Emma Goldman (1869–1940) was a fiery activist, writer, and speaker whose major causes included anarchy, free speech, sex reform, and woman’s rights (nineteenth-century practice was to use the singular, woman's, when referring to women as a class; later practice was to use the plural, women's). Goldman was often persecuted or jailed for her speeches and writings, making her a heroine to defenders of free speech and freethought.
Truth be told, authorities could not be blamed for thinking Goldman dangerous; one of her lovers, the anarchist Alexander Berkman, seriously wounded industrialist Henry Clay Frick in an assassination attempt rooted in labor grievances. Eventually (and owing in part to her opposition to American involvement in World War I), Goldman was deported to her native Russia after the Bolshevik/Communist Revolution of 1917. Disillusioned, she left Russia in December 1921. She lived in various locations across Europe, twice visiting Spain's short-lived anarchist communities during the Spanish Civil War, then emigrating to Canada in 1939. There she suffered two debilitating strokes. She died in Toronto, Ontario, on May 14, 1940.
Goldman’s ties to west-central New York State are ironic; leaving the area was the first necessary step toward her tempestuous career. A young Russian immigrant, she had come to Rochester with her sister, worked in sweatshops, and entered a loveless marriage. She experienced her political awakening when she heard about Chicago’s Haymarket tragedy; in 1889, she left her husband and Rochester to move to New York City and embark on her career as a radical.