Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Happy Birthday, Emma Goldman!
First, that dancing quote everyone uses; it's wrong. Alix Kates Shulman has an article on it. Here's the closest Ms. Shulman can find to the quote:
At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha [Alexander Berkman], a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everyboy's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world--prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. [Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56]
I think this quote is quite lovely, if not quite as pithy as popular version, "If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution."
As Dr. B mentioned as well, the Wikipedia entry is worth going to for an outline of her life. For a look at some documents by and about her (including government documents), try Emma Goldman: A Guide to Her Life and Documentary Sources. Some of her later writings are also at the Emma Goldman Reference Library.
And how could I pass up a site about the Emma Goldman Finishing School in Seattle?
[Update: Er, Ms. Goldman's birthday is June 27, not July. Sorry 'bout that.]