Volume 1, Chapter 15

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Volume 1, Chapter 15

Living My Life

by Emma Goldman

Volume one

New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc.,1931.

Chapter 15

A RENAISSANCE WAS NOW TAKING PLACE IN ANARCHIST RANKS; greater activity was being manifested than at any time since 1887, especially among American adherents. Solidarity, an English publication started in 1892 by S. Merlino and suspended later on, reappeared in ’94, gathering about itself a number of very able Americans. Among them were John Edelman, William C. Owen, Charles B. Cooper, Miss Van Etton, an energetic trade-unionist, and a number of others. A social science club was organized, with weekly lectures. The work attracted considerable attention among the intelligent native element, not failing, of course, also to call forth virulent attacks in the press. New York was not the only city where anarchism was being expounded. In Portland, Oregon, the Firebrand, another English weekly, was being published by a group of gifted men and women, including Henry Addis and the Isaak family. In Boston Harry M. Kelly, a young and ardent comrade, had organized a co-operative printing shop which was publishing the Rebel. In Philadelphia activities were carried on by Voltairine de Cleyre, H. Brown, Perle McLeod, and other courageous advocates of our ideas. In fact, all over the United States the spirit of the Chicago martyrs had been resurrected. The voice of Spies and his comrades was finding expression in the native tongue as well as in every foreign language of the peoples in America.

     Our work had received considerable incentive through the arrival of two British anarchists, Charles W. Mowbray and John Turner. The former had come in 1894, shortly after my release from prison, and was now active in Boston. John Turner, who was the more cultivated and better informed of the two, had been invited to the States by Harry Kelly. For some reason his lectures were at first poorly attended and it became necessary for us in New York to look after the arrangements. I had met John and his sister Lizzie during my stay in London. Both of them had strongly appealed to me by reason of their warmth, geniality, and friendliness. I loved especially to talk to John; he was familiar with the social movements in England and was himself closely allied with the trade-union and co-operative elements, as well as with the Commonweal, founded by William Morris. But his best efforts were devoted to the propaganda of anarchism. John Turner's coming to America gave me an opportunity to test my ability to speak in English, as I often had to preside at his meetings.

     The free-silver campaign was at its height. The proposition for the free coinage of silver at the ratio with gold of sixteen to one had become a national issue almost overnight. It gained in strength by the sudden ascendancy of William Jennings Bryan who had stampeded the Democratic Convention by an eloquent speech and the catch phrase: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor the crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of gold." Bryan was running for the presidency: the "silver-tongued" orator had caught the fancy of the man in the street. The American liberals, who so easily fall for every new political scheme, went over to Bryan on free silver almost to a man. Even some anarchists were carried away by his slogans. One day a well-known Chicago comrade, George Schilling, arrived in New York to enlist the co-operation of the Eastern radicals. George was an ardent follower of Benjamin Tucker, the leader of the individualist school of anarchism, and a contributor to his paper, Liberty. But, unlike Tucker, he was closer to the labor movement and also more revolutionary than his teacher. The wish for a popular awakening in the United States was father to George’s belief that the free-silver issue would become a force to undermine both monopoly and the State. The vicious attacks on Bryan in the press helped his cause by leading George and many others to regard him as a martyr. The papers spoke of Bryan as a "tool in the blood-stained hands of Altgeld, the anarchist, and Eugene Debs, the revolutionist."

     I could not share the enthusiasm for Bryan, partly because I did not believe in the political machine as a means of bringing about fundamental changes, and also because there was something weak and superficial about Bryan. I had a feeling that his main aim was to get into the White House rather than "strike off the chains" from the people. I resolved to steer clear of him. I sensed his lack of sincerity and I did not trust him. For this attitude I was assailed from two different sides on the same day. First it was Schilling who urged me to join the free-silver campaign. "What are you Easterners going to do," he asked when I met him, "when the West marches in revolutionary ranks towards the East? Are you going to continue talking, or will you join forces with us?" He assured me that my name had traveled to the West and that I could be a valuable factor in the popular movement to free the masses from their despoilers. George was very optimistic in his ardor, but he failed to convince me. We parted as friends, George shaking his head over my lack of judgment about the impending revolution.

