposition to imperialism and war. She also published a magazine, Mother Earth. She had a profound distrust of governments, even democratic ones. This would occasionally lead to clashes not only with the establishment, but also with others on the “left,” such as socialists and (later) communists. She was arrested after the assassination of President William McKinley but was released after the authorities concluded she had nothing to do with it. She was arrested again, after America’s entry into the First World War, for speaking out against the draft. She was deported to Soviet Russia at the end of 1919. She quickly found that Soviet Russia was no "worker’s paradise" but a new form of despotism. She left Russia in 1921, never to return. She spent most of the remainder of her life in France, although she did actively support the Spanish anarchist cause during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. She died in 1940.
The Emma Goldman Papers project is determined that Emma Goldman’s legacy not be forgotten. It is the single repository for the collection and organization of all of her papers and the major source of current books about her life. Barry Pateman held the interest of the audience throughout his talk on Emma Goldman’s life and the question and answer period. He was an able exponent of the work of the project and was very well received by the audience.
Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder