Volume 1, Chapter 25

Revolt Library >> Anarchism >> Living My Life >> Volume 00001, Chapter 00025

Text


On : of 0 Words (Requires Chrome)

Volume 1, Chapter 25

Living My Life

by Emma Goldman

Volume one

New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc.,1931.


Chapter 25


IT WAS BITTER HARD TO FACE LIFE ANEW. IN THE STRESS OF THE past weeks I had forgotten that I should again have to take up the struggle for existence. It was doubly imperative; I needed forgetfulness. Our movement had lost its appeal for me; many of its adherents filled me with loathing. They had been flaunting anarchism like a red cloth before a bull, but they ran to cover at his first charge. I could no longer work with them. Still more harrowing was the gnawing doubt of the values I had so fervently believed in. No, I could not continue in the movement. I must first take stock of my own self. Intensive work in my profession, I felt, was the only refuge. It would fill the void and make me forget.

    I had lost my identity; I had assumed a fictitious name, for no landlord was willing to lodge me, and most of my erstwhile comrades and friends proved equally brave. The situation revived memories of 1892, of the nights spent in Tompkins Square, or riding in horsecars to Harlem and back to the Battery, and later among the girls in the house on Fourth Street. I had endured that life rather than make the concession of changing my name. It was weak and inconsistent, I had then thought, to give in to popular prejudices. Some of those who now denied Czolgosz had praised me for joining the homeless brigade rather than compromise. All this had no meaning for me any longer. The struggle and disappointment of the past twelve years had taught me that consistency is only skin-deep in most people. As if it mattered what name you took, as long as you kept your integrity. Indeed, I would take another name, the most common and inoffensive I could think of. I became Miss E. G. Smith.

    I met with no further objections from landlords. I rented a flat on First Street; Yegor and his chum Dan moved in with me, our furniture purchased on the installment plan. Thereupon I went out to call on my physicians, to apprize them of the fact that henceforth they could recommend me as E. G. Smith.

    By the end of the day's tramp I gained one more proof that I had become a pariah. Several doctors I visited, men who had known me for years and who had always been entirely satisfied with my work as a nurse, were indignant that I had dared to call on them. Did I want to get their names in the papers or cause them trouble with the police? I was being shadowed by the authorities; how could I expect them to recommend me? Dr. White was more humane. He had never credited the stories connecting me with Czolgosz, he assured me; he was certain that I was incapable of murder. Still he could not employ me in his office. "Smith is an ordinary enough name," he said, "but how long do you suppose it will be before you are discovered? I cannot take the chance; it would mean my ruin." He was anxious, however, to help me in some other manner, perhaps with money. I thanked him and went my way.

    I visited Dr. Julius Hoffmann and Dr. Solotaroff. They at least had not changed towards me and they were eager to recommend cases. Unfortunately my good friend Solotaroff had fallen ill with an affection of the heart and was compelled to give up his outside practice. His office patients rarely needed nurses, but he promised to speak to other East Side doctors. Dear, faithful comrade, since I had climbed those six flights of stairs to his flat on my first arrival in New York twelve years previously, he had never failed me once.

    It was evident my prospects were not very bright. I knew it involved a desperate struggle to win new ground, but I was determined to start all over again. I would not submit passively to the forces that were trying to crush me. "I must, I will, go on, for the sake of Sasha and of my brother, who need me," I told myself.

    Sasha! I had not heard from him for nearly two months, and I also had been unable to write him. While under arrest, I could not express myself freely, and the last month had been too dreary and depressing. I was sure that of all people my dear Sasha would understand the social meaning of the Buffalo shot, and that he would appreciate the boy's integrity. Dear Sasha! Since the unexpected commutation of his prison term his spirit had grown buoyant. "Only five years more," he had written in his last letter; "just think, dear friend, only five years more!" To see him free at last, resurrected; what were all my hardships compared with that moment? In that hope I plodded on. Occasionally I was called to a case; at other times I had orders for dresses.

