Living My Life : Volume 2, Chapter 41
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of violence. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "Man's greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges." (From : "The Place of the Individual in Society," by Emma ....)
• "Patriotism is inexorable and, like all insatiable monsters, demands all or nothing. It does not admit that a soldier is also a human being, who has a right to his own feelings and opinions, his own inclinations and ideas." (From : Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty," by Emma Goldman,....)
• "...it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think." (From : "Anarchism: What It Really Stands For," by Emma Go....)
Volume 2, Chapter 41
THE TRAIN WAS SPEEDING TOWARDS CHICAGO. MY HEART WAS outwinging it, all aflutter with the yearning to join Ben at last. I was scheduled to deliver twelve lectures and give a drama course in the city. During my stay I came upon the new literary publication called the Little Review, and shortly afterwards I met its editor, Margaret C. Anderson. I felt like a desert wanderer who unexpectedly discovers a stream of fresh water. At last a magazine to sound a note of rebellion in creative endeavor! The Little Review lacked clarity on social questions, but it was alive to new art forms and was free from the mawkish sentimentality of most American publications. Its main appeal to me lay in its strong and fearless critique of conventional standards, something I had been looking for in the United States for twenty-five years. "Who is this Margaret Anderson?" I inquired of the friend who had shown me a copy of the magazine. "A charming American girl," he replied, "and she is anxious to interview you." I told him I did not care to be interviewed, but that I did want to meet the editor of the Little Review.
When Miss Anderson came to my hotel, I went to the elevator to meet her. I was surprised to see a chic society girl, and, thinking that I must have misunderstood the name, I turned back to my room. "Oh, Miss Goldman," the girl called, "I am Margaret Anderson!" Her butterfly appearance was disappointing, so radically different from my mental picture of the Little Review editor. My tone was cold as I asked her into my room, but it did not seem to affect my visitor in the least. "I came to invite you to my place," she said impetuously, "just to rest and relax a little; you look so tired and you are always surrounded by so many people." At her home I would need to see no one, she ran on, I should be entirely undisturbed and could do as I pleased. "You can bathe in the lake, take walks, or just lie perfectly still," she coaxed; "I will wait on you and play for you." She had a taxi waiting for us to go at once. I was overwhelmed by the wordy avalanche and I felt remorseful at the frigid reception I had given the generous girl.
In a large apartment facing Lake Michigan I found, besides Miss Anderson, the latter's sister with her two children, and a girl named Harriet Dean. The entire furniture consisted of a piano, piano-stool, several broken cots, a table, and some kitchen chairs. However this strange ménage managed to pay the undoubtedly large rent, there was evidently no money for anything else. In some mysterious way, though, Margaret Anderson and her friend procured flowers, fruit, and dainties for me.
Harriet Dean was as much a novel type to me as Margaret, yet the two were entirely unlike. Harriet was athletic, masculine-looking, reserved, and self-conscious. Margaret, on the contrary, was feminine in the extreme, constantly bubbling over with enthusiasm. A few hours with her entirely changed my first impression and made me realize that underneath her apparent lightness was depth and strength of character to pursue whatever aim in life she might choose. Before long I saw that the girls were not actuated by any sense of social injustice, like the young Russian intelligentsia, for instance. Strongly individualized, they had broken the shackles of their middle-class homes to find release from family bondage and bourgeois tradition. I regretted their lack of social consciousness, but as rebels for their own liberation Margaret Anderson and Harriet Dean strengthened my faith in the possibilities of my adopted country.
My visit with them was entertaining and restful. I was happy to find two young American women who were seriously interested in modern ideas. We spent our time talking and discussing. In the evening Margaret would play the piano and I would sing Russian folk-songs or relate to the girls some episodes of my life.
Margaret's playing was not that of a trained: artist. There was a certain original and vibrant quality in it, particularly when no strangers were present. At such moments she was able to give full expression to all her emotion and intensity. Music stirred me profoundly, but Margaret's playing exerted a peculiar effect, like the sight of the sea, which always made me uneasy and restless. I had never learned to swim and I feared deep water, yet on the beach I would be filled with a desire to reach out towards the waves and become submerged in their embrace. Whenever I heard Margaret play, I was overcome by the same sensation and an uneasy craving. The days spent at her home on Lake Michigan passed all too quickly, but during the rest of my stay in Chicago Margaret and "Deansie" were never away from my side for very long.
Through Margaret I met most of the contributors to the Little Review, among them Ben Hecht, Maxwell Bodenheim, Cesar, Alexander Kaun, Allen Tanner, and others. Able writers they were, yet none of them possessed the all-absorbing ardor and daring of Margaret Anderson.
