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American Liberty: Promise & Paradox

People around the world find inspiration in the ideals-justice, liberty, freedom, hope-represented by the Statue of Liberty. American-born poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) and Russian-born radical anarchist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) were both deeply connected to the "lady with the lamp." Since 1886, Lazarus' poem "The New Colossus" and the statue upon whose base it is inscribed have welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States.

Although Goldman immigrated in 1885, some months before its construction began, the Statue of Liberty became so emblematic of the promise of America that Goldman included it in a vivid "recollection" of her arrival in New York harbor. Identifying herself with this central emblem of American freedom helped Goldman contest those who denounced her as a threat to American values. This feature examines how, for Emma Goldman, the Statue of Liberty came to represent not only the promise but also the paradox of America.

"The symbol of hope, of freedom, of opportunity! She held her torch high to light the way to the free country"
—Emma Goldman, Living My Life

"A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/ is the imprisoned lightening, and her name/ Mother of Exiles."
—Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"

Statue of Liberty
Full image
The Statue of Liberty.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "American Liberty: Promise & Paradox." (Viewed on July 15, 2018) <>.


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