    I seldom went out. We could not afford music or theaters, and I dreaded to appear at public meetings. The last one, shortly after my return from Chicago, had nearly ended in a riot. I had gone to hear my old friend Ernest Crosby speak at the Manhattan Liberal Club. I had attended its weekly meetings since 1894, often participated in the discussions, and was known by everybody. The moment I entered the hall this time, I sensed an atmosphere of antagonism. Except for Crosby and several others, the audience seemed to resent my presence. At the close of the lecture, as the people were filing out of the hall, a man called out: "Emma Goldman, you are a murderess, and fifty million people know it!" In a moment I found myself surrounded by an excited crowd, crying: "You're a murderess!" Some voices were raised in my defense, but they were drowned in the general clamor. A clash was imminent. I got up on a chair and shouted: "You say fifty million people know that Emma Goldman is a murderess. The population of the United States being considerably more than that, there must be a great number willing to inform themselves before making irresponsible accusations. It is a tragedy to have a fool in the family, but to have fifty million maniacs in a nation is a calamity indeed. As good Americans you should refuse to swell their number."

    Someone laughed, others followed, and soon the audience was in good humor again. But I left sick with disgust, determined to stay away from meetings, even from people. I saw only the few friends that came to our house, and occasionally I visited Justus.

    Justus had been opposed to my coming to New York. Even now he feared for my safety; I was in danger of being kidnapped and taken to Buffalo, he thought, and he strongly urged a body-guard for me. It was good to see him so concerned, and I sought to humor him. His old friends, among them Ed and Claus, often gathered in his place to cheer him. We all knew that Death was daily creeping nearer and that before long he would claim his toll.

    Early one morning Ed called to tell me that the end had come. I was asked to be one of the speakers at the funeral of Justus, but I felt compelled to refuse. I knew I could not express in words what he had meant in my life. Champion of freedom, sponsor of labor's cause, pleader for joy in life, Justus had a surpassing capacity for friendship, a veritable genius for responding generously and beautifully. He had always been reticent about his own great life and work. For me to sing his praises in the market-place would have been a breach of faith. The vast throng of people from every rank that followed the remains to the crematorium testified to the deep affection and high regard Justus had inspired in those who knew him.

    The loss of Justus increased the dullness of my life. The small circle of friends who used to meet at his place was now scattered; more and more I withdrew into my own four walls. The struggle for the necessities of existence became more severe. Solotaroff, ill again, could not help me with employment; Dr. Hoffmann was out of the city. I was again compelled to take piece-work from the factory. I had advanced in the trade; I was sewing gaudy silk morning gowns now. The many ruffles, ribbons, and laces required painstaking effort, affecting my lacerated nerves until I felt like screaming. The one bright spot in the drabness that was now my life was my dear brother and his chum Dan.

    Yegor had brought him to me when I was still living in my little room on Clinton Street. He had attracted me from the first, and I knew that he was also strongly drawn to me. I was thirty-two, while he only nineteen, naïve and unspoiled. He had laughed at my misgivings over the difference in our ages; he did not care for young girls, he said; they were generally stupid and could give him nothing. I was younger than they, he thought, and much wiser. He wanted me more than anyone else.

    His pleading voice had been like music to me; yet I had struggled against it. One of my reasons for going on tour in May had been the hope of escaping my growing affection for the boy. In July, when we all met in Rochester, the storm I had repressed so long swept over me and engulfed us both. Then came the Buffalo tragedy and the horrors in its wake. They stifled the mainsprings of my being. Love seemed a farce in a world of hate. Since we had moved into our little flat, we were thrown together a great deal, and love again raised its insistent voice. I responded. It made me forget the other calls --- of my ideal, my faith, my work. The thought of a lecture or meeting had become repugnant to me. Even concerts and theaters had lost their attraction because of my fear, grown almost to an obsession, of meeting people or being recognized. Dejection was upon me, the feeling that my existence had lost its meaning and was bereft of content.

    Life dragged on with its daily cares and worries. By far the greatest of them was Sasha's reported condition. Friends in Pittsburgh had written that he was again being persecuted by the prison authorities, and that his health was breaking down. At last, on December 31, a letter arrived from him. No greater New Year's gift could have come to me. Yegor knew that I liked to be alone on such occasions, and he thoughtfully tiptoed out of the room.

    I pressed my lips to the precious envelope, opening it with trembling fingers. It was a long sub rosa letter, dated December 20, and written on several slips of paper in the very small script Sasha had acquired, each word standing out clear and distinct.