Harriet Monroe, of the Poetry Magazine, and Maurice Browne, of the Little Theater, belonged to the same circle. I was particularly interested in the new dramatic experiment of Mr. Browne. He had talent and sincerity, but he was too dominated by the past to make the Little Theater an effective influence. The Greek drama and the classics were certainly of great value, I often told him, but thoughtful people were nowadays seeking dramatic expression of the human problems of our own day. As a matter of fact, no one in Chicago outside of Mr. Browne's troupe and their small circle of adherents was aware of the existence of the Little Theater. Life simply passed it by. The greater the pity, because Maurice Browne was very much in earnest about his efforts.
On this visit in Chicago I was fortunate to hear some very fine music. Percy Grainger, Alma Gluck, Mary Garden, and Casals concerted in the city during my stay. Such an array of artists was a rare treat.
Alma Gluck gripped me with her first tones. Her Hebrew chants especially gave full sway to the range of her rich voice. The sorrows of six thousand years were made poignantly real by her exquisite singing.
Mary Garden I had seen on previous occasions. Once in St. Louis she had been denied a theater for her performance of Salome, which the moral busybodies had declared indecent. Some reporter had called Mary Garden's attention to the similarity of her fight for free expression to that of Emma Goldman, and Mary had spoken in high praise of me. She knew nothing about anarchism, she had said, or anything about my ideas, but she admired my stand for freedom. I wrote her my appreciation. In reply she asked me to let her know next time we happened to be in the same city. Later, in Portland, Mary had recognized me in the front row just as some admirers had presented her with a huge basket of roses. Stepping to the edge of the stage, she picked out the largest and reddest ones and threw them into my lap with an airy kiss. Years before, in 1900, when in Paris, she had delighted me by her rendering of Charpentier's Louise and Massenet's Thais. But never had I seen her so lovely and fascinating as in the opera Pelléas et Mélisande, which I attended in the Chicago Auditorium with Margaret Anderson. She was youth, naïvité, and the earth-spirit exquisitely blended into one.
The greatest musical event during my stay in Chicago was the playing of the Spanish 'cellist Casals. I had always loved the 'cello best, but until I heard this conjurer, I had guessed little of its possibilities. Casal's touch unlocked its treasures, made it vibrate like the human soul and sing in velvet tones.
Unexpectedly came the shocking news of the massacre of workers in Ludlow, Colorado, of the shooting of strikers and the burning of women and children in their tents. Drama lectures appeared trifling, with the flames of Ludlow rising to the sky.
The coal-miners in southern Colorado had been on strike for months. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, a Rockefeller combine, appealed to the State for "protection" while at the same time they were shipping thugs and gunmen to the coal region. The miners were evicted from their huts, which were on company property. With their wives and children they pitched tents and prepared for the long winter. The Rockefeller interests prevailed upon Governor Ammon to call out the militia to "keep order."
Arriving in Denver with Ben, I learned that the labor leaders would be glad to accept funds I might raise at my lectures, but that they did not care to have it known that they were in any way connected with my efforts. No more encouragement did I receive from our own comrades in Ludlow. The authorities would not permit me to come to the city, they wrote, and if I did get there, the papers would proclaim that I was behind the strike. It was painful to know that I was not wanted by the very people for whom I had worked all my life.
Fortunately I had an independent forum, Mother Earth and my lectures. On my own platform I should be free to denounce the Ludlow crime and point out its lesson to labor. We started our meetings, and within two weeks I was able to demonstrate that a few militants imbued with idealism could focus greater attention on a pressing social issue than large organizations that lacked the courage to speak out. My lectures helped to turn the full light of publicity on Ludlow. Ludlow, Wheatland, the invasion of Mexico by Federal troops --- they were all streams from the same source. I discussed them before audiences reaching into the thousands, and we succeeded in raising large sums for the various struggles.
On our arrival in Denver we had found twenty-seven I.W.W. boys in jail. They had been arrested as a result of a free-speech campaign and had been tortured in the sweat-box for refusing to work on the rock-pile. Our efforts in their behalf were successful. On their release they marched through the streets with banners and songs to our hall, where they were received in the spirit of comradeship and solidarity.
One of the interesting experiences of my Denver stay was meeting Julia Marlowe Sothern and Gustave Frohman. We discussed modern plays. Frohman was sure they did not interest the theater-going public, and I argued that New York had also another public, more intelligent and appreciative than the one in the habit of flocking to Broadway. That public, I insisted, would support a theater giving the dramas of Ibsen, Strindberg, Hauptmann, Shaw, and the Russians. I offered to prove that a repertory theater, with prices running from fifty cents to a dollar and a half, could be made self-sustaining. Mr. Frohman thought I was an impractical optimist. He was interested, however, and he promised to talk the matter over further with me when we were both back in New York.
I had seen Miss Marlowe and Sothern in The Sunken Bell, by Gerhart Hauptmann. I did not care for his Heinrich, but Julia Marlowe as Rautendelein was sublime, and she was equally great as Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew and also as Juliet. Miss Marlowe must have been nearing forty at the time. She was rather heavy for youthful parts, yet her superb acting at no time broke the illusion of Rautendelein, the lithe, wild mountain-spirit, or the unsophisticated naïveté of Juliet, the child-woman.
Sothern was stiff and uninteresting, but Julia made up for both by her charm, grace, and unaffectedness. She sent flowers to my lectures and a kindly greeting to "ease the task of always having to be before the public." Well she knew how painful it often was.
While Ben and I were busy with our meetings in the West, Sasha was engaged in strenuous activities in New York. With Fitzi, Leonard D. Abbott, the comrades of anarchist groups, and the young members of the Ferrer School he was conducting the unemployed movement and the anti-militarist campaign. Their persistency in fighting for free speech in New York had resulted in the repeated breaking up of their gatherings by mounted police, involving incredible brutality and violence. But their perseverance and defiance of arbitrary official regulations in the end impressed public opinion and they won the right of assembly in Union Square without police permission. From Sasha's brief notes I could only guess what was happening in New York, but soon the newspapers were filled with accounts of the work of the Anti-Militarist League, which Sasha had founded, and the demonstrations in behalf of the Ludlow miners held in New York and in Tarrytown, Rockefeller's citadel. It was wonderful to me to see Sasha's old spirit rising to the battle, and to observe his extraordinary skill in organizing and handling the work.
The New York activities resulted in a number of arrests, among them that of Becky Edelsohn and several boys from the Ferrer School. Sasha wrote that Becky had been splendid at her trial, where she had conducted her own defense. On being convicted she had declared a forty-eight-hour hunger strike in protest. It was the first time that a political prisoner had done this in America. I had always known Becky to be brave, though her lack of responsibility and perseverance in her personal life had for years been a source of irritation to me. I was therefore very glad to see her show such strength of character. It is often the exceptional moment that discovers unsuspected qualities.
Liberal and radical elements in New York were co-operating in protest against the Ludlow butchery. The "Silent Parade" in front of Rockefeller's office, organized by Upton Sinclair and his wife, and the various other demonstrations were arousing the East to the appalling conditions in Colorado.
I eagerly scanned the papers from New York. I had no anxiety about Sasha, for I knew how dependable and cool he was in times of danger. But I longed to be at his side, in my beloved city, to take part with him in those stirring activities. My engagements, however, kept me in the West. Then came the news of an explosion in a tenement house on Lexington Avenue which cost the lives of three men --- Arthur Carron, Charles Berg, and Karl Hanson --- and of an unknown woman. The names were unfamiliar to me. The press was filled with the wildest rumors. The bomb, it was reported, had been intended for Rockefeller, whom the speakers at the New York meetings had charged with direct responsibility for the Ludlow massacres. The premature explosion had probably saved his life, the papers declared. Sasha's name was dragged into the case, and the police were looking for him and the owner of the Lexington apartment, our comrade Louise Berger. Word came from Sasha that the three men who had lost their lives in the explosion were comrades who had worked with him in the Tarrytown campaign. They had been badly beaten up by the police at one of the Union Square demonstrations. The bomb, might have been intended for Rockefeller, Sasha wrote, but in any case the men had kept their intentions to themselves, for neither he nor anyone else knew how the explosion had occurred.
Comrades, idealists, manufacturing a bomb in a congested tenement house! I was aghast at such irresponsibility. But the next moment I remembered a similiar event in my own life. It came back with paralyzing horror. In my mind I saw my little room in Peppi's flat, on Fifth Street, its window-blinds drawn, Sasha experimenting with a bomb, and me watching. I had silenced my fear for the tenants, in case of an accident, by repeating to myself that the end justified the means. With accusing clarity I now relived that nerve-racking week in July 1892. In the zeal of fanaticism I had believed that the end justifies the means! It took years of experience and suffering to emancipate myself from the mad idea. Acts of violence committed as a protest against unbearable social wrongs --- I still believed them inevitable. I understood the spiritual forces culminating in such Attentats as Sasha's, Bresci's, Angiolillo's, Czolgosz's, and those of others whose lives I had studied. They had been urged on by their great love for humanity and their acute sensitiveness to injustice. I had always taken my place with them as against every form of organized oppression. But though my sympathies were with the man who protested against social crimes by a resort to extreme measures, I nevertheless felt now that I could never again participate in or approve of methods that jeopardized innocent lives.
