Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc.,1931.
DIRECTLY I WAS SETTLED IN MY NEW ROOM, I WENT TO SEE JUSTUS Schwab. I found him in bed, a mere shadow of his former self. A lump rose in my throat at the sight of our giant so wasted. I knew that Mrs. Schwab worked very hard taking care of the saloon and I begged her to let me nurse Justus. She promised, though she was sure that the sick man would have no one attend him but herself. We were all aware of the tender relationship that existed between Justus and his family. His wife had been his companion all through the years. She had always been the picture of health, but Justus's illness, worry, and overwork were visibly telling on her; she had lost her bloom and looked wan.
While I was talking to Mrs. Schwab, Ed came in. He became embarrassed on seeing me; I also was confused. He quickly regained control of himself and approached us. Mrs. Schwab excused herself by saying she had to look after her patient, and we were left alone. It was a painful moment, to which neither of us could for some time find the right approach.
I had not been in touch with Ed during my stay abroad, but I knew of his life through our common friends, who had written me about the birth of Ed's child. I asked him how it felt to be a father. He became animated at once, launching into a poem over his little daughter and enlarging upon her charm and remarkable intelligence. I was amused to see that baby-hater waxing so enthusiastic. I remembered that he had always refused to move into a house where there were children. "I see you don't believe me," he remarked presently; "you are astonished that I am so excited about it. Well, it isn't because I happen to be the father, but because my little girl is really an exceptional child." It was amazing to hear it from the man who used to say that "most human beings are foolish, but parents are both foolish and blind: they imagine their children to be prodigies and expect the whole world to be of the same opinion."
I assured him that I did not doubt him, but in order that I might make quite certain he had better let me see the wonder-child. "You really want to see her? You really want me to bring her to you?" he cried. "Why, yes, of course," I replied; "you know I have always been fond of children --- why should I not be of yours?" He was silent for a while. Then he said: "Our love has not been much of a success, has it?" "Is love ever?" I responded; "ours lasted seven years, which most people would consider a long time." "You have grown wise during the past year, dear Emma," he answered. "No, only older, dear Ed." We parted with the promise of meeting again soon.
At the Russian New Year's vetcherinka Ed was present in the company of a woman, his wife, I was sure. She was large, and she talked in a rather loud voice. Ed had always abhorred this trait in women; how did he stand it now? Friends besieged me, and comrades from the East Side came to question me about the movement in England and in France. I did not see Ed again that evening.
The most urgent necessity on my arrival in America was to secure employment. I had left my visiting card with several of my medical friends, but weeks passed and not a single call came. Hippolyte tried to get something to do on the Czech anarchist weekly. There was plenty of work there, but no payment; it was considered unethical to accept money for writing for an anarchist paper. All the foreign language publications, with the exception of the Freiheit and the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, were got out by the voluntary labour of men who earned their living at some trade, giving their evenings and Sundays gratis to the needs of the movement. Hippolyte, not having a profession, was even more helpless in New York than he had been in London. Boarding houses in America rarely employed men.
At last on Christmas Eve Dr. Hoffmann sent for me. "The patient is a morphine addict," he informed me, "a very difficult and trying case. The night nurse had to be given a week off; she could not stand the strain. You have been called to substitute for a week." The prospect was not enticing, but I needed work.
It was almost midnight when I arrived with the doctor at the patient's house. In a large room on the second floor a woman was lying half dressed on the bed, in a stupor. Her face, framed in a mass of black hair, was white and she was breathing heavily. Looking about, I noticed on the wall the portrait of a heavy man peering at me out of small, hard eyes. I recognized the likeness as that of a person I had seen before, but I could not recollect where or under what circumstances. Dr. Hoffmann began giving me directions. The patient's name was Mrs. Spenser he said. He had been treating her for some time, trying to cure her of the drug habit. She had been making good progress, but recently she had suffered a relapse and taken to morphine again. Nothing could be done for her until she came out of her stupor, I should watch her pulse and keep her warm. Mrs. Spenser hardly stirred during the night. I tried to while away the time by reading, but I could not concencentrate. The picture of the man on the wall haunted me. When the day nurse arrived, the patient was still asleep, though breathing more normally.
Soon my week was nearly over. During the entire time Mrs. Spenser had shown no interest in her surroundings. She would open her eyes, stare vacantly, and doze off to sleep again. When I came on duty on the sixth night, I found her fully conscious. Her hair looked neglected and I asked her whether she would like me to comb and braid it. She consented gladly. While I was doing it, she inquired what my name was. "Goldman," I said. "Are you related to Emma Goldman, the anarchist?" "Very much so," I replied, "I am the guilty party." To my surprise she appeared much pleased to have such a "famous person" for her nurse. She asked me to take full charge of her case, saying that she liked me better than her other nurses. It was flattering to my professional vanity, but I did not feel it right to have the other nurses discharged on my account. Besides, the strain of twenty-four hours' straight duty would make it impossible. She begged me to stay, promising that I should have every afternoon off and a rest during the night.
Some time later Mrs. Spenser inquired whether I knew the original of the portrait. I told her he looked familiar, but that I could not place him. She did not discuss the matter further.
The house, the furniture, the large library of good books, all be-spoke the intelligence and good taste of their owner. There was a curious, mystifying air about the apartment, heightened by the daily visits of a woman, coarse looking and gaudily attired. The moment she arrived my patient would send me on an errand. I welcomed the opportunity for a walk in the fresh air, wondering at the same time who the person might be with whom Mrs. Spenser had always to be alone. At first I suspected that the strange visitor might be supplying her with drugs, but as there were no evil consequences to my patient, I dismissed the matter as not being my concern.
