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Deportation of Emma Goldman as a radical "alien"

December 21, 1919

On December 21, 1919, Emma Goldman, along with 248 other radical "aliens," was deported to the Soviet Union on the S.S. Buford under the 1918 Alien Act, which allowed for the expulsion of any alien found to be an anarchist.

Emma Goldman, born in Kovno, Lithuania (then Russia) in 1869, came to the United States in 1885 at age 16. By the time of her deportation, she had made a name for herself as a leading anarchist, public speaker, and crusader for free speech, birth control, and workers' rights.

Goldman first became interested in radical politics in Russia, where she came into contact with populists and political organizers. In the US, she was disappointed to learn that instead of streets paved in gold, workers were subject to gross economic inequality and inhumane working conditions. A defining moment for Goldman came in 1886, when eight anarchist radicals were convicted and condemned to death, on flimsy evidence, for setting off a bomb at Chicago's Haymarket rally that caused a riot in which several police officers were killed. Convinced of the defendants' innocence, Goldman resolved to learn all she could about anarchism, and soon became active in the anarchist movement.

Unfortunately for Goldman, the decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were difficult ones in which to be an anarchist in America. Federal anti-anarchist laws restricted Goldman's ability to give public speeches and subjected her to frequent harassment and arrests. Still, she had a profound influence on American political activism. Giving hundreds of talks across the country, she became renowned as an inspiring and controversial orator. Mother Earth, the journal she founded in 1906 and ran until 1917, provided an outlet for the writings of radical thinkers. Roger Baldwin, who heard Goldman speak on free speech in 1908, went on to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Margaret Sanger, a prominent birth control activist, looked on Goldman as her mentor.

Although Goldman was not a pacifist, she believed that governments had no right to wage war, and actively opposed US involvement in World War I. She argued that the war was an imperialist venture that aided capitalists at the expense of workers. When the US entered the war in 1917, her anti-draft activism was considered a threat to national security, and she spent 18 months in federal prison. On her release, Goldman was immediately re-arrested on the order of the young J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Justice Department's General Intelligence Division. Hoover persuaded the courts to deny Goldman's citizenship claims, thus making her eligible for deportation under the 1918 Alien Act, which allowed for the expulsion of any alien found to be an anarchist.

At first excited by the chance to see the workers' republic of Soviet Russia, Goldman was soon disillusioned by the Bolshevik regime. Barred from returning to the US, she spent the last two decades of her life wandering through Europe and Canada, giving speeches on radical politics. When she died in Toronto in May 1940, her body was returned to Chicago, where Goldman was buried near the Haymarket anarchists who had first inspired her.

Sources: Emma Goldman Papers, sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 526-530.

6 Comments

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I’m Ashkenazi I’m also a cousin to Csar (& his cousin and wife the grandchildren of Queen Victoria my gg++aunt through Queen Victoria’s mothers Brother my ggg++ grandfather King Leopold) Nicholas the second & czarina were/are cousins my husband &?I are 8th cousins via Plantagenets Tudors Stuarts etc. Stalin socialism and communism shot to death in cold blood my cousins because they were royalty including hemophiliac 10-year-old boy, young women and children and beautiful daughters that’s what communism and socialism is about! Murdering and killing anybody starving to death millions in Russia under socialism and communism after getting rid of the royal family in such a second disgusting way thank God God himself destroyed selling within two years he dropped dead and the Bolsheviks walked over his dead body didn’t give him a second thought! Many people don’t realize within two weeks of his order of killing my cousins in cold blood he became very sick heart problems kidney etc. and was in two years Stalin was dead although I wish God would’ve done the same to Hitler as quick Hitler‘s test was no picnic either! And so there is no rest for the wicked! Socialism and communism is not a friend to me as a Jew or to Israel! Nor was Socialism a friend to Mrs. Goldman so unfortunately as a young woman was brainwashed very sad story indeed when she could’ve had a happy life! I bet many people don’t realize that abortion clinics were put in cities of color to murder ethnic children go ahead and look it up I’m a former radio and television Newscaster it’s right there for anyone to research. Socialism is a big lie like Hitler‘s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels The liberals and the left he could care less about the ethnic community and even less about what is really happening to the Black Community hence why you have racist like the Clintons making sickening comments Hillary Clinton called black youth super predators does that sound like someone who’s not prejudiced? I left the JFK Democratic Party that’s the democratic party that I love now it is socialist and communist so I I’m a Republican anyone who’s against Israel is against God yes I’m a Zionist! I’ll tell you who wanted to get rid of Pro Israel Jews like myself! Socialist communist liberals in America and throughout the world wake up already! @kittywaymo Sheila Hunter IMDb

I'm glad she was deported, we should deport every foreign born anarchist or "revolutionary". God Bless J Edgar Hoover

What was Emma Goldman perspective?

Remember, she got in trouble for inspiring the assasination of President McKinley.

Fascinating overview of history. Very well-written. Seriously, nice piece of work! What a contrast to the endless flow of toxic sludge the MSM pumps out. Thanks.

In reply to by J.Dominic

I went to an estate sale I bought a paper with a tracing of her tombstone on it how awesome is that I didn't know who it was. Now I do

Emma Goldman is pictured in her mug shot, taken when she was wrongly implicated in the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.
Courtesy of the Emma Goldman Papers.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Deportation of Emma Goldman as a radical "alien"." (Viewed on June 24, 2022) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/dec/21/1919/emma-goldman>.

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