I was worried about Sasha. He was the spirit of the tremendous campaign in the East, and I feared the police would involve him in their dragnet. I wanted to return to New York, but his letters held me back. He was perfectly safe, he wrote, and there were plenty of people to help him in the work. He had succeeded in obtaining the bodies of the dead comrades for cremation, and he was planning a monster demonstration at Union Square. The authorities definitely declared in the press that no public funeral would be permitted. All the radical groups, including the I.W.W., repudiated Sasha's intention. Even Bill Haywood warned him to desist from his plan because he was "sure to cause another eleventh of November." But Sasha's group refused to be terrorized. He publicly announced that he would stand responsible for anything that might happen at the meeting, on condition that no police officers be permitted within the lines of the demonstration.
The public funeral took place in spite of official prohibition. Union Square seethed with a crowd of twenty thousand people. At the last moment the police had decided not to permit Sasha, who was to preside at the demonstration, to reach the square. Detectives and reporters besieged our house. Sasha appeared on the front stoop to talk to them and they asked to see the urn containing the cremated remains of the Lexington Avenue victims. He stepped back into the house and then slipped out through the back and some neighboring yards. He had taken the precaution to order a red automobile to wait for him in a nearby street. At a furious pace it was driven to Union Square. For blocks all approaches to the square were crowded. It seemed impossible to reach the platform. But before Sasha could open the door of the machine, police officers --- in their excitement undoubtedly taking the automobile to be that of the Fire Chief --- obsequiously cleared a lane for the auto right through the crowd to the very front of the platform. When Sasha stepped out, the officers were amazed to see who it was. He quickly ascended the platform. It was too late for the police to do anything without causing a blood bath.
Now the remains of the dead comrades, Sasha wrote me, were deposited in a specially designed urn in the form of a clenched fist rising from the depths. The urn was exposed in the office of Mother Earth, which had been decorated with wreaths and red and black banners. Thousands passed through our quarters to pay the last tribute to Carron, Berg, and Hanson.
I was happy to learn that the perilous situation in New York had ended so favorably. But when I received copies of the July issue of Mother Earth, I was dismayed at its contents. The Union Square speeches were published there in full; with the exception of Sasha's own address and those of Leonard D. Abbott and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the harangues were of a most violent character. I had tried always to keep our magazine free from such language, and now the whole number was filled with prattle about force and dynamite. I was so furious that I wanted the entire issue thrown into the fire. But it was too late; the magazine had gone out to the subscribers.
The persistent efforts of one man in Portland, Oregon, exerted an influence in that town that for its potency could hardly be equaled in any other American city. I refer to my friend Charles Erskine Scott Wood. By position he belonged to the ultra-conservative set, yet he was among the most unflinching opponents of the social layer from which he sprang. It was owing to his efforts that the Public Library was granted to so dangerous a person as I was considered to be. Mr. Wood presided at my first lecture, which was on "Intellectual Proletarians," and his presence brought an enormous audience.
Portland was in the throes of a prohibition campaign. My talk on "Victims of Morality," which touched on this subject, resulted in an uproar. It was one of the most exciting evenings in my public career. The prohibitionists and the pro-liquorists almost came to blows on the occasion.
The following day a man called on Mr. Wood and offered to buy my lecture notes, not the part dealing with the suppression of sex, but the one where I had enlarged on the right of grown-ups to choose their drinks. The caller represented the Saloon-Keepers' League, and his organization wanted my notes as propaganda in their anti-prohibition campaign. Mr. Wood informed him that he would submit the offer to me, but that I was a "queer creature" and would probably not consent to having only half of my lecture published. "But she will be paid," the man cried," and any price she wants!" Needless to say, I declined to appear as an agent of the Saloon-Keepers' League.
The power of the Montana copper-kings, faithfully supported by the Catholic Church, made Butte and other smelting-towns in the State barren ground except for the sweet hospitality of my friends Annie and Abe Edelstadt, the latter a brother of our dead poet. The system of espionage had been perfected by the bosses. Their employes were surrounded by spies not only when at work, but also in their free hours. The "spotters" dogged every step of the men and made detailed reports on their behavior. In consequence those modern slaves lived in fear of displeasing their masters and losing their jobs. The situation was aggravated by reaction in the union ranks. The Western Federation of Miners, long in the control of corrupt and unscrupulous officials, helped to silence the voice of labor protest. But pressure from above begets rebellion. The break had to come. The aroused workers dynamited the Union Hall, drove their leaders out of town, and organized a new union along revolutionary lines.