At the end of the third week Mrs. Spencer was able to go downstairs to her parlour. In the process of putting the sick room in order I came across peculiar slips of paper marked: "Jeanette, 20 times; Marion, 16; Henriette,12." There were about forty more names of women, each checked off by a number. What a strange record! I thought. When about to join my patient in the sitting room, I was arrested by a voice that I recognized as that of Mrs. Spencer's visitor. "MacIntyre was at the house again last night," I heard her say, "but none of the girls wanted him. Jeanette said she preferred twenty others to that filthy creature." Mrs. Spencer must have heard my step, for suddenly the conversation broke off, and she called through the door, "Is that you, Miss Goldman? Please come in." As I entered, the tea tray I carried crashed to the ground, and I stood staring at a man sitting next to my patient on the sofa. It was the original of the portrait and I immediately recognized him as the detective-sergeant who had been instrumental in sending me to the penitentiary in 1893.
The slips of paper, the report I had just overheard, I understood it all in a flash. Spenser was a keeper of a "house," and the detective her paramour. I fled to the second story, filled with the one idea of getting out and away from the house. Hastening downstairs with my suit-case, I saw Mrs. Spenser at the bottom of the stairs, hardly able to stand, her hands nervously gripping the banister. I realized I could not leave her in that state; I was responsible to Dr. Hoffman, for whom I must wait. I led Mrs. Spenser to her room and put her to bed.
She burst into hysterical sobbing, begging me not to go away and assuring me that I should never have to see the man again; she would even have his portrait removed. She admitted being the keeper of a house. I dreaded to have you find it out," she said, "but I did think that Emma Goldman, the anarchist would not condemn me for being a cog in a machine I did not create." Prostitution was not of her making, she argued; and since it existed, it did not matter who was "In charge." If not she, it would be someone else. She did not think keeping girls was any worse than underpaying them in factories; at least she had always been kind to them. I could inquire of them myself if I wished. She talked incessantly, weeping herself into exhaustion. I remained.
Mrs. Spenser's "reasons" did not influence me. I knew that everyone offered the same excuses for vile deeds, the policeman as well as the judge, the soldier as well as the highest war-lord; everybody who lives off the labour and degradation of others. I felt, however, that in my capacity as nurse I could not concern myself with the particular trade or occupation of my patients. I had to minister to their physical needs. Besides, I was not only a nurse, I was also an anarchist, who knew the social factors behind human action. As such, even more than as a nurse I could not refuse her my services.
My four months with Mrs. Spenser gave me considerable experience in psychology. She was an unusual person, intelligent, observant, and understanding. She knew life and men, all sorts of men, in every social stratum. The house she kept was "high-class"; among its patrons were some of the strongest pillars of society: doctors, lawyers, judges, and preachers. The man whom the girls "hated like the pest" was none other, I found out, than a New York lawyer prominent in the nineties --- the very same who had assured the jury that Emma Goldman, if free, would endanger the lives of the children of the rich and cover the streets of New York with blood.
Indeed, Mrs. Spenser knew men, and, knowing them, she felt nothing but contempt and hatred for them. Over and again she would say that not one of her girls was so depraved as the men who bought them, or so barren of common humanity. Her sympathies were always on the side of the girls when a "guest" complained. That she had intense feeling for suffering she often demonstrated, and not only in her dealings with the girls, many of whom I met and talked with; she was kind to every beggar on the street. She loved children passionately. Then she would come upon some urchin, no matter how ragged she would pet him and give him money. Repeatedly I heard her lament: "If I only had a child! A child of my own!"
Her story was a veritable novel. As a girl of sixteen, very beautiful, she fell in love with a dashing army officer in Ruthenia, her native country. By promises of marriage he made her his mistress. When she became pregnant, he took her to Vienna, where an operation almost killed her. After she had recuperated, the man went with her to Cracow, where he left her in a house of prostitution. She had no money, did not know a soul in the city, and found herself a slave in the house. Later one of the patrons bought her free and took her on a long voyage. For five years she travelled over Europe with her keeper, and then she again was stranded without friends, the street her only refuge. Several years passed. She had grown wise; she had saved some money and she decided to go to America. Here she drifted into acquaintance with a wealthy politician. When he left her, she had enough money to open up a house.
The remarkable trait about Mrs. Spenser was that she had not become affected by the life through which she had passed. There was not a coarse grain in her and she remained touchingly sensitive, a lover of music and of good literature.
Dr. Hoffmann's treatment gradually weaned her from the use of drugs, but it left her physically weak and subject to attacks of dizziness. She could not go out alone and I became her companion as well as nurse. I read to her, accompanied her to concerts, the opera, and the theatre, occasionally even to lectures in which she was interested.
While nursing Mrs. Spenser I became engaged in work preparatory to the projected visit of Peter Kropotkin. He had notified us that he was coming to America to deliver a series of lectures at the Lowell Institute on Ideals in Russian Literature, and that he would also be able to talk on anarchism if we wished it. We were enthusiastic over the prospect. I had missed the lectures of our dear comrade on his previous tour. In England I had had no opportunity to hear him. We all felt that Peter's lectures and gracious personality would be of inestimable value to our movement in the United States. When Mrs. Spenser heard of my activity, she immediately offered to relieve me evenings, so that I might have more leisure to devote to the work.
From all parts of the city people came streaming in to Grand Central Palace to hear Peter Kropotkin on the first Sunday afternoon in May. For once even the papers were decent: they could not gainsay the man's charm, the power of his intellect, the simplicity and logic of his delivery and argumentation. In the audience was also Mrs. Spenser, completely carried away by the speaker.