    "I know how your visit and my strange behavior must have affected you," he wrote. " The sight of your face after all these years completely unnerved me. I could not think, I could not speak. It was as if all my dreams of freedom, the whole world of the living, were concentrated in the shiny little trinket that was dangling from your watch-chain. I couldn't take my eyes off it, I couldn't keep my hand from playing with it. It absorbed my whole being. And all the time I felt how nervous you were at my silence, and I couldn't utter a word."

    The frightful months since my visit to Sasha had obscured the poignancy of my disappointment at that time. His lines again revived it. But his letter showed how closely he had followed the events. "If the press mirrored the sentiments of the people," he continued, the nation must have suddenly relapsed into cannibalism. There were moments when I was in mortal dread for your very life, and for the safety of the other arrested comrades. . . . Your attitude of proud self-respect and your admirable self-control contributed much to the fortunate outcome. I was especially moved by your remark that you would faithfully nurse the wounded man, if he required your services, but that the poor boy, condemned and deserted by all, needed and deserved your sympathy and aid more than the President. More strikingly than your letters, that remark discovered to me the great change wrought in us by the ripening years. Yes, in us, in both, for my heart echoed your beautiful sentiment. How impossible such a thought would have been to us in the days of a decade ago! We should have considered it treason to the spirit of revolution; it would have outraged all our traditions even to admit the humanity of an official representative of capitalism. Is it not significant that we two --- you living in the very heart of anarchist thought and activity, and I in the atmosphere of absolute suppression and isolation --- should have arrived at the same evolutionary point after ten years of divergent paths?"

    The dear, faithful pal --- how big and brave it was of him so frankly to admit the change! As I read on I grew even more astounded at the amount of knowledge Sasha had acquired since his imprisonment. Works of science, philosophy, economics, even metaphysics --- he had evidently read a great many of them, critically studied and digested them. His letter stirred a hundred memories of the past, of our common life, our love, our work. I was lost in recollections; time and space disappeared; the intervening years became blotted out, and I relived the past. My hands caressed the letter, my eyes dreamily wandering over the lines. Then the word "Leon" fastened my gaze, and I continued to read:

    "I have read of the beautiful personality of the youth, of his inability to adapt himself to brutal conditions, and of the rebellion of his soul. It throws a significant light upon the causes of the Attentat. Indeed, it is at once the greatest tragedy of martyrdom and the most terrible indictment of society that it forces the noblest men and women to shed human blood, though their souls shrink from it. The more imperative it is that drastic methods of this character be resorted to only as a last extremity. To prove of value they must be motived by social rather than individual necessity and be aimed against a direct and immediate enemy of the people. The significance of such a deed is understood by the popular mind, and in that alone lies the propagandistic, educational import of an Attentat, except if it is exclusively an act of terrorism."

    The letter dropped from my hand. What could Sasha mean? Did he imply that McKinley was not "an immediate enemy of the people"? Not a subject for an Attentat of "propagandistic, educational import"? I was bewildered. Had I read right? There was still another passage: "I do not believe that Leon's deed was terroristic, and I doubt whether it was educational, because the social necessity for its performance was not manifest. That you may not misunderstand, I repeat: as an expression of personal revolt it was inevitable, and in itself an indictment of existing conditions. But the background of social necessity was lacking, and therefore the value of the act was to a great extent nullified."

    The letter fell to the floor, leaving me in a daze. A strange, dry voice screamed out: "Yegor! Yegor!"

    My brother ran in. "What has happened, dear? You're all trembling. What's the matter?" he cried in alarm. "The letter!" I whispered hoarsely. "Read it; tell me if I've gone mad." "A beautiful letter," I heard him say, "a human document, though Sasha does not see social necessity in Czolgosz's act."

    "But how can Sasha," I cried in desperation, "he of all people in the world --- himself misunderstood and repudiated by the very workers he had wanted to help --- how can he misunderstand so?"

    Yegor tried to soothe me, to explain what Sasha had meant by "the necessary social background." Picking up another slip of the letter, he began reading to me:

    "The scheme of political subjection is subtle in America. Though McKinley was the chief representative of our modern slavery, he could not be considered in the light of a direct and immediate enemy of the people. In an absolutism the autocrat is visible and tangible. The real despotism of republican institutions is far deeper, more insidious because it rests on the popular delusion of self-government and independence. That is the source of democratic tyranny, and as such it cannot be reached with a bullet. In modern capitalism economic exploitation rather than political oppression is the real enemy of the people. Politics is but its handmaid. Hence the battle is to be waged in the economic rather than the political field. It is therefore that I regard my own act as far more significant and educational than Leon's. It was directed against a tangible, real oppressor, visualized by the people."

