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Patriotism in Action

The career of Emma Goldman (1869-1940), one of the Jewish Women's Archive's Women of Valor, exemplifies these questions and conflicts. Fighting tirelessly to bring about a more just society, Goldman spent decades struggling against a political-economic system that she believed dehumanized both workers and employers. As an advocate for controversial causes ranging from anarchism to birth control, Goldman came into conflict with United States and local governmental officials who continually harassed her and suppressed her lectures and writing. In 1917, she was imprisoned for publications and speeches opposing both World War I and the draft. Two years later, in 1919, she was deported along with 248 other immigrant radicals also accused of disloyalty for their political beliefs.

Cover of Goldman's magazine "Mother Earth"
Political Cartoon from the Boston Phoenix, 2001

The first cartoon is from the cover of the June 1912 issue of Goldman's magazine Mother Earth. It illustrates Goldman's view of the hypocrisy of those who use patriotism as an excuse to stifle the free expression of those who disagree with them. The second cartoon, portraying Attorney General John Ashcroft, which appeared in the December 14, 2001 issue of the Boston Phoenix, indicates that present-day cartoonists share similar concerns.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How is patriotism defined in these two cartoons?
  • Do you think there is more than one way to define patriotism?
  • How might Emma Goldman's experience relate to the current political situation?
  • Is criticism of one's government inherently unpatriotic?
  • What is the relationship between patriotism and free speech?
  • Should it be illegal to advocate unpopular beliefs?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Patriotism in Action." (Viewed on September 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/discover/throughtheyear/november/patriotism/patriotism-in-action>.

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