A social evening was being prepared for Kropotkin, an unofficial affair, to enable him to meet the comrades and others in sympathy with our ideas. Mrs. Spenser inquired whether she would be admitted. "What if your friends find out who I am?" she asked anxiously," I assured her that my friends were in no way akin to Anthony Comstock and that no one would by word or deed make her feel out of place. She looked wonderingly at me out of her luminous eyes.
The evening before the social gathering several of the more intimate comrades dined with our beloved teacher. I related the story of Mrs. Spenser. Peter was much interested; she was a real human document, he thought. Indeed, he would meet my patient, and autograph a copy of his Memoirs for her, as she had requested. Before I left, Peter embraced me. "You are giving a convincing example of the beauty and humanity of our ideals," he remarked. I knew that he, so rich in compassion, understood why I had remained to care for the social pariah.
At last my patient was far enough advanced in her cure to dispense with me. I was eager to go on tour. The comrades in a number of cities had been urging me to come for lectures. There were also other reasons. One of them was Pittsburgh. I had no hopes of being able to see Sasha; he had been deprived of visits entirely after my dreadful encounter with Prison Inspector Reed. Since the failure of the tunnel my tortured boy had been in solitary, with all his privileges taken away. The rare sub rosa notes he was able to send out gave no indication of what he was enduring. They only helped to increase my feeling of the hopelessness of his situation. I kept on writing to him, but it was like sending letters into the void. I had no way of knowing whether they reached him. The prison authorities would never let me see Sasha again, but they could not prevent me from going to Pittsburgh, where I could feel nearer to him.
Hippolyte had left for Chicago to work on the Arbeiter Zeitung. The offer of employment had come at a period when life had become insupportable to him, and he in turn had added much to my unhappiness. The thought that he would now have the soothing companionship of Max, as well as work he was fitted to do, gave me much consolation. I was planning to meet him in Chicago.
Ed came often to visit me or to invite me to dinner. He was charming and there was no sign of the storm that had tossed us about for seven years. It had given way to a calm friendship. He did not bring his little daughter and I suspected that the mother must have objected to my seeing the child. Whether she also resented our companionship I had no way of knowing. Ed never mentioned her. When he learned that I was about to begin a lecture tour, he asked me again to act as the representative of his firm.
Before leaving for the West I kept a previous engagement in Paterson, New Jersey, where the local Italian group had arranged a meeting for me. Our Italian comrades were always most hospitable, and on this occasion they prepared an informal social to follow my lecture. I was glad of the opportunity to find out more about Bresci and his life. What I learned from his closest comrades convinced me once more how difficult it is to gain a real insight into the human heart and how likely we all are to judge men by superficial indications.
Gaetano Bresci was one of the founders of La Questione Sociale, the Italian anarchist paper published in Paterson. He was a skillful weaver, considered by his employers a sober, hard-working man, but his pay averaged only fifteen dollars a week. He had a wife and child to support; yet he managed to donate weekly contributions to the paper. He had even saved a hundred and fifty dollars, which he lent to the group at a critical period of La Questione Sociale. His free evenings and Sundays he used to spend in helping with the office work and in propaganda. He was beloved and respected for his devotion by all the members of his group.
Then one day Bresci had unexpectedly asked that his loan to the paper be returned. He was informed that it was impossible; the paper had no funds and had, in fact, a deficit. But Bresci insisted and even refused to offer any explanation for his demand. Finally the group succeeded in securing enough money to pay back the debt to Bresci. But the Italian comrades bitterly resented Bresci's behaviour, branding him as a miser, who loved money above his ideal. Most of his friends even ostracized him.
A few weeks later came the news that Gaetano Bresci had killed King Humbert. His act brought home to the Paterson group the realization of how cruelly they had wronged the man. He had insisted on the return of his money in order to secure the fare to Italy! No doubt the consciousness of the injustice done Bresci rested heavier on the Italian comrades than his resentment against them. To make amends, in a sense, the Paterson group charged itself with the support of their martyred comrade's child, a beautiful little girl. His widow, on the other hand, gave no indication that she either understood the spirit of her child's father or was in sympathy with his great sacrifice.
The subject of my lecture in Cleveland, early in May of that year, was Anarchism, delivered before the Franklin Liberal Club, a radical organization. During the intermission before the discussion I noticed a man looking over the titles of the pamphlets and books on sale near the platform. Presently he came over to me with the question: "Will you suggest something for me to read?" He was working in Akron, he explained, and he would have to leave before the close of the meeting. He was very young, a mere youth, of medium height, well built, and carrying himself very erect. But it was his face that held me, a most sensitive face, with a delicate pink complexion; a handsome face, made doubly so by his curly golden hair. Strength showed in his large blue eyes. I made a selection of some books for him, remarking that I hoped he would find in them what he was seeking. I returned to the platform to open the discussion and I did not see the young man again that evening, but his striking face remained in my memory.
The Isaaks had moved Free Society to Chicago, where they occupied a large house which was the centre of the anarchist activities in that city. On my arrival there, I went to their home and immediately plunged into intense work that lasted eleven weeks. The summer heat became so oppressive that the rest of my tour had to be postponed until September. I was completely exhausted and badly in need of rest. Sister Helena had repeatedly asked me to come to her for a month, but I had not been able to spare the time before. Now was my opportunity. I would have a few weeks with Helena, the children of my two sisters, and Yegor, who was spending his vacation in Rochester. He had two college chums with him, he had written me; to make the circle of young people complete I invited Mary, the fourteen year old daughter of the Isaaks, to come with me for a holiday. I had earned some money on orders for Ed's firm and I could afford to play Lady Bountiful to the young people and grow younger with them.