     Suddenly a thought struck me. Why, Sasha is using the same arguments against Leon that Johann Most had urged against Sasha. Most had proclaimed the futility of individual acts of violence in a country devoid of proletarian consciousness and he had pointed out that the American worker did not understand the motives of such deeds. No less than I had Sasha then considered Most a traitor to our cause as well as towards himself. I had fought Most bitterly for it --- Most, who had been my teacher, my great inspiration. And now Sasha, still believing in acts of violence, was denying "social necessity" to Leon's deed.

    The farce of it --- the cruel, senseless farce! I felt as if I had lost Sasha --- I broke down in uncontrollable sobbing.

    In the evening Ed came for me. We had agreed several days previously to celebrate the New Year together, but I felt too crushed to go. Yegor pleaded with me, saying it would help to distract me. But I was shaken to the roots. When the New Year came, I lay ill in bed.

    Dr. Hoffmann was again treating Mrs. Spenser and I was called to nurse her. The work compelled me to take life up once more. I followed my daily routine almost unconsciously, out of habit, my mind brooding on Sasha. It was peculiar self-deception on his part, I kept on saying to myself, to believe that his act had been more valuable than Leon's. Had the years of solitary confinement and suffering led him to think his act had been better understood by the people than Czolgosz's was? Perhaps it had served him as a prop to lean on during his terrible prison years. It was that, no doubt, that had kept him alive. Yet it seemed incredible that a man of his clarity and judgment should be so blind to the value of Leon's political act.

    I wrote Sasha several times pointing out that anarchism does not direct its forces against economic injustices only, but that it includes the political as well. His replies only emphasized the wide difference in our view-points. They increased my misery and made me realize the futility of continuing the discussion. In despair I stopped writing.

    After the death of McKinley the campaign against anarchism and its adherents continued with increased venom. The press, the pulpit, and other public mouthpieces were frantically vying with each other in their fury against the common enemy. Most ferocious was Theodore Roosevelt, the new-fledged President of the United States. As Vise President he succeeded McKinley to the presidential throne. The irony of fate had, by the hand of Czolgosz, paved the way to power for the hero of San Juan. In gratitude for that involuntary service Roosevelt turned savage. His message to Congress, intended largely to strike at anarchism, was in reality a death-blow to social and political freedom in the United States.

    Anti-anarchist bills followed each other in quick succession, their congressional sponsors busy inventing new methods for the extermination of anarchists. Senator Hawley evidently did not consider his professional wisdom sufficient to slay the anarchist dragon. He declared publicly that he would give a thousand dollars to get a shot at an anarchist. It was a cheap offer considering the price Czolgosz had paid for his shot.

    In my bitterness I felt that the American radicals who had shown the white feather when courage and daring were so needed were mainly responsible for the developments. No wonder the reactionaries so brazenly clamored for despotic measures. They saw themselves complete masters of the situation in the country, with hardly any organized opposition. The Criminal Anarchy law, rushed through the New York legislature, and a similar statute in New Jersey, helped to strengthen my conviction that our movement in the United States was paying dearly for its inconsistencies.

    Signs of an awakening in our ranks gradually began to manifest themselves; voices were being raised against the impending danger to American liberties. But I had the feeling that the psychological moment had been neglected; nothing could be done to stem the tide of reaction. At the same time I could not reconcile myself to the fearful situation. My indignation was roused by the mad pack howling for our lives. Yet I remained benumbed and inert, unable to do anything except torment myself with everlasting whys and wherefors.

    In the midst of the harassing situation we were ordered out of our flat, the landlord having somehow learned my identity. With great difficulty we found quarters in the very heart of the ghetto, on Market Street, on the fifth floor of a congested tenement. East Side landlords were used to having every kind of radical as their tenants. Moreover, the new place was cheaper and had the advantage of light rooms. It was fatiguing to climb so many flights of stairs a score of times a day, but it was preferable to having heavy-footed tenants over our heads. Orthodox Jews take Jehovah literally, especially his command to multiply. There was not a family in the house with fewer than five children, and some had eight or ten. Notwithstanding my love for children, I could not have remained long in the flat with the constant tramp of little feet over my head.