    In the evening we had a visitor, the former Burgess of Homestead, a man named John McLuckie. I remembered his determined stand during the steel strike against the importation of blacklegs and I appreciated his solidarity with the workers. I was glad to meet the large, jovial fellow, a true type of the old Jeffersonian democrat. He told me that he had been asked by Voltairine to see me about Sasha. He had gone to her to inform her that Berkman was no longer in the Western Penitentiary. He, as well as many other people in Homestead, believed that Berkman had never intended to kill Frick; he had committed the act only to arouse sympathy for the latter. The excessive sentence he had been given was merely a ruse on the part of the Pennsylvania courts to deceive the public. The Homestead workers felt sure that Alexander Berkman had been let out of prison long ago. Voltairine had given McLuckie material which proved how ridiculous his story was and had sent him to me for more proofs.

    I listened to the man, unable to conceive that anyone in his senses could believe such a thing about Sasha. He had sacrificed his youth, he had already spent five years in the penitentiary, had suffered the dungeon, solitary confinement, and brutal physical attacks. Persecution by the prison authorities had even driven him to attempt suicide. Yet he was being suspected by the very people for whom he was willing to lay down his life. It was preposterous, cruel. I stepped into my room, took Sasha’s letters, and handed them to McLuckie. "Read," I said, "and then tell me if you still believe the impossible stories you have just told me."

    He took up one of the letters from the pile, read it carefully, then scanned several others. Presently he held out his hand. "My dear, brave girl," he said, "I am sorry, I am awfully sorry, to have doubted your friend." He assured me that he now realized how wrong he and his people had been. "You can count on me to help," he added, feelingly, "in any effort you may make to get Berkman out of prison." Then he referred to Bryan, dwelling on the exceptional opportunity to assist Sasha if I would join the free-silver campaign. My activities would bring me in close contact with the prominent politicians of the Democratic Party, and they could afterwards be approached to secure a pardon. He himself would undertake to see the leaders and he was certain of success if he could assure them of my services. He pointed out that I would have no responsibilities about the business end. He would travel with me and arrange everything. Of course, I would be paid a generous salary.

    McLuckie was frank and decent, though evidently childishly ignorant of my ideas. Perhaps it was also his suggestion that I might help Sasha that make him sympathetic to me. Still, I could have nothing to do with Bryan, feeling he would use the workers merely as a stepping-stone to power.

    My visitor took no offense. He left with regrets that I was so lacking in practical sense, but he promised faithfully to enlighten his people in Homestead in regard to Berkman.

    Together with Ed and several other close friends I discussed the possible origin of the dreadful rumors about Sasha. I was sure that they had been created by the attitude of Most. I remembered that the press had widely commented on Most’s statement that Sasha had used a "toy pistol to shoot Frick up a bit." Johann Most-my life was so full I had nearly forgotten him. The bitterness his betrayal of Sasha had aroused had given way to a dull feeling of disappointment in the man who had once meant so much to me. The wound he had struck had partly healed, yet leaving behind a sensitive scar. McLuckie’s visit had torn the wounds open again.

    My encounters with Schilling and McLuckie made me aware of a large new field for activity. What I had done so far was only the first step of usefulness in our movement. I would go on a tour now, study the country and its people, come close to the pulse of American life. I would bring to the masses the message of a new social ideal. I was eager to start at once, but I determined first to become more proficient in English and to earn some money. I did not want to be dependent on the comrades or take pay for my lectures. Meanwhile I could continue my work in New York.

    I was full of enthusiasm for the future, but in proportion as my spirits rose, Ed’s interest in my aims waned. I had known for a long time that he begrudged every moment which took me away from him. I was also aware of our decided differences as far as the woman question was concerned. But outside of that, Ed had moved along with me, had always been helpful and ready to aid in my efforts. Now he became disgruntled, critical of everything I was doing. As the days passed, he grew more morose. Often on my return from a late meeting I would find him with a set face, frigidly silent, nervously swinging his leg. I yearned to come close to him, to share my thoughts and plans with him; but his reproachful look would numb me. In my room I would wait expectantly, but he would remain away and then I would hear him wearily drag himself to bed. It hurt me to the quick, for I loved him deeply. Outside of my interest in the movement and Sasha, my great passion for Ed had displaced everything else.