On the day of our departure the Isaaks gave me a farewell luncheon. Afterwards, while I was busy packing my things, someone rang the bell. Mary Isaak came in to tell me that a young man, who gave his name as Nieman, was urgently asking to see me. I knew nobody by that name and I was in a hurry, about to leave for the station. Rather impatiently I requested Mary to inform the caller that I had no time at the moment, but that he could talk to me on my way to the station. As I left the house, I saw the visitor, recognizing him as the handsome chap who had asked me to recommend him reading matter at the Cleveland meeting.
Hanging on to the straps on the elevated train, Nieman told me that he had belonged to a Socialist local in Cleveland, that he had found its members dull, lacking in vision and enthusiasm. He could not bear to be with them and he had left Cleveland and was now working in Chicago and eager to get in touch with anarchists.
At the station I found my friends awaiting me, among them Max. I wanted to spend a few minutes with him and I begged Hippolyte to take care of Nieman and introduce him to the comrades.
The Rochester youngsters took me to their hearts. My two sisters' children, my brother Yegor and his chums, and young Mary, all combined to fill the days with the loveliness only young ardent souls can give. It was a new and exhilarating experience, to which I completely abandoned myself. The roof of Helena's house became our garden and gathering place where my youthful friends confided to me their dreams and aspirations.
Our picnics with the young folks were especially delightful. Harry, sister Lena's eldest child, was a Republican at ten, a regular campaign spellbinder. It was fun to hear him defend McKinley, his hero, and argue against Tante Emma. He shared the family admiration for me, regretting, however, that I did not belong to his camp. Saxe, Harry's brother, was of an entirely different type. In character he resembled Helena much more than his own mother, having a good deal of the former's shyness and timidity, and giving the same impression of sadness. He also shared Helena's boundless capacity for love. His ideal was David, Helena's youngest son, whose word was sacred to Saxe. This was not surprising, because David was a splendid specimen of a boy. Of fine physique and pleasing appearance, his unusual musical talents and his love of fun won him the heart of everyone. I loved all these children, but next to Stella it was Saxe who came nearest my heart, perhaps mainly because I was aware that he lacked the coarser equipment necessary for the struggle of life.
My holiday in Rochester was somewhat marred by a notice in Free Society, containing a warning against Nieman. It was written by A. Isaak, editor of the paper, and it stated that news had been received from Cleveland that the man had been asking questions that aroused suspicion, and that he was trying to get into the anarchist circles. The comrades in Cleveland had concluded that he must be a spy.
I was very angry. To make such a charge, on such flimsy grounds! I wrote Isaak at once, demanding more convincing proofs. He replied that, while he had no other evidence, he still felt that Nieman was untrustworthy because he constantly talked about acts of violence. I wrote another protest. The next issue of Free Society contained a retraction.
The Pan American Exposition, held at Buffalo, interested me and I had long wanted also to see the Niagara Falls. But I could not leave my precious youngsters behind and I did not have enough money to take them with me. Dr. Kaplan, a Buffalo friend, who knew that I was holidaying with my family, solved our difficulties. He had asked me before to pay him a visit and bring my friends along. When I wrote him that my means would not allow such a luxury, he called me up on the long-distance telephone and offered to contribute forty dollars towards expenses and be our host for a week. In merry anticipation of the adventure, I took the older children to Buffalo. We were treated to a round of festivities, "did" the Falls, saw the Exposition, and enjoyed the music and parties, as well as gatherings with comrades, at which the young generation participated in the discussions on a footing of equality.
On our return to Rochester I found two letters from Sasha. The first, sub rosa, dated July 10, had evidently been delayed in transmission. Its contents threw me into despair. It read:
- From the hospital. Just out of the strait jacket, after eight days. For over a year I was in the strictest solitary; for a long time mail and reading-matter were denied me....I have passed through a great crisis. Two of my best friends died in a frightful manner. The death of Russell, especially, affected me. He was very young, and my dearest and most devoted friend, and he died a terrible death. The doctor charged the boy with shamming, but now he says it was spinal meningitis. I cannot tell you the awful truth-it was nothing short of murder, and my poor friend rotted away by inches. When he died, they found his back one mass of bedsores. If you could read the pitiful letters he wrote, begging to see me and to be nursed by me! But the Warden wouldn't permit it. In some manner his agony seemed to communicate itself to me, and I began to experience the pains and symptoms that Russell described in his notes. I knew it was my sick fancy; I strove against it, but presently my legs showed signs of paralysis, and I suffered excruciating pain in the spinal column, just like Russell. I was afraid that I would be done to death like my poor friend....I was on the verge of suicide. I demanded to be relieved from the cell, and the Warden ordered me punished. I was put in the strait jacket. They bound my body in canvas, strapped my arms to the bed, and chained my feet to the posts. I was kept that way eight days, unable to move, rotting in my own excrement. Released prisoners called the attention of our new Inspector to my case. He refused to believe that such things were being done in the penitentiary. Reports spread that I was going blind and insane. Then the Inspector visited the hospital and had me released from the jacket. I am in pretty bad shape, but they have put me in the general ward now, and I am glad of the chance to send you this note.
The fiends! It would have been a convenient way to send Sasha into the madhouse or to make him take his own life. I was sick with the thought that I had been living in a world of dreams, youthful fancies and gaiety, while Sasha was undergoing hellish tortures. My heart cried out: "It isn't fair that he alone should go on paying the price --- it isn't fair!" My young friends clustered around me in compassion. Stella's large eyes were filled with tears. Yegor held out the other letter, saying: "This is of a later date. It may have better news." I was almost afraid to open it. I had barely read the first paragraph when I cried in joy: "Children --- Stella --- Yegor! Sasha's term had been commuted! Only five years more and he will be free! Think of it, only five more years!" Breathlessly I went on reading. "I can visit him again!" I exclaimed. "The new Warden had restored his privileges --- he can see his friends!" I ran about the room laughing and crying.