    My good friend Solotaroff succeeded in inducing several East Side doctors to give me employment. Their patients, Jews and Italians, were mostly from the poorest families, their living-quarters consisting generally of two or three rooms for six or more people. Their incomes averaged about fifteen dollars a week, and the trained nurse was paid four dollars a day. For them nurses were luxuries indulged only in very serious illness. Nursing under such conditions was not only difficult, but extremely painful. I was pledged to keep up the standard of pay in my profession. I could not give my services for a lower price, and therefore had to find other ways of helping those poor people than by merely taking care of their sick.

    I was mostly on night duty because few nurses were willing to take night cases, while I preferred them. The presence of relatives and their constant interference, much talking and weeping, and, above all, their horror of fresh air made day work most trying for me. "You wicked one!" an old lady once berated me for opening a window in the sick-room; "do you want to kill my child?" At night I had a free hand to give my patients the attention they needed. With the help of a book and a large pot of coffee, brewed by myself, the night hours passed quickly.

    While I never refused any case, whatever the nature of the disease, I preferred to nurse children; they are so pathetically helpless when ill; they respond so gratefully to patience and kindness.

    Working under an assumed name brought me many amusing experiences. Once a young socialist I knew called me to nurse his mother. She had double pneumonia, he informed me; she was a large woman and very hard to handle. About to accompany the man, I noticed that he was fidgety, as if he wanted to say something, but did not know how. "What is it?" I asked. His mother had been violently antagonistic to me during the McKinley panic, he confided to me; she had repeatedly said: "If I had that woman, I would soak her in kerosene and burn her alive." He wanted me to know it before taking the case. "It was generous of your mother," I said, "but in her present condition she will hardly be able to carry out her threat." My young socialist was very much impressed.

    After three weeks of struggle our patient succeeded in cheating the black-hooded gentleman. She had sufficiently recovered to do without a night nurse, and I was preparing to leave. To my surprise the young socialist announced that his mother wanted the day nurse discharged and me in her place. "Miss Smith is a wonderful nurse," she had told her son. "Do you know who she really is?" he asked: "it's the terrible Emma Goldman!" "My God," his mother cried, "I hope you have not told her what I said about her." The boy admitted that he had. "And she nursed me so fine? Oi, a wonderful nurse!"

    With the advent of warm weather the number of my patients decreased. I did not regret it; I was very tired and needed a rest. I wanted more time for reading and leisure to be with Dan, Yegor, and Ed. A sweet and harmonious camaraderie with the latter had replaced our turbulent emotions of the past. Our separation had had a profound effect on Ed, made him more tolerant and mellow, more understanding. In his little girl and in much reading he found solace. Our intellectual companionship had never before been so stimulating and enjoyable.

    I had everything a human being could wish, yet there was chaos in my mind, an ever-growing craving in my heart. I longed to take up the old struggle, to make my life count for more than a mere round of personal interests. But how get back --- where begin again? It seemed to me that I had burned the bridges behind me, that I could never again span the gap that had grown so wide since the dreadful Buffalo days.

    One morning the young English anarchist William McQueen called on me. I had met him on my first tour through England in 1895; he had arranged my meetings in Leeds and had been my host. I had also met him several times since his arrival in America. He now came to invite me to speak in Paterson in behalf of the striking silk-weavers. McQueen and the Austrian anarchist Rudolph Grossman were going to address a mass meeting, and the strikers had asked me to come.

    It was the first time since the Czolgosz tragedy that I had been approached by workers, or even by my own comrades. I seized upon the chance as a desert wanderer falls upon a well.

    The night before the meeting I had a nightmare, waking up with screams that brought Yegor to my bed. In a cold sweat and shaking in every nerve I related to my brother all I could remember of my oppressive dream.