    I still had a very tender feeling for my erstwhile artist lover, the more so because I thought he needed me. On my return from Europe I had found him very much changed. He had risen in his profession and was earning considerable money. He remained as generous to me as in our days of poverty, having aided me financially all through my stay in Vienna and later furnishing my new apartment. Indeed, there was no change in his attitude towards me. But it did not take me long to discover that the movement had lost its former meaning for Fedya. He now lived in a different circle, and his interests were different, Art auctions absorbed him, and all his leisure he spent at sales. He had craved beauty so long that, now that he had some means, he wanted to gorge himself with it. Studios became his great passion. Every few months he would furnish one with the most exquisite things, only to discard it shortly for another, which he would decorate with new hangings, vases, canvases, carpets, and what not. All the beautiful things in our flat had come from his ateliers. I could not bear the thought of Fedya's wandering so far away from our past interests that he would not offer any more financial help to the movement. But as he had never had much sense of material values, I was not surprised to find him so extravagant. I was even concerned more about his choice of new friends, nearly all of them men who worked on newspapers. A dissipated, cynical lot they were, their main objects in life being drink and women. Unhappily they had succeeded in imbuing Fedya with the same spirit; I was grieved to see my idealistic friend going the way of so many empty in head and heart. Sasha had always felt that the social struggle would prove a mere passing phase in Fedya's life, but I had hoped that when Fedya should be drawn into other channels, they would be those of art. His drift towards meaningless and trivial pleasures, for which he was entirely too fine, was most painful. Fortunately he still felt close to us. He had great regard for Ed, and his affection for me, while no longer the same as in the past, was yet warm enough to counteract at least partly, the disintegrating influence of his new surroundings.

    He came often to our house. On one occasion he asked me to pose, this time for a pen-and-ink sketch he had promised Ed. During the sittings I thought of our common past, of our affection that had been so tender, perhaps too tender to survive the sway Ed's personality exercised over me; probably also because Fedya's love was too yielding for my turbulent nature, which could find expression only in the clashing of wills, in resistance and the surmounting of obstacles. Fedya still attracted me, but it was Ed who consumed me with intense longing, Ed who turned my blood to fire, Ed whose touch intoxicated and exalted me. The sudden change from his usual self to a disconnected and hypercritical attitude was too galling to endure. But my pride would not let me make the first step to break his silence. Fedya told me that Ed had greatly admired his sketch of me and had praised it as a splendid piece of work, expressive of much of my being. In my presence, however, Ed would not say a word about it.

    But one evening Ed's reserve broke down. You are drifting away from me! he cried excitedly. I can see that my hopes of a beautiful life with you must be given up. You have wasted a year in Vienna, you have acquired a profession only to throw it over for those stupid meetings. You have no concern about anything else; your love has no thought of me or my needs. Your interest in the movement, for which you are willing to break up our life, is nothing but vanity, nothing but your craving for applause and glory and the limelight. You are simply incapable of a deep feeling. You have never understood or appreciated the love I have given you. I have waited and waited for a change, but I see it is useless. I will not share you with anybody or anything. You will have to choose! He paced the room like a caged lion, turning from time to time to fasten his eyes on me. All that had been accumulating in him for weeks now streamed out in accusation and reproaches.

    I sat in consternation. The familiar old demand that I choose kept droning in my ears. Ed, who had been my ideal, was like the others. He would have me forswear my interests and the movement, sacrifice everything for love of him. Most had repeatedly given me the same ultimatum. I stared at him unable to speak or move, while he continued stalking about the room in uncontrolled anger. Finally he picked up his coat and hat and left.

    For hours I sat as if paralyzed; then a violent ring brought me to my feet. It was a call to a confinement case. I took the bag which I had been keeping ready for weeks and walked out with the man who had come for me.

    In a two-room flat on Houston Street, on the sixth floor of a tenement-house, I found three children asleep and the woman writhing in labor pains. There was no gas-jet, only a kerosene lamp, over which I had to heat the water. The man looked blank when I asked him for a sheet. It was Friday. His wife had washed Monday, he told me, and all the bed-linen had got dirty since. But I might use the table-cloth; it had been put on that very evening for the Sabbath. "Diapers or anything else ready for the baby?" I asked. The man did not know. The woman pointed to a bundle which consisted of a few torn shirts, a bandage, and some rags. Incredible poverty oozed from every corner.

    With the use of the table-cloth and an extra apron I had brought I prepared to receive the expected comer. It was my first private case, and the shock over Ed's outburst helped to increase my nervousness. But I steeled myself and worked on desperately. Late in the morning I helped to bring the new life into the world. A part of my own life had died the evening before.

