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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.

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?
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Limitations on free speech in the early 1900s were often justified by the argument that the opinions of anarchists and other radicals were unpatriotic and anti-American. This cartoon from Goldman's magazine Mother Earth illustrates Goldman's view of the hypocrisy of those who used patriotism as an excuse to stifle the free expression of those who disagreed with them.

Courtesy of the Emma Goldman Papers.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Patriotism in Action." (Viewed on December 14, 2019) <https://jwa.org/discover/throughtheyear/november/patriotism/patriotism-in-action>.

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