It was a changed atmosphere that greeted us on our arrival in Butte. No particular efforts were necessary to arouse interest in my lectures. The people came in a body and openly demonstrated their independence. They fearlessly asked questions and participated in the discussion. If any "spotters" were in the audience, they were unknown to the men, who would have certainly given them short shrift.
Very significant also was the presence of many women, especially at my lecture on "Birth-control." Formerly they would not have dared to inquire about such matters even privately; now they stood up in a public assembly and frankly avowed their hatred of their position as domestic drudges and child-bearers. It was an extraordinary manifestation, most encouraging to me.
All through the years no decent hall had been accessible to us in Chicago. I had often been compelled to speak in dreadful places, generally in the rear of a saloon. That did not, however, prevent the so-called better class from attending my lectures. Not rarely the street in front of the hall would be lined with automobiles, thus providing a chance for the Wobblies, and even for some of my own comrades, to protest against my "educating the bourgeoisie." My last lecture in Chicago in April had been nearly broken up by a drunken man who had drifted in from the saloon and who insisted on taking charge of the proceedings. At the close of the meeting two strangers left their visiting-cards with Ben. They asked him to let them know when I would return to Chicago and promised to secure an appropriate place for my future lectures.
Having received many promises, few of which had ever been fulfilled, I had little faith in this one. Nevertheless I wrote the strangers that I would meet them on my way back from the Coast. After leaving Butte I proceeded to Chicago, where I also intended to visit Margaret Anderson and Deansie. The men proved to be a rich advertising agent and a stock-broker! We discussed the best means of organizing a series of drama lectures and it was decided to secure the Fine Arts recital hall. The men offered to finance the venture and I wondered why they should do it, unless it be that wealthy Jews love to engage in "uplift" work. I made it clear to them that I must remain as free to speak in the fashionable place as in the back room of a saloon. It was agreed that I should wire my lecture dates later on.
When I arrived in New York I was confronted with a serious financial situation. Sasha's activities among the unemployed, together with the anti-militarist and Ludlow campaigns, had swallowed up most of the funds I had sent to our office from my tour. We could not meet the obligations of Mother Earth, much less the expense of the house, which in my absence had been turned into a free-for-all lodging- and feeding-place. We were in debt to our printer and to the mailing-house, and money was owed to every store-keeper in the neighborhood. The strain of the agitation he had carried on, the danger and the responsibility he had faced, had left Sasha in a high-strung and irritable state. He was sensitive to my criticism, and hurt that I should even mention money matters. I had hoped for rest, harmony, and peace after six months of constant lecturing and the struggle involved in my tour. Instead I was swamped with new cares.
I was dazed by the situation and I felt very indignant with Sasha. Entirely absorbed in his own propaganda, he had given me no thought. He was the revolutionist of old, with the same fanatical belief in the Cause. His sole concern was the movement, and I was to him but a means for it. He was nothing more to himself than that; how could I expect to be any more to him?
Sasha did not understand my resentment. He grew impatient at my mentioning money matters. He had spent our funds for the movement; the latter was more important than my drama lectures, he said. I spoke bitterly to him, telling him that without my drama lectures he would have had no means to finance his activities. The clash made us both unhappy. Sasha withdrew into himself.
The only ones I could turn to in my misery were my dear nephew Saxe and my old friend Max. Both were very understanding, but neither of them was worldly enough to be of much assistance to me. I should have to face the situation alone.
I decided to give up our house and to declare myself bankrupt. My friend Gilbert E. Roe, to whom I confided my troubles, laughed at my strange notion. "Bankruptcy is resorted to by those who want to get out of paying debts," he said; "it will involve you in year-long litigation, and your creditors will attach every penny you make to the end of your days." He offered to lend me money, but I could not accept his generosity.
Then a new idea struck me. I would tell the printer exactly how I stood. The frank and open way is always the best, I decided. My creditors proved to be very accommodating. They lost no sleep over the money I owed them, they said; I could be depended on to make good. It was finally arranged that I pay my indebtedness in monthly installments. Our mailing-house even declined my promissory notes. "Pay what you can and when you can," the manager said; "your word is good enough for us."