    For a week my grief over Ed's absence was dulled by work. The care of several patients and Dr. White's operations, at which I assisted, left me little time for repining. The evenings were occupied with meetings in Newark, Paterson, and other near-by towns. But at night, alone in the flat, the scene with Ed haunted and tortured me. I knew he cared for me, but that he could leave as he did, stay away so long, and give no sign of his whereabouts made me resentful. It was impossible to reconcile myself to a love that denied the beloved the right to herself, a love that throve only at the expense of the loved one. I felt I could not submit to such a sapping emotion, but the next moment I would find myself in Ed's room, my burning face on his pillow, my heart contracting with yearning for him. At the end of two weeks my longing mastered all my resolutions; I wrote him at his place of work and begged him to return.

    He came at once. Folding me to his heart, between tears and laughter, he cried: "You are stronger than I; I have wanted you every moment, ever since I closed that door. Every day I meant to come back, but I was too cowardly. Nights I have been walking round the house like a shadow. I wanted to come in and beg you to forgive and forget. I even went to the station when I knew you had to go to Newark and Paterson. I could not bear to think of your going home alone late at night. But I was afraid of your scorn, afraid you would send me away. Yes, you are braver and stronger than I. You are more natural. Women always are. Man is such a silly, civilized creature! Woman has retained her primitive impulses and she is more real."

    We took up our common life again, but I spent less time on my public interests. Partly it was due to the numerous calls on my professional services, but more to my determination to devote myself to Ed. As the weeks passed, however, the still small voice kept on whispering that the final rupture would only temporarily be deferred. I clung desperately to Ed and his love to ward off the impending end.

    My profession of midwife was not very lucrative, only the poorest of the foreign element resorting to such services. Those who had risen in the scale of material Americanism lost their native diffidence together with many other original traits. Like the American women they, too, would be confined only by doctors. Midwifery offered a very limited scope; in emergencies one was compelled to call for the aid of a physician. Ten dollars was the highest fee; the majority of the women could not pay even that. But while my work held out no hope of worldly riches, it furnished an excellent field for experience. It put me into intimate contact with the very people my ideal strove to help and emancipate. It brought me face to face with the living conditions of the workers, about which, until then, I had talked and written mostly from theory. Their squalid surroundings, the dull and inert submission to their lot, made me realize the colossal work yet to be done to bring about the change our movement was struggling to achieve.

    Still more impressed was I by the fierce, blind struggle of the women of the poor against frequent pregnancies. Most of them lived in continual dread of conception; the great mass of the married women submitted helplessly, and when they found themselves pregnant, their alarm and worry would result in the determination to get rid of their expected offspring. It was incredible what fantastic methods despair could invent: jumping off tables, rolling on the floor, massaging the stomach, drinking nauseating concoctions, and using blunt instruments. These and similar methods were being tried, generally with great injury. It was harrowing, but it was understandable. Having a large brood of children, often many more than the weekly wage of the father could provide for, each additional child was a curse, "a curse of God," as orthodox Jewish women and Irish Catholics repeatedly told me. The men were generally more resigned, but the women cried out against Heaven for inflicting such cruelty upon them. During their labor pains some women would hurl anathema on God and man, especially on their husbands. "Take him away," one of my patients cried, "don't let the brute come near me-I'll kill him!" The tortured creature already had had eight children, four of whom had died in infancy. The remaining were sickly and undernourished, like most of the ill-born, ill-kept, and unwanted children who trailed at my feet when I was helping another poor creature into the world.

    After such confinements I would return home sick and distressed, hating the men responsible for the frightful condition of their wives and children, hating myself most of all because I did not know how to help them. I could, of course, induce an abortion. Many women called me for that purpose, even going down on their knees and begging me to help them, "for the sake of the poor little ones already here." They knew that some doctors and midwives did such things, but the price was beyond their means. I was so sympathetic; wouldn't I do something for them? They would pay in weekly installments. I tried to explain to them that it was not monetary considerations that held me back; it was concern for their life and health. I would relate the case of a woman killed by such an operation, and her children left motherless. But they preferred to die, they avowed; the city was then sure to take care of their orphans, and they would be better off.

    I could not prevail upon myself to perform the much-coveted operation. I lacked faith in my skill and I remembered my Vienna professor who had often demonstrated to us the terrible results of abortion. He held that even when such practices prove successful, they undermine the health of the patient. I would not undertake the task. It was not any moral consideration for the sanctity of life; a life unwanted and forced into abject poverty did not seem sacred to me. But my interests embraced the entire social problem, not merely a single aspect of it, and I would not jeopardize my freedom for that one part of the human struggle. I refused to perform abortions and I knew no methods to prevent conception.

