Emma Goldman - Early Years - Abraham Goldman

Abraham Goldman was twenty-four years old and a handsome and dashing young man when his daughter Emma was born. After investing and losing his oldest step-daughter's inheritance, he began work as an innkeeper and petty government official in the small Baltic town of Popelan. As was often the case with Jews, he became a scapegoat for many of the community's problems: government representatives blamed him for any disturbances caused by peasants at his inn, while townspeople resented him for his association with a government that seemed to bring them little benefit. Again, his business failed and the family moved on, first to Königsberg and then to St. Petersburg.

An ambitious, energetic, and well-educated man, Abraham was humiliated and demoralized by the constant obstacles and failures, and he quickly turned into the angry and volatile figure who traumatized much of Emma's childhood. He attempted to compensate for his lack of control in his public life by exerting a draconian authority over his family, particularly over the unconventional Emma, whom he wished to force into a traditional lifestyle. Emma, with her intense desire for independence, rebelled often against her stern father. Only much later in life, with a deeper understanding of the structural forces that had shaped her father's personality, did she begin to forgive him for the misery he caused her as a child and young woman.

  1. Candace Falk, Love, Anarchy, and Emma Goldman (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984), 14-19, revised paperback edition from Rutgers University Press, 1990, 1999; Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise: A Biography of Emma Goldman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 4-12.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Emma Goldman - Early Years - Abraham Goldman." (Viewed on April 20, 2024) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/goldman/early-years/abraham-goldman>.