I resolved to start from the bottom up again; to rent a small place --- one room for an office, the other for my living-quarters --- and to accept every lecture engagement I could secure, and practice the strictest economy in order to keep up Mother Earth and my work. I wired Ben dates for my dramatic course in Chicago, and then I went out to look for a new home. It was a discouraging task; the Lexington Avenue explosion and the publicity given to Sasha's activities were fresh in the public mind, and the landlords were timid. But at last I found a two-room loft on One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, and I set to work to make it fit for my use.
Sasha and Fitzi came to help me get my new place in order, but our relations were strained. Yet Sasha was too deeply rooted in my being to permit me to remain angry with him very long. There was also something else to change my resentful attitude. The realization had come to me that it was not Sasha, but I who was at fault. Not only since my return from the last tour, but all through the eight years since his release from prison, it was I who had been responsible for the breaks that came between us. I had committed a great wrong against him. Instead of giving him a chance to find his way back to life, after his resurrection, I had brought him into my atmosphere, into an environment that could only be galling to him. I had done this in the mistaken belief, usual with mothers, that they know best what is good for their children; fearing the latter will be crushed in the world outside, they desperately try to shield them from the experiences so essential to their growth. I had committed the same mistake in regard to Sasha. Not only had I not urged him to launch out for himself, but I had trembled at every step he made, because I could not see him exposed to new suffering and hardships. Yet I had saved him from nothing; I had only awakened his resentment. Perhaps he was not even aware of it, yet it was always there, breaking out in one form or another. Sasha had always wanted his own work and his own place. I had offered him everything one human being can give to another, but I had not helped him to what he wanted and needed most. There was no blinking the hard fact. But now that Sasha had found a woman who could give him both love and understanding, it was my opportunity to repair the wrong I had done him.
I would enable them to go on a cross-country tour, I decided. Once Sasha reached California, he could carry out his dream of a paper of his own.
Fitzi and Sasha eagerly responded to my suggestion for a tour. I arranged with my young friend Anna Baron, who used to do part-time typing for us, to take care of the business side of the Mother Earth office. Max and Saxe were to look after the editorial work of the magazine. There were also Hippolyte and other friends to help. Sasha felt rejuvenated, and there was no further friction between us.
One day my friend Bolton Hall called on me. I had worked hard and he no doubt noticed my exhausted condition. "Why not go out to the little farm in Ossining?" he suggested. "Not for worlds," I replied, "as long as my pest is there." "What pest?" he queried in wonder. "Why, Micky, whom for years I have tried vainly to escape." "You mean Herman Mikhailovitch, the timid-looking fellow who used to help in the Mother Earth office and the Ferrer Center?" "The very one," I told him; "his apparent timidity has been my curse for a long time." Dear Bolton looked his blank surprise. "Tell me about it," he urged.
I related the story to Bolton. Herman had been a reader of Mother Earth for a long time, had faithfully paid his subscription, and often ordered literature. He lived in Brooklyn, but none of us had ever met him. Then one day I received a letter from Omaha asking permission to arrange my meetings there. It was from Herman. Glad that someone in that city had offered to assist, I wired him to go ahead. On my arrival there I found our unknown comrade in rags and looking starved. Ben helped him and we also procured his release when he was locked up for distributing our handbills announcing my meetings. Before I left the city I enabled him to join the painters' union and secure a job. In Minneapolis three days later we were unexpectedly faced by Herman. He wanted to organize my meetings along the route, he declared. I assured him that I appreciated his offer, but that I already had one manager; two would be too much to endure. Herman said nothing more, but when we reached the next town, he was there, and again in the next and in the next. There was no shaking him off; he was either ahead of us or at our rear. The proceeds from my lectures were not sufficient to pay his railroad fare, and I feared lest Herman meet some accident while stealing rides. He became an additional worry and burden. In Seattle I could not stand it any more. He would find a job, he said, if I would secure him for a few weeks. I did, and he solemnly promised to remain in Seattle. When we came to Spokane, who should meet us but Herman Mikhailovitch? He did not like the West, he declared, and had decided to return to New York. For the rest of our tour Herman stuck like glue. He was a good worker, ready to do anything to help my meetings; and he was shrewd enough to make himself indispensable to Ben. I gave a sigh of relief when we finally arrived in New York.