    I spoke to some physicians about the matter. Dr. White, a conservative, said: "The poor have only themselves to blame; they indulge their appetites too much." Dr. Julius Hoffmann thought that children were the only joy the poor had. Dr. Solotaroff held out the hope of great changes in the near future when woman would become more intelligent and independent. "When she uses her brains more," he would tell me, "her procreative organs will function less." It seemed more convincing than the arguments of the other medicos, though no more comforting; nor was it of any practical help. Now that I had learned that women and children carried the heaviest burden of our ruthless economic system, I saw that it was mockery to expect them to wait until the social revolution arrives in order to right injustice. I sought some immediate solution for their purgatory, but I could find nothing of any use.

    My home life was anything but harmonious, though externally all seemed smooth. Ed was apparently calm and contented again, but I felt cramped and nervous. If I attended a meeting and was detained later than expected, it would make me uneasy and I would hasten home in perturbation. Often I refused invitations to lecture because I sensed Ed's disapproval. Where I could not decline, I worked for weeks over my subject, my thoughts dwelling on Ed rather than on the matter in hand. I would wonder how this point or that argument might appeal to him and whether he would approve. Yet I never could get myself to read him my notes, and if he attended my meetings, his presence made me self-conscious, for I knew that he had no faith in my work. It served to weaken my faith in myself. I developed strange nervous attacks. Without preliminary warning I would fall to the ground as if knocked down by a heavy blow. I did not lose consciousness, being able to see and understand what was going on around me, but I was not able to utter a word. My chest felt convulsed, my throat compressed; I had an agonizing pain in my legs as if the muscles were being pulled asunder. This condition would last from ten minutes to an hour and leave me utterly exhausted. Solotaroff, failing to diagnose the trouble, took me to a specialist, who proved no wiser. Dr. White's examination also gave no results. Some physicians said it was hysteria, others an inverted womb. I knew the latter was the real cause, but I would not consent to an operation. More and more I had become convinced that my life would never know harmony in love for very long, that strife and not peace would be my lot. In such a life there was no room for a child.

    From various parts of the country came requests for a series of lectures. I was very eager to go, but I lacked the courage to broach the matter to Ed. I knew he would not consent, and his refusal would most likely bring us nearer to a violent separation. My physicians had strongly advised a rest and change of scene, and now Ed surprised me by insisting that I ought to go away. "Your health is more important than any other consideration," he said, "but first you must drop the silly notion that you have to earn your own living." He was making enough for both now, and it would make him happy if I would give up my nursing and stop making myself ill by helping hapless brats into the world. He welcomed the opportunity to take care of me, to afford me leisure and recuperation. Later on, he said, I should be in condition to go on a tour. He realized how much I wanted it and he knew what an effort it was to me to play the devoted wife. He enjoyed the home I had made so beautiful for him, he went on, but he could see that I was not contented. He was sure a change would do me good, give me back my old spirit, and bring me back to him.

    The weeks that followed were happy and peaceful. We were much together, making frequent trips to the country, attending concerts and operas. We took up reading together again, and Ed helped me to understand Racine, Corneille, Molière. He cared only for the classics; Zola and his contemporaries were repellent to him. But when alone during the day I indulged in the more modern literature, besides planning a number of lectures for my forthcoming tour.

    In the midst of my preparations came the news of tortures in the Spanish prison of Montjuich. Three hundred men and women, mostly trade-unionists, with a sprinkling of anarchists, had been arrested in 1896 as a result of a bomb explosion in Barcelona during a religious procession. The entire world was appalled by the resurrection of the Inquisition, by prisoners being kept for days without food or water, flogged, and burned with hot irons. One even had had his tongue cut out. The fiendish methods were used to extort confessions from the unfortunates. Several went mad and in their delirium implicated their innocent comrades, who were immediately condemned to death. The person responsible for these horrors was the Prime Minister of Spain, Canovas del Castillo. Liberal-minded papers in Europe, like the Frankfurter Zeitung and the Paris Intransigeant, were arousing public sentiment against the nineteenth-century Inquisition. Advanced members of the House of Commons, the Reichstag, and the Chamber of Deputies were calling for action to stay the hand of Canovas. Only America remained dumb. Excepting the radical publications, the press maintained a conspiracy of silence. Together with my friends I strongly felt the necessity of breaking through that wall. In conference with Ed, Justus, John Edelman, and Harry Kelly, who had come from Boston, and with the co-operation of Italian and Spanish anarchists, we decided to start our campaign with a large mass meeting. A demonstration in front of the Spanish Consulate in New York was to follow. As soon as our efforts became public, the reactionary papers began to urge the authorities to stop "Red Emma," that term having stuck to me since the Union Square meeting. On the night of our gathering the police appeared in full force, crowding even the platform so that the speakers could hardly make a gesture without touching an officer. When my turn came to speak, I gave a detailed account of the methods that were being used in Montjuich, and called for a protest against the Spanish horrors.

