Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1931.
IN ST. LOUIS WE WERE ALMOST MOBBED BY FRIENDS, REPORTERS, and camera-men who had come to meet us at the station. I could not bear to see many people and I was eager to be left alone.
Stella grew uneasy on hearing that on our way east I intended to stop off in Chicago, where Ben was living. She implored me to give up the idea. "You will only lose the peace you have gained through months of struggle to free yourself from Ben," she pleaded. There was no need for anxiety, I assured her. In the isolation and loneliness of the cell one finds the courage to face the nakedness of one's soul. If one survives the ordeal, one is less hurt by the nakedness of other souls. I had worked my way through much anguish and travail to a better understanding of my relation with Ben. I had dreamed of having ecstatic love without the pettiness and jarring conditioned in it. But I learned to see that the great and the small, the beautiful and the mean, that had made up our life were inseparable springs from the same source, flowing to a common outlet. In my clarified perception the fine things in Ben now stood out in bolder relief, and the little no longer mattered. One so primitive as he, who was always moved by his emotions, could not do things half-way. He gave without measure or restraint. His best years, his tremendous zest for work, he had devoted to me. It is not unusual for woman to do as much for the man she loves. Thousands of my sex had sacrificed their own talents and ambitions for the sake of the man. But few men have done so for women. Ben was one of the few; he had dedicated himself completely to my interests. Emotionalism had guided his passion as it had his life. But, like nature unleashed, he would destroy with one hand the lavish gifts of the other. I had revelled in the beauty and strength of his giving, and I had recoiled from and struggled against the self-centred egotism which ignored and annihilated obstacles in the soul of the loved one. Erotically Ben and I were of the same earth, but in a cultural sense we were separated by centuries of time. With him social impulses, sympathy with mankind, ideas, and ideals were moods of the moment, and as fleeting. He had no means of sensing basic verities or inner need to convert them into his own.
My life was linked with that of the race. Its spiritual heritage was mine, and its values were transmuted into my being. The eternal struggle of man was rooted within me. That made the abyss between us.
In the solitude of prison I had lived away from the disturbing presence of Ben. Often my heart had called for him, but I had silenced its cry. I had promised myself after our last break never to see him again until I should have made order out of my emotional chaos. I had fulfilled my pledge; nothing was now left of the conflict that had lasted so many years. Neither love nor hate. Only a new friendliness and a clearer appreciation of what the man had given me. I was no longer afraid to meet Ben.
In Chicago he called, bringing a large bouquet of flowers. It was the same old Ben, instinctively reaching out and his eyes opening wide in wonder at meeting no response. No change in him nor understanding for mine. He wanted to give me a party at his home. Would I come, he asked. "Of course," I said, "I will come to meet your wife and your child." I went. The dead had buried their dead, and I felt serene.
In Rochester my people received me with their usual affection. Helena had been in Maine, whence she had written me: "I don't know how I got here. Minnie brought me. How anybody can think to divert me from my great sorrow, I cannot understand. The more I see of nature and people, the greater my loss. My misfortune goes everywhere with me." On our way to Rochester Stella had described Helena's condition and had cautioned me to be prepared. But my worst mental picture was not so horrible as the sight my dear sister presented. Emaciated to the bone, she was a bent old woman, moving with lifeless steps. Her face was shrunken and ashy, unutterable despair in her hollow eyes. I held her close to me, her poor little body convulsed with sobs. She had done nothing but weep since the news of David's death, my people told me; her life was ebbing out in tears.
"Take me away, let me live with you in New York," she pleaded. It had been her dream in our youth to be always near me. Now the moment had come to realize it, she reiterated. I was filled with pity and fear. My existence was so precarious, new uncertainties and dangers were already facing me. Could Helena stand such a life? But everything else had failed to save her from herself. She needed something to occupy her mind, physical exertion especially. Perhaps looking after her daughter and me would take her away from her dead. It was a last hope, and I held it out to her. I told her I would rent an apartment in New York at once, and soon Minnie could bring her to me. She sighed deeply and seemed somewhat consoled.