Helena rushed up the stairs, followed by Jacob. "What is it? What has happened?" I could only cry: "Sasha! My Sasha!" Gently my sister drew me down on the sofa, took the letter from my hand, and read it aloud in a trembling voice:
Direct to Box A 7.
Allegheny City, Pa.
July 25, 1901.
- Dear Friend,---
I cannot tell you how happy I am to be allowed to write to you again. My privileges have been restored by our new Inspector, a very kindly man. He has relieved me from the cell, and now I am again on the range. The Inspector requested me to deny to my friends the reports which have recently appeared in the papers concerning my condition. I have not been well of late, but now I hope to improve. My eyes are very poor. The Inspector has given me permission to have a specialist examine them. Please arrange for it through our local comrades.
There is another piece of very good news, dear friend. A new commutation law has been passed, which reduces my sentence by 2 1/2 years. It still leaves me a long time, of course; almost four years here, and another year in the workhouse. However, it is a considerable gain, and if I should not get into solitary again, I may ---I am almost afraid to utter the thought --- I may live to come out. I feel as if I am being resurrected.
The new law benefits the short-timers proportionately much more than the men with longer sentences. Only the poor lifers do not share in it. We were very anxious for a while, as there were many rumours that the law would be declared unconstitutional. Fortunately, the attempt to nullify its benefits proved ineffectual. Think of men who will see something unconstitutional in allowing the prisoners a little more good time than the commutation statute of 40 years ago. As if a little kindness to the unfortunates --- really justice --- is incompatible with the spirit of Jefferson! We were greatly worried over the fate of this statute, but at last the first batch has been released, and there is much rejoicing over it.
There is a peculiar history about this new law, which may interest you; it sheds a significant side-light. It was especially designed for the benefit of a high Federal officer who was recently convicted of aiding two wealthy Philadelphia tobacco-manufacturers to defraud the Government of a few millions, by using counterfeit tax stamps. Their influence secured the introduction of the commutation bill and its hasty passage. The law would have cut their sentences almost in two, but certain newspapers seem to have taken offence at having been kept in ignorance of the "deal," and protests began to be coerced. The matter finally came up before the Attorney General of the United States, who decided that the men in whose special interest the law was engineered could not benefit by it, because a State law does not affect U.S. prisoners, the latter being subject to the Federal Commutation Act. Imagine the discomfiture of the politicians! An attempt was even made to suspend the operation of the statute. Fortunately it failed, and now the "common" State prisoners, who were not at all meant to profit, are being released. The legislature had unwittingly given some unfortunates here much happiness.
I was interrupted in this writing by being called out for a visit. I could hardly credit it: the first comrade I have been allowed to see in nine years! It was Harry Gordon, and I was so overcome by the sight of the dear friend, I could barely speak. He must have prevailed upon the new Inspector to issue a permit. The latter is now Acting Warden, owing to the serious illness of Captain Wright. Perhaps he will allow me to see my sister. Will you kindly communicate with her at once? Meantime I shall try to secure a pass. With renewed hope, and always with green memory of you,
"At last, at last the miracle!" Helena exclaimed amid tears. She had always admired Sasha. Since his imprisonment she had taken a keen interest in his condition and in every bit of news that had come out of his living grave. She had shared my grief, and now she rejoiced with me over the wonderful news.
Once more I stood within the prison walls of the Western Penitentiary, with fast-beating heart straining to catch the sound of Sasha's step. Nine years had passed since that November day in 1892 when for a fleeting moment I had been brought face to face with him, only again to be wrenched away --- nine years replete with the torment of endless time.
"Sasha!" I rushed forward with outstretched arms. I saw the guard, beside him a man in a grey suit, the same greyness in his face. Could it really be Sasha, so changed, so thin and wan? He sat mute at my side, fumbling with the fob of my watch-chain. I waited tensely, listening for a word. Sasha made no sound. Only his eyes stared at me, sinking into my very soul. They were Sasha's eyes, startled, tortured eyes. They made me want to weep. I, too, was mute.
"Time's up!" The sound almost froze my blood. With heavy steps I turned to the corridor, out of the enclosure, through the iron gate into the street.
The same day I left Allegheny City for St. Louis, where I was met by Carl Nold, whom I had not seen for three years. He was the same kind Carl, eager for news of Sasha. He had already learned of the unexpected change in his status and he was highly elated over it. "So you have seen him!" he cried. "Tell me quickly all about him."
I told him what I could of the ghastly visit. When I had finished he said: "I am afraid your visit to the prison came too soon after his year in solitary. A whole year of enforced isolation, never a chance to exchange a word with another human being, or to hear a kindly voice. You grow numb and incapable of giving expression to your longing for human contact." I understood Sasha's fearful silence.
The following day, September 6, I canvassed every important stationery and novelty store in St. Louis for orders for Ed's firm, but I failed to interest anyone in my samples. Only in one store was I told to call the next day to see the boss. As I stood at a street-corner wearily waiting for a car, I heard a newsboy cry: "Extra! Extra! President McKinley shot!" I bought a paper, but the car was so jammed that it was impossible to read. Around me people were talking about the shooting of the President.
Carl had arrived at the house before me. He had already read the account. The President had been shot at the Exposition grounds in Buffalo by a young man by the name of Leon Czolgosz. "I never heard the name" Carl said; "have you?" "No, never," I replied. "It is fortunate that you are here and not in Buffalo," he continued. "As usual, the papers will connect you with this act." "Nonsense!" I said, "the American press is fantastic enough, but it would hardly concoct such a crazy story."
