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; 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. She died there in 1940.
Emma Goldman’s radical ideas were often referenced by Roger Nash Baldwin, founder of what became the American Civil Liberties Union.
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.