Emma Goldman arrived in the United States in January 1886. She was seventeen years old. She traveled with her sister Helena; another sister, Lena, had married and moved to America, so Emma and Helena joined Lena at her Rochester home.
Emma soon found work at Garson, Meyer, and Company, a clothing manufacturer. She found the work overly regimented and relentless. She quit and found a job at the home shop of tailor Louis Rubinstein. Working conditions were better, but Emma came to regard both workplaces as sweatshops.
News of the May 4, 1886, bombing at Chicago's Haymarket Square—for which anarchists were blamed on flimsy evidence and harshly prosecuted—marked the beginning of Emma's radicalization. She began attending German-language lectures by anarchists and labor radicals at Germania Hall and the Labor Lyceum.
The Goldman sisters' parents, Abraham and Taube, arrived in Rochester from Russia in the fall of 1886. In December, the sisters moved in with their parents in a four-room house on Joseph Street.
At Rubinstein's, she met a coworker, Jacob Kershner. They courted. Emma was desperately lonely, bored, and eager to get out from under her parents' roof. She married Jacob in February 1887. The marriage was immediately unsuccessful. Jacob was often impotent and liked to play cards. As a married woman, Emma was not permitted to continue working; Jacob's gambling losses caused the couple severe financial stress. Early in 1888, Emma obtained a divorce. She moved briefly to New Haven, Connecticut, but after an illness she had to move back to Rochester. Jacob begged her to reconcile, at one point threatening suicide. Emma moved back in with him, but nothing had changed.
In mid-1889, she split with Jacob once and for all. This made her a pariah in the conservative Jewish neighborhood where her parents lived.
In August 1889, she left Rochester for New York City, where her anarchist destiny awaited.