The next morning I went to the stationery store to see the owner. After considerable persuasion I succeeded in getting an order amounting to a thousand dollars, the largest I had ever secured. Naturally I was very happy over it. While I was waiting for the man to fill out his order, I caught the headline of the newspaper lying on his desk: "ASSASSIN OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY AN ANARCHIST, CONFESSES TO HAVING BEEN INCITED BY EMMA GOLDMAN, WOMAN ANARCHIST WANTED."
By great effort I strove to preserve my composure, completed the business, and walked out of the store. At the next corner I bought several papers and went to a restaurant to read them. They were filled with the details of the tragedy, reporting also the police raid of the Isaak house in Chicago and the arrest of everyone found there. The authorities were going to hold the prisoners until Emma Goldman was found, the papers stated. Already two hundred detectives had been sent out throughout the country to track down Emma Goldman.
On the inside page of one of the papers was a picture of McKinley's slayer. "Why, that's Nieman!" I gasped.
When I was through with the papers, it became clear to me that I must immediately go to Chicago. The Isaak family, Hippolyte, our old comrade Jay Fox, a most active man in the labour movement, and a number of others were being held without bail until I should be found. It was plainly my duty to surrender myself. I knew there was neither reason nor the least proof to connect me with the shooting. I would go to Chicago.
Stepping into the street, I bumped into "V.," the "rich man from New Mexico" who had managed my lecture in Los Angeles some years before. The moment he saw me he turned white with fear. "For God's sake Emma, what are you doing here?" he cried in a quavering voice; "don't you know the police of the whole country are looking for you?" While he was speaking, his eyes roved uneasily over the street. It was evident he was panicky. I had to make sure that he would not disclose my presence in the city. Familiarly I took his arm and whispered: "Let's go to some quiet place."
Sitting in a corner, away from the other guests, I said to him: "Once you assured me of your undying love. You even made me an offer of marriage. It was only four years ago. Is anything left of that affection? If so, will you give me your word of honour that you will not breathe to anybody that you have seen me here? I do not want to be arrested in St. Louis --- I intend to give Chicago that honour. Tell me quickly if I can depend on you to keep silent." He promised solemnly.
When we reached the street, he walked away in great haste. I was sure he would keep his word, but I knew that my former devotee was no hero.
When I told Carl I was going to Chicago, he said that I must be out of my senses. He pleaded with me to give up the idea, but I remained adamant. He left me to gather up a few trusted friends, whose opinion he knew I valued, hoping they would be able to persuade me not to surrender myself. They argued with me for hours, but they failed to change my decision. I told them jokingly that they had better give me a good send-off, as we probably should never again have an opportunity for a jolly evening together. They engaged a private dining-room at a restaurant, where we were treated to a Lucullan meal, and then they accompanied me to the Wabash Station, Carl having secured a sleeper for me.
In the morning the car was agog with the Buffalo tragedy, Czolgosz and Emma Goldman. "A beast, a bloodthirsty monster!" I heard someone say; "she should have been locked up long ago." "Locked up nothing!" another retorted; "she should be strung up to the first lamp-post."
I listened to the good Christians while resting in my berth. I chuckled to myself at the thought of how they would look if I were to step out and announce: "Here, ladies and gentleman, true followers of the gentle Jesus, here is Emma Goldman!" But I did not have the heart to cause them such a shock and I remained behind my curtain.
Half an hour before the train pulled into the station I got dressed. I wore a small sailor hat with a bright blue veil, much in style then. I left my glasses off and pulled the veil over my face. The platform was jammed with people, among them several men who looked like detectives. I asked a fellow-passenger to be kind enough to keep an eye on my two suit-cases while I went in search of a porter. I finally got one, walking the whole length of the platform to my luggage, then back again with the porter to the check-room. Securing my receipt, I left the station.
The only person who knew of my coming was Max, to whom I had sent a cautious wire. I caught sight of him before he saw me. Passing him slowly, I whispered: "Walk towards the next street. I'll do the same. "No one seemed to follow me. After some zigzagging with Max and changing half a dozen street-cars we reached the apartment where he and Millie ("Puck") lived. Both of them expressed the greatest anxiety about my safety, Max insisting that it was insanity to have come to Chicago. The situation, he said, was a repetition of 1887; the press and the police were thirsty for blood. "It's your blood they want," he repeated, while he and Millie implored me to leave the country.
I was determined to remain in Chicago. I realized that I could not stay at their home, nor with any other foreign comrades. I had, however, American friends who were not known as anarchists. Max notified Mr. and Mrs. N., who I knew were very fond of me, of my presence and they came at once. They also were worried about me, but they thought I would be safe with them. It was to be only for two days, as I was planning to give myself up to the police as quickly as possible.
Mr. N., the son of a wealthy preacher, lived in a fashionable neighbourhood. "Imagine anybody believing I would shelter Emma Goldman," he said when we had arrived in his house. Late in the afternoon, on Monday, when Mr. N. returned from his office, he informed me that there was a chance to get five thousand dollars from the Chicago Tribune for a scoop on an interview. "Fine!" I replied; "we shall need money to fight my case." We agreed that Mr. N. should bring the newspaper representative to his apartment the next morning, and then the three of us would ride down to police headquarters together. In the evening Max and Millie arrived. I had never before seen my friends in such a state of nervous excitement. Max reiterated that I must get away, else I was putting my head in the noose. "If you go to the police, you will never come out alive," he warned me. "It will be the same as with Albert Parsons. You must let us get you over to Canada."