    The pent-up emotions of the audience, aroused to a high pitch, broke into thunderous applause. Before it fully subsided, a voice from the gallery called out: "Miss Goldman, don't you think someone of the Spanish Embassy in Washington or the Legation in New York ought to be killed in revenge for the conditions you have just described?" I felt intuitively that my questioner must be a detective, attempting to trap me. There was a movement among the police near me as if preparing to lay hands on me. The audience was hushed in tense expectation. For a moment I paused; then I replied calmly and deliberately: "No, I do not think any one of the Spanish representatives in America is important enough to be killed, but if I were in Spain now, I would kill Canovas del Castillo."

    Several weeks later came the news that Canovas del Castillo had been shot dead by an anarchist whose name was Angiolillo. At once the New York papers started a veritable hunt for the leading anarchists to secure their opinions of the man and his deed. Reporters pestered me day and night for interviews. Did I know the man? Had I been in correspondence with him? Had I suggested to him that Canovas be killed? I had to disappoint them. I did not know Angiolillo and had never corresponded with him. All I knew was that he had acted while the rest of us had only talked about the fearful outrages.

    We learned that Angiolillo had lived in London and that he was known among our friends as a sensitive young man, an ardent student, a lover of music and books, poetry being his passion. The Montjuich tortures had haunted him and he decided to kill Canovas. He went to Spain, expecting to find the Prime Minister in Parliament, but he learned that Canovas was recuperating from his "labors of State" at Santa Agueda, a fashionable summer resort. Angiolillo journeyed there. He met Canovas almost immediately, but the man was accompanied by his wife and two children. "I could have killed him then," Angiolillo said in court, "but I would not risk the lives of the innocent woman and children. It was Canovas I wanted; he alone was responsible for the crimes of Montjuich." He then visited the Castillo villa, introducing himself as the representative of a conservative Italian paper. When he was face to face with the Prime Minister, he shot him dead. Mme Canovas ran in at that moment and hit Angiolillo full in the face. "I did not mean to kill your husband," Angiolillo apologized to her, "I aimed only at the official responsible for the Montjuich tortures."

    The Attentat of Angiolillo and his frightful death vividly recalled to me the period of July 1892. Sasha's Calvary had now lasted five years. How close I had come to sharing a similar fate!-the lack of a paltry fifty dollars had prevented my accompanying Sasha to Pittsburgh-but can one estimate the spiritual travail and suffering the experience involved? Yet the price was worth the lesson I had gained from Sasha's deed. Since then I had ceased to regard political acts, as some other revolutionists did, from a merely utilitarian standpoint or from the view of their propagandistic value. The inner forces that compel an idealist to acts of violence, often involving the destruction of his own life, had come to mean much more to me. I felt certain now that behind every political deed of that nature was an impressionable, highly sensitized personality and a gentle spirit. Such beings cannot go on living complacently in the sight of great human misery and wrong. Their reactions to the cruelty and injustice of the world must inevitably express themselves in some violent act, in supreme rending of their tortured soul.

    I had spoken in Providence a number of times without the least trouble. Rhode Island was still one of the few States to maintain the old tradition of unabridged freedom of speech. Two of our open-air gatherings, attended by thousands, went off well. But the police had evidently decided to suppress our last meeting. Arriving with several friends at the square where the assembly was to take place, we found a member of the Socialist Labor Party talking, and, not wishing to interfere with him, we set up our box farther away. My good comrade John H. Cook, a very active worker, opened the meeting, and I began to speak. Just then a policeman came running towards us, shouting: "Stop your jabbering! Stop it this minute or I'll pull you off the box!" I went on talking. Someone called out: "Don't mind the bully-go right on!" The policeman came up, puffing heavily. When he got his breath he snarled, "Say, you, are you deaf? Didn't I tell you to stop? What d'you mean not obeying the law?" "Are you the law?" I retorted: "I thought it is your duty to maintain the law, not to break it. Don't you know the law in this State gives me the right of free speech?" "The hell it does," he replied, "I'm the law." The audience began hooting and jeering. The officer started to pull me off the improvised platform. The crowd looked threatening and began closing in on him. He blew his whistle. A patrol wagon dashed up to the square, and several policemen broke through the crowd with their clubs swinging. The officer, still holding on to me, shouted: "Drive those damn anarchists back so I can get this woman. She's under arrest." I was led to the patrol wagon and literally thrown into it.

