Living My Life
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Lecturing in Cleveland in , Goldman recalls being approached by a young man who gave the name "Nieman. It was soon discovered that Nieman was the alias of Leon Czolgosz , the assassin who fatally shot President McKinley in September Goldman, implicated as an accomplice in the assassination, was arrested in Chicago. Though held in contempt by the American public and badly beaten during a prison transfer, Goldman was released due to lack of evidence. Goldman's autobiography depicts the repercussions of McKinley's assassination as long lasting and severe.
Despite being acquitted of all charges, Goldman's association with Czolgosz made her a pariah to anarchist and non-anarchist alike. Despite her wrongful imprisonment, Goldman stood by Czolgosz and sought to discover his justification for the assassination. Goldman reflects that although Czolgosz's action was misguided, she "was not willing to swear away the reason, character, or life of a defenseless human being. Her belief in the movement was shaken. As Goldman suggests, many of her comrades had "been flaunting anarchism like a red cloth before a bull, but they had [run] to cover at its first charge.
Despite these difficulties, Goldman established her own radical newspaper, Mother Earth in Throughout the following decade, Goldman describes her political associations with the recently released Alexander Berkman to protest US preparedness, political repression, restrictions on homosexuality and birth control. The memoir devotes particular attention to Goldman's view of homosexuality.
Goldman writes, recalling an interaction with a woman who confessed to her feelings of "homosexuality," "To me anarchism was not a mere theory for a distant future; it was a living influence to free us from inhibitions… and from the destructive barriers that separate man from man. Goldman was arrested under the Comstock Act following a speech on birth control in , but was shortly thereafter released.
Living My Life continues by discussing Goldman's efforts to counter-act military preparedness and the draft—especially the arrest of both Goldman and Berkman. The two were arrested on charges of encouraging men to avoid conscription into the army. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, the couple was sentenced to two years in prison and forced to pay a ten thousand dollar fine.
The autobiography concludes with Goldman's exile in the Soviet Union. After serving their full sentences, both Goldman and Berkman were released in the midst of the first Red Scare and were subsequently deported to the newly formed Soviet Union. Although Goldman writes that she "longed" to return to her "native land" and aid in its reconstruction after the Revolutions, she "denied the right of the government" to force her. It was forcible tax collection at the point of guns, with its devastating effect on villages and towns. It was the elimination … of everyone who dared think aloud, and the spiritual death of the most militant elements whose intelligence, faith, and courage had really enabled the Bolsheviki to achieve their power.
These feelings were compounded by the brutal repression of the Kronstadt sailors, who had rebelled under the pretense of anarchist principles. Goldman concludes her memoir by describing her flight from Soviet Russia and her subsequent travels abroad. However, after being commissioned by the New York World , Goldman published a series of articles describing her experiences in Russia—these articles would later be compiled into My Disillusionment in Russia. Living My Life received a positive review from the New York Times , and generally a positive reception from members of radical circles.
Duffus in the New York Times praised Goldman for the human portrayal of her "tempestuous" life. The most impressive aspect of Goldman's book, wrote Duffus, was the realization that what motivated Goldman was not "hatred" for the ruling classes, but "sympathy" for the masses. Extending this analysis to many of the other historical actors in Living My Life , Duffus concluded that perhaps the anarchists "hated authority because authority as they had known it had been neither kind nor just to them. In an anonymous "Letter to the Editor" published in the Washington Post , a writer compared Goldman's criticism of the Soviet Union to John Dewey 's philosophy that "violence begets violence".
They agreed with her insistence that progress could not be achieved through dictatorship. Some anarchists tried to settle personal issues. Helene Minkin, her former roommate and an anarchist in her own right, quickly published her memoirs in a serialized format in the Jewish daily newspaper Forverts The Forward in She wanted to defend her husband Johann Most , whom she had married in the s, from Goldman's scathing criticism. Minkin rejected Goldman's statement that Most broke with Goldman and married Minkin because he wanted a wife who would take a domestic role.
Minkin said she did not know the reason for the break between the two former friends Most was originally a mentor to Goldman , but she said that her personal relationship with Most was neither subordinate nor traditional. Minkin described her role this way:. Living My Life provides critical insight as to the mentality of radical immigrants in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Goldman personally explores the often neglected topics of political violence and the nature of human sexuality in the early anarchist movement.
At the beginning of Goldman's autobiography, the Haymarket bombing was a recent memory and American anarchists had already been tied to notions of violence and assassination.
As historian John Higham posits, after Haymarket, the immigrant was widely stereotyped by American nativists as "a lawless creature given over to violence and disorder. However, in the years following the attempt on Frick's life, Goldman and her allies turned away from the use of violence and assassination for political purposes. In the wake of McKinley's assassination, Goldman published an article that withheld direct praise for Leon Czolgosz and instead offered sympathy for those driven "by great social stress" to commit atrocities. Goldman's radicalism also influenced her personal views on sexuality.
Coming from a traditional Russian Jewish family that stressed marriage and motherhood, Goldman rejected societal norms in favor of "free love. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
For the song, see " Living My Life ". Living My Life first edition. American National Biography Online. New York Times. May 14, Living My Life. New York: Dover Publications. October 25, Washington Post.
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