Nothing was heard from Herman for some time. Then he showed up again, all in rags. He was working in a laundry, he told me, eighteen hours a day for five dollars a week. In the midst of his story he fell to the floor in a faint. A hurried agreement with Sasha and Hippolyte, to the effect that Herman could earn his keep by assisting in the office, saved him from returning to the laundry, and incidentally also from further fainting spells. He was an intelligent chap, but fame affects some people worse than liquor. Touring with us, getting arrested, and seeing his name in the papers had turned Herman's head. His condition became worse after Ben put him up as one of his stars at a hobo meeting. Herman shared honors with Chuck Connor, the Chinatown celebrity, Sadakichi Hartmann, of weird dance fame, Hutchins Hapgood, widely known for his books on the underworld, Arthur Bullard, intellectual Bohemian and globe-trotter, Ben Reitman, pseudo-king of Hoboland, and others of the over- and underworld milieu.
Herman, now christened Micky, delivered himself of an oration on that occasion, speaking with unchallenged authority on tramping as a superior art. "Everywhere you are forced to sell your labor," he declared, "but on the open road you are free from work. I have pledged myself to be the master of my soul. Rather than work for a boss, I will let others work for me unless I can choose my occupation." He was hailed as a hero and accepted by the fraternity as one of their own.
The next day the papers had write-ups about Micky, "the Irish Jew who had taken a pledge never to work." Micky walked on air, his head held high, his chest expanded, and looking the world contemptuously in the face. In our office he wisely refrained from flaunting his fame --- until Ben and I went on tour. Then he declared that he had his own life to live and great things to perform. The boys promptly told him they could not survive such importance in the same house.
In Omaha I was faced by Micky again. He would not be an expense, he assured me; he only wanted to be connected with my work. I could not deny him that. Micky continued as my shadow, ever on my heels, from town to town. I admitted his perseverance, though he got on my nerves fearfully. His presence became all-pervading. Then he began to gossip about my New York friends and particularly about Ben, who had been especially patient with him. That broke the camel's back, and Micky fled from my sight.
When we were back in New York, Ben brought the cheerful news that Micky had landed in the city that very day, half-starved and frozen from a long tramp. "Rig him out, give him money, shelter, and food," I said, "only don't bring him here; his attentions are entirely too much for me." Ben did as I asked, but he never stopped talking of poor Micky's plight, and on Christmas Eve he brought him to me as a gift. A snow-storm was raging, and we had a spare room. How could I send the poor creature away?
No sooner did Micky feel secure than he again began to demonstrate his superiority, criticizing, reprimanding, and straining everybody's patience to the breaking-point. In rage one day he raised a cane against Saxe, who had grown tired of listening to his bragging. My presence saved Micky from the sound thrashing he deserved. I told him categorically that he would have to find another place. When we returned from a meeting that night, we found our furnace sabotaged and Micky locked in his room. He was on a hunger strike, his note on my desk informed me, and he would keep it up until I would consent to his remaining in the house. The boys offered to throw him bodily into the street, but I refused to let them do so, hoping Micky would change his mind. Four days passed, and he was still locked in. I took a pail of water and resolutely climbed up to his room. He opened as soon as he heard my voice. I told him that if he would not get up within five minutes, I would give him a cold shower-bath. He began to weep and to charge me with being cruel. He loved me more than anyone else, he declared; he was my true friend, but now he must die, since I would not requite his affection. He would die right there, and I must help him do so. The boys had suggested that Micky's pranks were due to jealousy, and I had laughed at the silly notion. At last poor Micky's secret was out! But I remained stern. "A nice kind of love is yours, to want to burden me with your death," I said; "don't you think there are worthier causes to go to the electric chair for?" I told him to get up, take a bath, put on clean clothes, and have some food; later on we would decide on the best way for him to commit suicide. He asked permission to go out on the farm and I gladly consented. But, once there, he began pestering me with letters, two and three of them every day, complaining of cold and hunger and threatening suicide again.
"No doubt Micky knows you have a sick conscience," Bolton teased me; "and, besides, consider his unrequited love," he added with a merry twinkle in his eye. "But I'll get him off the farm all right, and I promise not to leave him destitute." Bolton wrote Micky that he had been informed of his illness and poverty, and that thereupon he had notified the authorities of the poorhouse: an officer would call for him in a few days. By return mail Bolton received a reply from Micky to the effect that he was no pauper, and that he had saved enough money to take him to the Coast. Micky left. "Clever man, this Micky," Bolton commented, "but I didn't know you could be so easily imposed on."
The little place at Ossining was at last free from the pest, and I longed for a much-needed rest. But in the confusion I had quite forgotten that young Donald, the son of my dear friend Gertie Vose, was living in the house that I was giving up. Sasha had written me when I was in the West that the boy had come to him with a letter from his mother, and that he had taken him in. Gertie Vose was an old rebel whom I had met in 1897, but I had not seen her son in eighteen years. When I met him again in our house he produced on me a very disagreeable effect, which was probably due to his high-pitched voice or to his shifting look, which seemed to avoid my eyes. But he was Gertie's son, alone and out of work. He seemed undernourished and he was wretchedly dressed. I proposed that he go out for a rest to our little place in Ossining. He told me that he had intended to return home after the Tarrytown campaign, but he was waiting for his mother to send him the fare. He seemed appreciative of my offer, and the next day he left for the farm.
