Editor's Pick

01 December, 2022

ON 21 DECEMBER 1919, the anarchist activist Emma Goldman, seen here addressing a crowd at New York’s Union Square three years earlier, was deported from the United States, along with her partner, Alexander Berkman, and 247 others, during the “Red Scare” that followed the end of the First World War. Goldman, born in what is today Lithuania, had immigrated to the United States in 1885. While working in a garment factory in Rochester, she was radicalised by the trial of eight anarchists following the Haymarket Affair. In 1889, she moved to New York City, where she met Berkman and began working at the anarchist newspaper Freiheit.

Three years later, Berkman was imprisoned for the attempted assassination of a steel magnate. Goldman, who had severed ties with Freiheit after its editor denounced the assassination attempt, was arrested the following year on charges of inciting a riot after she urged unemployed workers at Union Square to take action rather than depend on charity. Following her release, she embarked on a number of lecture tours throughout the country, as well as in Europe, and occasionally worked as a nurse.

After the United States entered the First World War, in 1917, Goldman and Berkman set up the No Conscription League. They were soon arrested and sentenced to two years in prison under the Espionage Act. By the time they were released, in September 1919, the US government was preparing its response to the months of labour unrest that followed the end of the war. The attorney general, Alexander Mitchell Palmer, ordered a series of raids to round up more than three thousand suspected radicals and used the Anarchist Exclusion Act to deport non-citizens among them. The deportees were shipped off to the Soviet Union, where Goldman lived for the next two years. She spent the rest of her life in Britain, France and Canada.