    At the police station I demanded to know by what right I had been interfered with. "Because you're Emma Goldman," the sergeant at the desk replied. "Anarchists have no rights in this community, see?" He ordered me locked up for the night.

    It was the first time since 1893 that I had been arrested, but, constantly expecting to fall into the clutches of the law, I had made it a practice to carry a book with me when going to meetings. I wrapped my skirts around me, climbed up on the board placed for a bed in my cell, pressed close to the barred door, through which shimmered a light, and started to read. Presently I became aware of someone moaning in the adjoining cell. "What is it?" I called in a whisper; "are you ill?" A woman's voice replied between sobs: "My children, my motherless children! Who is going to take care of them now? My sick husband, what'll become of him?" Her weeping became louder. "Say, you drunken lout, stop that squealing!" a matron shouted from somewhere. The crying was checked, and I heard the woman walking up and down her cell like a caged animal. When she quieted down a little I asked her to tell me her troubles; perhaps I could be of help. I learned that she was the mother of six children, the eldest fourteen, the baby only a year old. Her husband had been ill for ten months, unable to work, and in her despair she had helped herself to a loaf of bread and a can of milk from the grocery store in which she had once worked. She was caught in the act and turned over to the police. She begged to be let off for the night in order not to frighten her family, but the officer insisted on her going with him, not even giving her a chance to send a message to her home. She was brought to the station house after the evening meal. The matron told her she could order some food if she had the price. The woman had not eaten all day; she was faint with hunger and ill with anxiety; but she had no money.

    I rapped for the matron and asked her to send out for supper for me. In less than fifteen minutes she returned with a tray of ham and eggs, hot potatoes, bread, butter, and a large pot of coffee. I had given her a two-dollar bill, and she handed back fifteen cents. "You have fancy prices here," I said. "Sure thing, kid, did you think this was a charity joint?" Seeing that she was in a good humor, I requested her to pass part of the meal to my neighbor. She did, but not without commenting: "You're a regular fool to waste such a feed on a common sneak-thief."

    The next morning I was taken, together with my neighbor and other unfortunates, before a magistrate. I was held over under bond, and as the amount could not be raised immediately I was returned to the station-house. At one o'clock in the afternoon I was again called for, this time to see the Mayor. That individual, no less bulky and bloated than the policeman, informed me that if I would promise under oath never to return to Providence he would let me go. "That's nice of you, Mayor," I replied; "but inasmuch as you have no case against me, your offer isn't quite so generous as it appears, is it?" I told him that I would make no promises whatever, but that if it would relieve his mind, I could tell him that I was about to start on a lecture tour to California. "It may take three months or more, I don't know. But I do know that you and your city cannot do without me much longer than that, so I am determined to come back." The Mayor and his flunkies roared, and I was released.

    On my arrival in Boston I was shocked by a report in the local papers of the shooting at Hazleton, Pennsylvania, of twenty-one strikers. The men were miners on their way to Latimer, in the same State, to induce the workers there to join the strike. The Sheriff had met them on the public road and would not allow them to go on. He commanded them to return to Hazleton, and when they refused, he and his posse opened fire.

    The papers stated that the Sheriff had acted in self-defense; the mob had been threatening. Yet there was not one casualty among the posse, while twenty-one working-men had been mowed down and a number of others wounded. It was evident from the report that the men had gone out with empty hands, without any intention of offering resistance. Everywhere workers were slain, everywhere the same butchery! Montjuich, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Hazleton - the few for ever outraging and crushing the many. The masses were the millions, yet how weak! To awaken them from their stupor, to make them conscious of their power - that is the great need. Soon, I told myself, I should be able to reach them throughout America. With a tongue of fire I would rouse them to a realization of their dependence and indignity! Glowingly I visioned my first great tour and the opportunities it would offer me to plead our Cause. But presently my reverie was disturbed by the thought of Ed. Our common life-what would become of it? Why could it not go hand in hand with my work? My giving to humanity would only increase my own need, would make me love and want Ed more. He would, he must, understand; he had himself suggested my going away for a time. The image of Ed filled me with warmth, but my heart fluttered with apprehension.