With Helena's collapse the care of two families had fallen upon my sister Lena. She worked for everybody without complaint; she drudged far beyond her strength and asked no reward. Lena was of the stuff of the millions who go through life unpraised by poet, unsung by Iyre, heroic in their silent strength. The gloom I had found on my home-coming was broken only by the golden glow of Ian, our adorable baby of four, and by the sprightly energy of my mother, who was eighty-one. She was in poor health, but still busy with her charity interests, and she was the moving spirit in the numerous lodges to which she belonged. She was the grande dame par excellence, more careful of her toilet than her daughters. Always strong and self-assertive, Mother had, since Father's death, become a veritable autocrat. No statesman or diplomat excelled her in wit, shrewdness, and force of character. Whenever I visited Rochester, Mother had new conquests to report. For years the orthodox Jews of the city had discussed the need of an orphanage and a home for the indigent aged. Mother did not waste words; she located two sites, purchased them on the spot, and for months canvassed the Jewish neighbourhood for contributions to pay off the mortgage and build the institutions the others had only talked about. There was no prouder queen than Mother on the opening day of the new orphanage. She invited me to "come and speak a piece" on the great occasion. I had once told her that my aim was to enable the workers to reap the fruit of their labours, and every child to enjoy our social wealth. A mischievous twinkle had come into her still sparkling eyes as she replied: "Yes, my daughter, that is all very good for the future; but what is to become of our orphans now, and the old and decrepit who are alone in the world? Tell me that." And I had no answer to give.
One of her exploits had been to put the Rochester manufacturer of shrouds out of business because of exorbitant charges. The owner of the business, a woman, had a monopoly of furnishing the burial garments without which no orthodox Jew may be laid to final rest. An old woman of the poorest class needed a shroud, but her family could not pay the high price asked for it. When my mother learned of it, she at once proceeded in her usual energetic manner. She called on the heartless creature who had enriched herself on the dead, and demanded that the garment be supplied at once without pay, threatening to ruin her in case of refusal. The manufacturer remained unmoved, and my mother set to work forthwith. She bought white material and with her own hands made a shroud for the pauper; then she called on the largest dry-goods store in the city and succeeded in convincing the owner of the riches he would store up in heaven if he would sell the material in quantities at cost price. "Anything for you, Mrs. Goldman," the man had said, Mother reported proudly. Then she organized a group of Jewish women to sew the shrouds, and she made it known in the community that the garments would be furnished for ten cents apiece. The clever scheme brought about the bankruptcy of the monopolist.
Many anecdotes circulated about my mother, characteristic of her vitality and broad sympathies, but none amused me so much as the story of how Mrs. Taube Goldman had put the chairlady of a powerful lodge "in her place." At one of the meetings Mother had talked rather too long. Another member asked for the floor, and the chairlady timidly suggested that Mrs. Goldman had already exceeded her time. Drawing herself up to full stature, my mother defiantly announced: "The whole United States Government could not stop my daughter Emma Goldman from speaking, and a fine chance you have to make her mother shut up!"
Mother had not always known how to express her affection to her children, except to our "baby" brother, whom she had always loved best. But I remembered the occasion on which she gave me the greatest proof in her power that she also loved me. Mysteriously she had taken me aside to tell me that she had made her will and that she had deeded me her most cherished treasure. Would I promise to make use of it after her death? From a bureau drawer Mother took out her jewel-case and solemnly held it out to me. "Here, my daughter, is what I am leaving you," she said as she handed me the medals she had received from various charity organizations. Repressing my laughter with difficulty, I assured her that I had already received too many medals of my own, though less shiny than hers; I could not very well wear any more, but I would keep hers in loving esteem.
Harry Weinberger had gone to Atlanta to meet Sasha on his release. The fates had never been kind to him in prison; this time they robbed him of three days. Instead of September 28, Sasha was released on October 1. A number of detectives faced him on his discharge, among them representatives of Prosecutor Fickert of San Francisco. They attempted to claim Sasha as their prisoner, but Federal officers declared that they had prior claim upon him. Friends supplied his fifteen-thousand-dollar bond for appearance before the immigration authorities, and at last Sasha was again in our midst. He looked haggard and pale, but otherwise apparently his usual stoical and humorous self. But soon we realized that it was only the flush of his release and the joy of being free, for Sasha was very ill. Uncle Sam's prison had succeeded in accomplishing in twenty-one months what the Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania had failed to do in fourteen years. Atlanta had broken his health and had sent him back a physical wreck, with the horrors of his experience burned into his soul.
Sasha had been kept in an underground dungeon for protesting against the brutalities practiced on the other inmates. The cell was too small to move about in and fetid with the bucket of excrement that was emptied only once in twenty-four hours. He was allowed only two small slices of bread and one cup of water a day. Later on, for interceding for a coloured prisoner, he was again punished by the "hole," which measured two and a half feet by four and a half, and where he could not even stand up straight. The "hole" was provided with double doors, one iron-barred, the other "blind," thus entirely excluding all light and air. In that cell, known as "the tomb," one is subjected to gradual suffocation. It is the worst punishment known in the Atlanta penitentiary, and it is designed to break the prisoner's spirit and force him to beg for mercy. Sasha refused to do so. To keep from suffocating he had to lie flat on the floor with his mouth close to the groove where the double doors fit into the stone casing. Only thus could he keep alive. Released from "the tomb," he was for three months deprived of his mail privileges, allowed no books or other reading-matter, and not permitted any exercise whatever. After that he remained continuously in solitary and isolation for seven-and-a- half months, from February 21 to the day of his discharge, October 1.