Millie took me aside. "Since Friday," she said, "Max has not slept or taken food. He walks the floor all night and keeps on saying: 'Emma is lost; they will kill her.' "She begged me to soothe Max by promising him that I would escape to Canada, even if I did not intend to do so. I consented and asked Max to make the necessary arrangements to get me away. Overjoyed, he clasped me in his arms. We arranged for Max and Millie to come the next morning with an outfit of clothes to disguise me.
I spent the greater part of the night tearing up letters and papers and destroying what was likely to involve my friends. All preparations completed, I went to sleep. In the morning Mrs. N. left for her office, while her husband went to the Chicago Tribune. We agreed that if anyone called, I was to pretend to be the maid.
About nine o'clock, while taking a bath, I heard a sound as if someone was scratching on the window-sill. I paid no attention to it at first. I finished my bath leisurely and began to dress. Then came a crash of glass. I threw my kimono over me and went into the diningroom to investigate. A man was clutching the window-sill with one hand while holding a gun in the other. We were on the third floor and there was no fire-escape. I called out: "Look out, you'll break your neck!" "Why the hell don't you open the door? Are you deaf?" He swung through the window and was in the room. I walked over to the entrance and unlocked it. Twelve men, led by a giant, crowded into the apartment. The leader grabbed me by the arm, bellowing: "Who are you?" "I not speak English --- Swedish servant girl." He released his hold and ordered his men to search the place. Turning to me, he yelled: "Stand back! We're looking for Emma Goldman." Then he held up a photo to me. "See this? We want this woman. Where is she?" I pointed my finger at the picture and said: "This woman is not here. This woman big --- you look in those small boxes will not find her --- she too big." "Oh, shut up!" he bawled; "you can't tell what them anarchists will do."
After they had searched the house, turning everything upside down, the giant walked over to the book-shelves. "Hell, this is a reg'lar preacher's house," he remarked: "look at them books. I don't think Emma Goldman would be here." They were about to leave when one of the detectives suddenly called: "Here, Captain Schuettler, what about this?" It was my fountain-pen, a gift from a friend, with my name on it. I had overlooked it. "By golly that's a find!" cried the Captain. "She must have been here and she may come back." He ordered two of his men to remain behind.
I saw that the game was up. There was no sign of Mr. N. or the Tribune man, and it could serve no purpose to keep the farce up longer. "I am Emma Goldman," I announced.
For a moment Schuettler and his men stood there as if petrified. Then the Captain roared: "Well, I'll be damned! You're the shrewdest crook I ever met! Take her, quick!
When I stepped into the cab waiting at the curb, I saw N. approaching in the company of the Tribune man. It was too late for the scoop, and I did not want my host recognized. I pretended not to see them.
I had often heard of the third degree used by the police in various American cities to extort confessions, but I myself had never been subjected to it. I had been arrested a number of times since 1893; no violence, however, had ever been practised on me. On the day of my arrest, which was September 10, I was kept at police headquarters in a stifling room and grilled to exhaustion from 10:30 a.m. til 7 p.m. At least fifty detectives passed me, each shaking his fist in my face and threatening me with the direst things. One yelled: "You was with Czolgosz in Buffalo! I saw you myself, right in front of Convention Hall. Better confess, d'you hear?" Another: "Look here, Goldman, I seen you with that son of a bitch at the fair! Don't you lie now --- I seen you, I tell you!" Again: "You've faked enough --- you keep this up and sure's you're born you'll get the chair. Your lover has confessed. He said it was your speech made him shoot the President." I knew they were lying; I knew I had not been with Czolgosz except for a few minutes in Cleveland on May 5, and for half an hour in Chicago on July 12. Schuettler was most ferocious. His massive bulk towered above me, bellowing: "If you don't confess, you'll go the way of those bastard Haymarket anarchists."
I reiterated the story I had told them when first brought to police headquarters, explaining where I had been and with whom. But they would not believe me and kept on bullying and abusing me. My head throbbed, my throat and lips felt parched. A large pitcher of water stood on the table before me, but every time I stretched out my hand for it, a detective would say: "You can drink all you want, but first answer me. Where were you with Czolgosz the day he shot the President?" The torture continued for hours. Finally I was taken to the Harrison Street Police Station and locked in a barred enclosure, exposed to view from every side.
Presently the matron came to inquire if I wanted supper. "No, but water," I said, "and something for my head." She returned with a tin pitcher of tepid water, which I gulped down. She could give me nothing for my head except a cold compress. It proved very soothing, and I soon fell asleep.
I woke up with a burning sensation. A plain-clothes man held a reflector in front of me, close to my eyes. I leaped up and pushed him away with all my strength, crying: "You're burning my eyes!" "We'll burn more before we get through with you!" he retorted. With short intermissions this was repeated during three nights. On the third night several detectives entered my cell. "We've got the right dope on you now," they announced; "it was you who financed Czolgosz and you got the money from Dr. Kaplan in Buffalo. We have him all right, and he's confessed everything. Now what you got to say?" "Nothing more than I have already said," I repeated; "I know nothing about the act."
Since my arrest I had had no word from my friends, nor had anyone come to see me. I realized that I was being kept incommunicado. I did get letters, however, most of them unsigned. "You damn bitch of an anarchist," one of them read, "I wish I could get at you. I would tear your heart out and feed it to my dog." "Murderous Emma Goldman," another wrote, "you will burn in hell-fire for yur treachery to our country." A third cheerfully promised: "We will cut your tongue out, soak your carcass in oil, and burn you alive." The description by some of the anonymous writers of what they would do to me sexually offered studies in perversion that would have astounded authorities on the subject. The authors of the letters nevertheless seemed to me less contemptible than the police officials. Daily I was handed stacks of letters that had been opened and read by the guardians of American decency and morality. At the same time messages from my friends were withheld from me. It was evident that my spirit was to be broken by such methods. I decided to put a stop to it. The next time I was given one of the opened envelopes, I tore it up and threw the pieces into the detective's face.