    I dreamed I was in Paterson. The large hall was crowded, myself on the platform. I stepped to the edge and began to speak. I seemed to be carried along on the human sea at my feet. The waves rose and fell in tune with the inflections of my voice. Then they rushed away from me, faster and faster, carrying the people with them. I remained on the platform, all alone, my voice hushed in the silence around me. Alone, yet not quite. Something was stirring, taking form, growing before my eyes. I stood tense, breathlessly waiting. The form was advancing, coming to the very edge of the platform, carrying itself erect, head thrown back, its large eyes gleaming into mine. My voice struggled in my throat, and with a great effort I cried out: "Czolgosz! Leon Czolgosz!"

    Fear possessed me that I should not be able to speak at the Paterson meeting. In vain I sought to rid myself of the feeling that when I stepped upon the platform, the face of Czolgosz would emerge from the crowd. I wired McQueen that I could not come.

    The next day the papers carried the news of the arrest of McQueen and Grossmann. It horrified me to think that I had allowed a dream to keep me from responding to the call of the strikers. I had permitted myself to be influenced by a spook and had stayed safe at home while my young comrades were in danger. " Will the Czolgosz tragedy haunt me to the end of my days? " I kept asking myself. The answer came sooner than I anticipated.

    " BLOODY RIOTS - WORKERS AND PEASANTS KILLED - STUDENTS WHIPPED BY COSSACKS. . . ." The press was filled with the events were happening in Russia. Once more the struggle against czarist autocracy was being brought to the attention of the world. The appalling brutality on one side, the glorious courage and heroism on the other, tore me out of the lethargy that had paralyzed my will since the Buffalo days. With accusing clarity I realized that I had left the movement at its most critical moment, had turned my back on our work when I was most needed, that I had even begun to doubt my life's faith and ideal. And all because of a handful that had proved to be base and cowardly.

    I tried to excuse my faintheartedness by the deep concern I felt in the forsaken boy. My indignation against the weaklings had sprung, I argued with myself, from my sympathy with Czolgosz. No doubt that had been the impelling motive for my stand --- so impelling, indeed, that it had even turned me against Sasha because he had failed to see in Czolgosz's act what had been so clear to me. My bitterness had extended to that dear friend and had made me forget that he was in prison and still needed me.

    Now, however, another thought hammered in my brain, the thought that there might have been other motives, motives not quite so selfless as I had made myself and others believe. My own inability to face the first great issue in my life now made me see that the self-assurance with which I had always proclaimed that I could stand alone had deserted me the moment I was called upon to make good. I had not been able to bear being repudiated and shunned; I could not brave defeat. But, instead of admitting it to myself at least, I had kept on beating my wings in blind fury. I had become embittered and had drawn back within myself.

    The qualities I had most admired in the heroes of the past, and also in Czolgosz, the strength to stand and die alone, had been lacking in me. Perhaps one needs more courage to live than to die. Dying is of a moment, but the claims of life are endless --- a thousand small and petty things which tax one's strength and leave one too spent to meet the testing hour.

    I emerged from my tortuous introspection as from a long illness, not yet in possession of my former vigor, but with a determination to try once more to steel my will to meet the exigencies of life, whatever they might be.

    My first faltering step after the months of spiritual death was a letter to Sasha.

    The news from Russia stirred the East Side radicals into intense activity. Trade-unionists, socialists, and anarchists set aside their political differences, the better to be able to help the victims of the Russian regime. Large meetings were held and funds raised for the sufferers in prison and exile. I took up the work with new-born strength. I stopped nursing in order to devote myself entirely to the needs of Russia. At the same time there was also enough happening in America to tax our utmost energies.

    The coal-miners were on strike. Conditions in the coal districts were appalling and aid was urgently needed. The politicians in the labor movement were busy talking for the press and doing little for the strikers. Whatever backbone they had shown in the beginning of the strike caved in when the man with the Big Stick appeared on the scene. President Roosevelt suddenly evinced an interest in the miners. He would help the strikers, he announced, if their representatives would be reasonable and give him a chance to go after the mine-owners. That was manna for the politicians in the unions. They immediately transferred burden of responsibility to the presidential shoulders of Teddy. No need to worry any more; his official wisdom would find the right solution of vexing problems. Meanwhile the miners and their families were starving and the police browbeating those who came to the coal region to encourage the strikers.

     The radical elements refused to be duped by the President's interest, nor did they have greater faith in the sudden change of heart of the employers. They worked steadily to raise funds and keep up the spirit of the men. The heat had grown too oppressive for public meetings, which meant a lull in our efforts. Still we were able to canvass unions, hold picnics, and arrange other affairs to raise money. My return to public activity rejuvenated me and gave me a new interest in life.

