Anarchists and Feminists: Living My Life by Emma Goldman

An excerpt from the book Living My Life by Emma Goldman a feminist and anarchist, her autobiography and life story.

LIVING MY LIFE. By Emma Goldman. New York: Dover, 1970.

About the book: An eloquent and moving autobiography by Emma Goldman, the famed anarchist and feminist of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her fiery rendering of her personal and political life and the flavor of the times makes this an irresistible memoir. As relevant today as she ever was, Emma speaks from her heart about the struggle of a vibrant individual to be free in society, and to create a free society.

From the book: The applause had barely died away when an elderly woman rose belligerently. "Mr. Chairman," she demanded, "does Miss Goldman believe in God or does she not?" She was followed by another. "Does the speaker favor killing off all rulers?" Then a small, emaciated man jumped to his feet and in a thin voice cried: "Miss Goldman! You're a believer in free love, aren't you? Now, wouldn't your system result in houses of prostitution at every lamppost?"

"I shall have to answer these people straight from the shoulder," I remarked to the minister. "So be it," he replied.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I began, "I came here to avoid as much as possible treading on your corns. I had intended to deal only with the basic issue of economics that dictates our lives from the cradle to the grave, regardless of our religion or moral beliefs. I see now that it was a mistake. If one enters a battle, he cannot be squeamish about a few corns. Here, then, are my answers: I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years past been working to undo the botched job your God has made." The house went frantic. "Blasphemy! Heretic! Sinner!" the women screamed. "Stop her! Throw her out!"

When order was restored, I continued: "As to killing rulers, it depends entirely on the position of the ruler. If it is the Russian Czar, I most certainly believe in dispatching him to where he belongs. If the ruler is as ineffectual as an American President, it is hardly worth the effort. There are, however, some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry--the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth. As for the gentleman who asked if free love would not build more houses of prostitution, my answer is: They will all be empty if the men of the future look like him."

There was instant pandemonium. In vain the chairman pounded for order. People jumped up on benches, waved their hats, shouted, and would not leave the church until the lights were turned out.

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