On the fifth day after my arrest I received a wire. It was from Ed, promising the backing of his firm. "Do not hesitate to use our name. We stand by you to the last." I was glad of the assurance, because it relieved me of the need of keeping silent about my movements on business for Ed's house.
The same evening Chief of Police O'Neill of Chicago came to my cell. He informed me that he would like to have a quiet talk with me. "I have no wish to bully or coerce you," he said; "perhaps I can help you." "It would indeed be a strange experience to have help from a chief of police," I replied; "but I am quite willing to answer your questions." He asked me to give him a detailed account of my movements from May 5, when I had first met Czolgosz, until the day of my arrest in Chicago. I gave him the requested information, but without mentioning my visit to Sasha or the names of the comrades who had been my hosts. As there was no longer any need of shielding Dr. Kaplan, the Isaaks, or Hippolyte. I was in a position to give practically a complete account. When I concluded --- what I said being taken down in shorthand --- Chief O'Neill remarked: "Unless you're a very clever actress, you are certainly innocent. I think you are innocent, and I am going to do my part to help you out." I was too amazed to thank him; I had never before heard such a tone from a police officer. At the same time I was sceptical of the success of his efforts, even if he should try to do something for me.
Immediately following my conference with the Chief I became aware of a decided change in my treatment. My cell door was left unlocked day and night, and I was told by the matron that I could stay in the large room, use the rocking-chair and the table there, order my own food and papers, receive and send out mail. I began at once to lead the life of a society lady, receiving callers all day long, mostly newspaper people who came not so much for interviews as to talk, smoke, and relate funny stories. Others, again, came out of curiosity. Some women reporters brought gifts of books and toilet articles. Most attentive was Katherine Leckie, of the Hearst papers. She possessed a better intellect than Nelly Bly, who used to visit me in the Tombs in 1893, and had a much finer social feeling. A strong and ardent feminist, she was at the same time devoted to the cause of labour. Katherine Leckie was the first to take my story of the third degree. She became so outraged at hearing it that she undertook to canvass the various women's organizations in order to induce them to take the matter up.
One day a representative of the Arbeiter Zeitung was announced. With joy I saw Max, who whispered to me that he could secure admission only in that capacity. He informed me that he had received a letter from Ed with the news that Hearst had sent his representative to Justus Schwab with an offer of twenty thousand dollars if I would come to New York and give him an exclusive interview. The money would be deposited in a bank acceptable to Justus and Ed. Both of them were convinced, Max said, that Hearst would spend any amount to railroad me. "He needs it to whitewash himself of the charge of having incited Czolgosz to shoot McKinley," he explained. The Republican papers of the country had been carrying front-page stories connecting Hearst with Czolgosz, because all through the McKinley administration the Hearst press had violently attacked the President. One of the newspapers had cartooned the publisher standing behind Czolgosz, handing him a match to light the fuse of a bomb. Now Hearst was among the loudest of those demanding the extermination of the anarchists.
Justus and Ed, as well as Max, were unconditionally opposed to my return to New York, but they had felt it their duty to inform me of Hearst's offer. "Twenty thousand dollars!" I explained; "what a pity Ed's letter arrived too late! I certainly would have accepted the proposal. Think of the fight we could have made and the propaganda!" "It is well you still keep your sense of humour," Max remarked, "but I am happy the letter came too late. Your situation is serious enough without Mr. Hearst to make it worse."
Another visitor was a lawyer from Clarence Darrow's office. He had come to warn me that I was hurting my case by my persistent defence of Czolgosz; the man was crazy and I should admit it. "No prominent attorney will accept your defence if you ally yourself with the assassin of the President," he assured me; "in fact, you stand in imminent danger of being held as an accessory to the crime." I demanded to know why Mr. Darrow himself did not come if he was so concerned, but his representative was evasive. He continued to paint my case in sinister colours. My chances of escape were few at best, it seemed, too few for me to allow any sentimentality to aggravate it. Czolgosz was insane, the man insisted; everybody could see it, and, besides, he was a bad sort to have involved me, a coward hiding behind a woman's skirts.
His talk was repugnant to me. I informed him that I was not willing to swear away the reason, character, or life of a defenceless human being and that I wanted no assistance from his chief. I had never met Darrow, but I had long known of him as a brilliant lawyer, a man of broad social views, an able writer and lecturer. According to the papers he had interested himself in the anarchists arrested in the raid, especially the Isaaks. It seemed strange that he should send me such reprehensible advice, that he should expect me to join the mad chorus howling for the life of Czolgosz.
The country was in a panic. Judging by the press, I was sure that it was the people of the United States and not Czolgosz that had gone mad. Not since 1887 had there been evidenced such lust for blood, such savagery of vengeance. "Anarchists must be exterminated!" the papers raved; "they should be dumped into the sea; there is no place for the vultures under our flag. Emma Goldman has been allowed to ply her trade of murder too long. She should be forced to share the fate of her dupes."
It was a repetition of the dark Chicago days. Fourteen years, years of painful growth, yet fascinating and fruitful years. And now the end! The end? I was only thirty-two and there was yet so much, so very much, undone. And the boy in Buffalo --- his life had scarce begun. What was his life, I wondered; what the forces that drove him to this doom? "I did it for the working people," he was reported to have said. The people! Sasha also had done something for the people; and our brave Chicago martyrs, and the others in every land and time. But the people are asleep; they remain indifferent. They forge their own chains and do the bidding of their masters to crucify their Christs.
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