In my new quarters I took up my activities again. Readjustment to the altered conditions involved many hardships, but they were made more bearable by the presence of my good friend Stewart Kerr, who had a room above my little office. He had formerly shared with us our apartment at 210 East Thirteenth Street; of a considerate and noninvasive nature, Stewart was touchingly thoughtful of my welfare and very helpful in numerous ways. It was comforting to have him as my neighbor, the two of us being the only tenants living in the little house.
I was busy preparing the new drama course I had promised to deliver in Chicago and a series of lectures on the war. Three months had passed since its outbreak in Europe. Outside of Mother Earth and our anti-militarist campaign in New York I had not been able to raise my voice in the West against the slaughter, except on one occasion, in Butte, when I had spoken from an automobile to a large crowd and denounced the criminal stupidity of war. I felt that but for the socialist betrayal of their ideals, the great catastrophe would have been impossible. In Germany the party counted twelve million adherents. What a power to prevent the declaration of hostilities! But for a quarter of a century the Marxists had trained the workers in obedience and patriotism, trained them to rely on parliamentary activity and, particularly, to trust their socialist leaders blindly. And how most of those leaders had joined hands with the Kaiser! Instead of making common cause with the international proletariat, they had called upon the German workers to rise to the defense of "their" fatherland, the fatherland of the disinherited and degraded. Instead of declaring the general strike and thus paralyzing war preparations, they had voted the Government money for slaughter. The socialists of the other countries, with certain notable exceptions, had followed their example. No wonder, for the German social democracy had for decades been the pride and inspiration of the socialists throughout the world.
My drama course under the auspices of my two wealthy patrons proved to be a most disagreeable experience. Mr. L., the advertising genius, had taken it upon himself to "edit" the announcements I had sent. Indeed, he had changed their entire character, handling the subjects of my lectures as if they had been chewing-gum ads.
Then happened something to shock the tender sensibilities of my patrons. My first drama talk fell on November 10, a day of momentous importance to me. It had been the last day on earth of my comrades martyred in Chicago twenty-seven years before. I introduced my lecture by contrasting the changes in the public attitude towards anarchism between 1887 and 1914. The vision of our precious dead was before me, bearing witness to the last prophecy of August Spies: "Our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." In 1887 Chicago's sole answer to anarchism was the gallows; in 1914 it was eagerly listening to the ideas for which Parsons and his comrades had died. During my brief introduction I saw one of my backers and his family, in the first row, uncomfortably fidgeting in their seats; some people in the rear ostentatiously left the hall. Unconcernedly I went on with the subject of the evening, "The American Drama."
Subsequently my backers informed Ben that I had "missed the opportunity of a lifetime." They had induced the "wealth and influence of Chicago" to attend my lectures, "the rich Rosenwalds among them." They would have helped to secure my drama work for the rest of my life, and then "Emma Goldman had to spoil in ten minutes all that we had worked weeks to achieve."
I felt as if I had been put up on the block for sale. The incident had a most depressing effect on me. Try as I would, I could not get my usual intensity into my further drama talks. It was different when I discussed the war. In my own hall, under no obligations to anyone, I could freely express my abhorrence of slaughter and frankly discuss whatever phase of the social question I took up. At the close of my drama course we reimbursed my "patrons" for their outlay. I did not regret the experience; it taught me that patronage is paralyzing to one's integrity and independence.
My stay in Chicago was lent charm by my two young friends Margaret and Deansie. Both consecrated themselves to me and turned the office of the Little Review over to my needs. The girls were as poor as church mice, never sure of their next meal, much less able to pay the printer or the landlord. Yet there were always fresh flowers on the desk to cheer me. Since the unforgettable days I had spent with Margaret in the spring when we had both enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Roe at their home in Pelham Manor, something very new and precious had grown up between us. Three weeks of almost daily association with her, her fine understanding and intuition, had increased our mutual affection.
Chicago had charm, but I could not linger. Other voices were calling, calling me to take up the struggle again. I still had a number of cities to cover. Sasha and Fitzi had left on their lecture tour, and I was urgently needed at home.
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Living My Life
Current Work in Living My Life
Volume 2, Chapter 41
Next Work in Living My Life >>
All Nearby Works in Living My Life