    I was asked to undertake a lecture tour for the purpose of raising funds for the miners and the victims in Russia. We had reckoned, however, without the authorities in the strike districts. Our people there could secure no halls; on the rare occasions when a landlord was brave enough to rent us his place, the police broke up our gatherings. In several towns, among them Wilkesbarre and McKeesport, I was met by the guardians of the law at the station and turned back. It was finally decided that I should concentrate my efforts in the larger cities of the strike regions. In these I met with no difficulties until I reached Chicago.

    My first lecture there dealt with Russia and took place in a crowded West Side hall. As usual the police were present, but they did not interfere. "We believe in freedom of speech," one of the officials told our committee, "so long as Emma Goldman talks on Russia." Fortunately my work for the miners was almost exclusively in the unions, and the police could do nothing there.

    My last lecture was to be given at the Chicago Philosophical Society, an organization with a free platform. Their weekly gatherings had always been held in Handel Hall, on which the society had a long lease. The owners of the place had never before objected to either the speakers or their subjects, but on the Sunday scheduled for my talk Handel Hall was barred to the people. The janitor, pale and trambling, declared that detectives had been "to see" him. They had informed him about the Criminal Anarchy Law, which would make him liable to arrest, imprisonment, and a fine if he allowed Emma Goldman to speak. It happened that no such law had been passed in Illinois, but what did that matter? I delivered the proscribed lecture, nevertheless. Another hall-keeper, better versed in his legal rights and not so easily frightened, consented to let me speak on the dangerous subject of the Philosophic Aspects of Anarchism.

    My tour was trying and strenuous, made more so by the necessity of speaking surrounded by watch-dogs ready to spring on me at any moment, as well as by being compelled to change halls at a moment's notice. But I welcomed the difficulties. They helped to rekindle my fighting spirit and to convince me that those in power never learn to what extent persecution is the leaven of revolutionary zeal.

    I had barely returned home when news came of Kate Austen's death. Kate, the most daring, courageous voice among the women of America! Risen from the depths, she had reached intellectual heights many educated people could not touch. She loved life, and her soul was aflame for the oppressed, the suffering, and the poor. How splendid she had been all through the Buffalo tragedy! Only a month ago she had written, within the shadow of her own death, a glowing tribute to Czolgosz. And now she was gone, and with her one of the truly great personalities in our ranks. Her death was the loss not merely of a comrade, but also of a precious friend. Excepting Emma Lee she was the only woman who had come close to me and who understood the complexities of my being better than I did myself. Her sensitive response had helped me through many hard moments. Now she was dead, and my heart was heavy.

    In a hectic life like mine sorrows and joys follow each other so rapidly that they leave no time to dwell too long on either. My grief over Kate's loss was still acute when another shock came. Voltairine de Cleyre was shot and severely wounded by a former pupil of hers. A telegram from Philadelphia informed me that she was in the hospital in a critical condition and suggested that I raise money for her care.

    I had seen little of Voltairine since our unfortunate misunderstanding in 1894. I had heard that she was not well and that she had gone to Europe to regain her health. On my last visit in Philadelphia I had been told that she was having a severe struggle to make a living by teaching English to Jewish immigrants and giving music lessons, while at the same time keeping up her activities in the movement. I admired her energy and industry, but I was hurt and repelled by what seemed to me her unreasonable and small attitude toward me. I could not seek her out, nor had she communicated with me in all these years. Her fearless stand during the McKinley hysteria had helped much to increase my respect for her, and her letter in Free Society to Senator Hawley, who had said he would give a thousand dollars to have a shot at an anarchist, had made a lasting impression on me. She had sent her address to the senatorial patriot and had written him that she was ready to give him the pleasure to shoot an anarchist free of charge, on the sole condition that he permit her to explain to him the principles of anarchism before he fired.

    "We must begin to raise money for Voltairine at once," I said to Ed. I knew she would resent a public appeal in her behalf, and Ed agreed that it was necessary to approach our friends privately on the matter. Solotaroff, first to be advised by us, responded beautifully, he even though he was in poor health and his office practice was yielding very little. He suggested that Gordon, Voltairine's former lover, should be seen; he had become a successful physician and he was financially well able to help Voltairine, who had done so much for him. Solotaroff volunteered to speak to Gordon.

