Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman


Home of “The Most Dangerous Woman in America”

Emma Goldman Historical Photo East Village

About Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • This unassuming building on a quiet stretch of 13th Street was once home to Emma Goldman (1869-1940), known as both the “Priestess of Anarchy” and “The Most Dangerous Woman in America!”
  • Goldman lived here from 1903-1913 and published her radical monthly magazine, Mother Earth, next door at 210.
  • While living here, Emma liked to invite her friends and fellow revolutionaries to join her for coffee “dark as the night, strong as the revolution, and sweet as love!”
  • But, what was her revolution? Emma Goldman defined Anarchy as a “beautiful ideal” which stood for “freedom, the right to self-expression, and everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.”
  • Politically, she defined the Anarchist Movement as “the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence and are therefore wrong or unnecessary.”
  • Her Anarchy differed from doctrines espoused by others in the Movement because she focused on issues like women’s rights, reproductive health, education, art, beauty, freedom, and love.
  • She prized the freedom to learn and lectured regularly on poetry and drama
    She believed in the freedom to appreciate beauty, saying that things like flowers and music were “not luxuries, they are necessities. Life would be unbearable without them.”
  • She was a passionate advocate for sexual freedom, remarking, “If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, love will be the parent.”
  • Though she distanced herself from mainstream feminism and the Suffrage Moment (because “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”), Goldman was a radical advocate for women’s economic, social, political and sexual liberation.
  • As a trained nurse and Russian-Jewish immigrant, she worked to provide healthcare to fellow immigrant women living in Lower East Side tenements. The experience helped convince her that issues like women’s health and birth control were actually labor issues, which needed to be included in the Anarchist Movement because they allowed women the freedom to make economic decisions for themselves and their families.
  • Her stance on women’s rights was way ahead of her time. She said in 1897, “I demand the independence of woman. Her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases.”
  • Her progressive views scared the crap out of J. Edgar Hoover, who called her “The Most Dangerous Woman in America.” (He was convinced there would be an Anarchist takeover of the United States on May Day, 1920).
  • Goldman herself was deported in 1919. After denouncing the Bolshevik regime in Russia, and trying to support an Anarchist revolution in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, she spent her final years in Canada.

Carpe City Trivia

You can find Emma Goldman all over the East Village and Lower East Side

  • She lectured regularly in Union Square.
  • She held Anarchist Masquerade Balls at Webster Hall (which were broken up by the police).
  • She liked to argue with Leon Trotsky and the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer at The Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway (now Wing Shoon Chinese restaurant).
  • She was a regular at Mable Dodge’s Wednesday Night Salon at 23 Fifth Avenue (along with the likes of Isadora Duncan and Marcel Duchamp).
  • She faced off at The Great Hall at Cooper Union with her fellow Anarchist (and ex-lover) Johann Most.
  • She used Schwab’s Saloon (50 East 1stStreet) as her return address. She called the saloon “the most radical center in New York.”

Which women's rights pioneer did Emma Goldman mentor?

Emma Goldman was mentor to birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger.  Sanger worked with Goldman as a nurse on the Lower East Side before establishing the first birth control clinic in US, and founding what would become Planned Parenthood.

By: Lucie Levine

New York City Tours

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