    I had been away from Ed only two weeks, but my longing for him was more intense than it had been on my return from Europe. I could hardly contain myself until the train came to a stop in the Grand Central Station, where he met me. At home everything seemed new, more beautiful and enticing. Ed’s endearing words sounded like music in my ears. Sheltered and protected from the strife and conflict outside, I clung to him and basked in the sunshine of our home. My eagerness to go on a long tour paled under the fascination of my lover. A month of joy and abandon followed, but my dream was soon to suffer a painful awakening. It was caused by Nietzsche. Ever since my return from Vienna I had been hoping that Ed would read my books. I had asked him to do so and he promised he would when he had more time. It made me very sad to find Ed so indifferent to the new literary forces in the world. One evening we were gathered at Justus’s place at a farewell party. James Huneker was present and a young friend of ours, P. Yelineck, a talented painter. They began discussing Nietzsche. I took part, expressing my enthusiasm over the great poet-philosopher and dwelling on the impression of his works on me. Huneker was surprised. " I did not know you were interested in anything outside of propaganda, " he remarked. " That is because you don't know anything about anarchism," I replied, " else you would understand that it embraces every phase of life and effort and that it undermines the old, outlived values." Yelineck asserted that he was an anarchist because he was an artist; all creative people must be anarchists, he held, because they need scope and freedom for their expression. Hunker insisted that art has nothing to do with any ism. "Nietzsche himself is the proof of it," he argued; "he is an aristocrat, his ideal is the superman because he has no sympathy with or faith in the common herd." I pointed out that Nietzsche was not a social theorist but a poet, a rebel and innovator. His aristocracy was neither of birth nor of purse; it was of the spirit. In that respect Nietzsche was an anarchist, and all true anarchists were aristocrats, I said. Then Ed spoke. His voice sounded cold and constrained, and I sensed the tempest behind it. "Nietzsche is a fool," he said, " a man with a diseased mind. He was doomed from birth to the idiocy which finally overtook him. He will be forgotten in less than a decade, and so will all those other pseudo-moderns. They are contortionists in comparison with the truly great of the past." "But you haven't read Nietzsche!" I objected heatedly; "how can you talk about him?" "Oh, yes, I have," he retorted, " I read long ago all the silly books you brought from abroad." I was dumbfounded. Huneker and Yelineck turned on Ed, but my hurt was too great to continue the discussion. He had known how I had wanted him to share my books, how I had hoped and waited for him to recognize their value and significance. How could he have kept me in suspense, how could he have remained silent after he had read them? Of course, he had a right to his opinion; that I believed implicitly. It was not his differing from me that had stabbed me to the quick; it was his scorn and ridicule of what had come to mean so much to me. Huneker, Yelineck, strangers in a measure, welcomed my appreciation of the new spirit, while my own lover made me appear silly, childish, incapable of judgment. I wanted to run away from Justus’s place, to be alone; but I checked myself. I could not bear an open conflict with Ed. Late at night, when we returned home, he said to me: "Lets not spoil our beautiful three months; Nietzsche is not worth it." I felt wounded to the heart. "It isn't Nietzsche, it is you-you," I cried excitedly. "Under the pretext of a great love you have done your utmost to chain me to you, to rob me of all that is more precious to me than life. You are not content with binding my body, you want also to bind my spirit! First the movement and my friends- now its the books I love. You want to tear me away from them. You're rooted in the old. Very well, remain there! But don't imagine you will hold me to it. You are not going to clip my wings, you shan't stop my flight. I'll free myself even if it means tearing you out of my heart." He stood leaning against the door of his room, his eyes closed, giving no sigh of having heard a word I said. But I no longer cared. I stepped into my own room, my heart cold and empty. The last few days were outwardly calm, even friendly, Ed helping me to prepare for my departure. At the station he embraced me. I knew he wanted to say something, but he remained silent. I, too, could not speak. When the train pulled out and Ed’s form receded, I realized that our life would never be the same any more. My love had received too violent a shock. It was now like a cracked bell; never again would it ring the same clear, joyous song.

From : Anarchy Archives


January 23, 2017 15:21:30 :
Volume 1, Chapter 15 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 23, 2017 13:21:52 :
Volume 1, Chapter 15 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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