    The result or our canvass was very encouraging, though we also met with some disagreeable experiences. An East Side friend of Voltairine's declared that he did not believe in "private charity," and there were also others whose sympathies had become blunted by material success. But generous souls made up for the rest, and soon we collected five hundred dollars. Ed went to Philadelphia with the money. Upon his return he reported that two of the bullets had been extracted. The third could not be touched because it was embedded too close to the heart. Voltairine's main concern, Ed told us, was about the boy who had attempted her life and she had already declared that she would not prosecute him.

    Max and Millie were visiting New York for Christmas, and the occassion proved an unexpected and joyful treat. Ed had been urging me for some time to permit him to realize his long-cherished dream of dressing me up in "decent clothes." The time had come to carry out his promise, he insisted; I must go with him to the best shops and give my fancy free rein.

    I realized as soon as we were in the fashionable emporium that an untrammeled fancy is an expensive thing, and I did not want to bankrupt Ed. "Let's run away quickly," I whispered; "this is no place for us." "Run away? Emma Goldman run away?" Ed teased; "you'll stay long enough to have your measurements taken and leave the rest to me."

    On Christmas Eve boxes began to arrive at my apartment: a wonderful coat with a real astrakhan collar, muff, and turban to match. There were also a dress, silk underwear, stockings, and gloves. I felt like Cinderella. Ed beamed when he called and found me all rigged out. "That's the way I have always wanted you to look," he exclaimed; "some day everybody may be able to have beautiful things like these."

    At the Hofbrau Haus we found Max and Millie already waiting for us. Millie was also dressed for the occasion, and Max was in fine mettle. He asked whether I had married a Rockefeller or struck a gold-mine. I was entirely too swell for a proletarian like himself, he laughed. "Such duds deserve at least three bottles of Trabacher," he cried, forthwith ordering them. We were the merriest party in the place.

    Millie preceded Max to Chicago. He lingered on for a few days and we spent the time in long walks, visiting galleries and concerts. On the evening of his departure I accompanied Max to the station. While we stood on the platform, chatting, we were approached by two men who turned out to be detectives. They put us under arrest and took us to the police station, where we were cross-examined and then discharged. "On what grounds were we arrested?" I demanded. "Just on general principles," the desk sergeant answered pleasantly. "Your principles are rotten!" I retorted heatedly." Go on, now," he roared, you're Red Emma, ain't you? That's enough."

    A letter from Solotaroff informed me that Gordon had refused to aid Voltairine. The latter had drudged for years to help him through college, and now that she was ill, he had not even a kind word for her. My intuition about him had been correct. We agreed that she should not be told of the cruel indifference of the man who had meant so much to her.

    Voltairine not only refused to prosecute the youth who had shot her, but even appealed to our press to aid his defense. "He is sick, poor, and friendless," she wrote; "he is in need of kindness, not prison." In a letter to the authorities she pointed out that the boy had been jobless for a long time and that as a result of worry he suffered from delusions. But the law had to have its pound of flesh: the youth was found guilty and given a sentence of six years and nine months.

    The effect of the verdict on Voltairine caused a very serious relapse that kept us in anxious suspense for weeks. Finally she was declared out of danger and able to leave the hospital.

    The Philadelphia papers furnished an amusing side to the tragic incident. Like the rest of the American press they had for years been filled with invectives against anarchism and anarchists. "Fiends incarnate --- champions of murder and destruction --- cowards" were among the most delicate epithets applied to us. But when Voltairine refused to prosecute her assailant and pleaded in his behalf, the same editors wrote that "anarchism is really the doctrine of the Nazarene, the gospel of forgiveness."

From : Anarchy Archives

Chronology

January 23, 2017 16:08:40 :
Volume 1, Chapter 25 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 23, 2017 13:22:29 :
Volume 1, Chapter 25 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

Share

Permalink for Sharing :

Comments

Login to Comment

0 Likes
0 Dislikes

No comments so far. You can be the first!

Navigation

<< Last Work in Living My Life
Current Work in Living My Life
Volume 1, Chapter 25
Next Work in Living My Life >>
All Nearby Works in Living My Life
Home|About|Contact|Search