The memory of Atlanta haunted Sasha upon his release. At night he would wake up in a cold sweat, tortured by the nightmare of his recent experience. His prison phantoms were no new misery to me, but Fitzi had not seen him in such a state, and it unnerved her. She had gone through much suffering and worry since 1916, and she was run down and depressed. Together with the responsibilities of her position in the Provincetown Playhouse, she had carried almost the entire brunt of the preparations for the Mooney general strike, the amnesty campaign, and the National Amnesty Day. The raising of funds for bail and trials and the care of imprisoned politicals had fallen mostly to her. With the help of a handful of comrades, among them Pauline, Hilda and Sam Kovner, Minna Lowensohn, and Rose Nathanson, Fitzi had accomplished a tremendous amount of work.
More wearing than the physical exertion involved in these activities had been her deep disappointment in the new element that had come into the Billings-Mooney fight. The labour politicians had well-nigh emasculated the militant spirit of the campaign for the California men. Owing to their faint-heartedness, the general strike, set for the first week of July, had completely failed. The same conservative elements had voted against and ruined the chances of a successful general strike in October. Some of the radical organizations were not much more encouraging; they had refused to include in the proposed protest the other political and labour prisoners. Fitzi had justly stressed the argument that the demand for a general amnesty would strengthen the movement for Mooney and Billings, but even so militant a man as Ed Nolan had at first voted against her proposal, though later he changed his attitude and supported her stand. The lack of vision and backbone on the part of the majority of the labour organizations had caused a split and had greatly injured all the rebels in prison.
Sasha's condition was growing steadily worse. An examination by our friend Dr. Wovschin showed the need of an operation, but with stubborn indifference Sasha ignored the physician's advice. Fitzi and I had to conspire with the doctor to take our patient by surprise. Late one afternoon Wovschin arrived with an assistant for a second examination. Sasha was away, we knew not where. On his return we learned that he had been invited to a veritable Jewish feast, specially prepared for him by the mother of Anna Baron, our former Mother Earth secretary. Dr. Wovschin was disgusted; he had never operated on anyone immediately after a grand repast. But it had to be now or never. The physician succeeded in coaxing Sasha on to the table under the pretext of having to look him over once more. Then he quickly proceeded to give him ether. Sasha, resisting the anæsthetic, put up a fierce fight, shouting that the Deputy Warden was trying to kill him and swearing to finish the s.o.b. I had unfortunately been detained by an important engagement, and when I hastened back home, I met Fitzi on the street running to a drug store. White as a ghost, she told me that enough ether had already been given Sasha to put several men to sleep, but more was still needed. I found the room looking like a battle-field. The eye-glasses of the assistant physician were smashed and his face lacerated. Dr. Wovschin had also not escaped damage. Sasha was on the table, already unconscious, but still gritting his teeth and denouncing the Deputy Warden. I took his hand in mine and spoke soothingly to him. Presently I felt my pressure returned, and then he quieted down.
When he came to after the operation, he opened his eyes and stared in terror at the foot of the bed. "The goddam Deputy!" he cried, about to leap at his throat. We held him down, assuring him that he was among friends. "Fitzi and I are near you, dear," I whispered; "no one will harm you." He looked incredulously at me. "I can see him plainly right there," he insisted. It took much effort to persuade him that he was only imagining himself still in Atlanta. He gazed steadily into my eyes. "If you say so, it must be true, and I believe you," he said at last, "but how strange is the human mind!" He went peacefully off to sleep.
On my return from Jefferson City I found destroyed what we had slowly built up through a long period of years. The literature confiscated in the raid had not been returned to us, and Mother Earth, the Blast, Sasha's Prison Memoirs, and my essays were under the ban. The large sums of money raised while we were in prison, including the three thousand dollars contributed by our old Swedish comrade, had gone for appeals in cases of conscientious objectors, in the political-amnesty activities, and in other work. We had nothing left, neither literature, money, nor even a home. The war tornado had swept the field clean, and we had to begin everything anew.
Among my first callers was Mollie Steimer, who came accompanied by another comrade. I had never met either of them before, but Mollie's remarkable stand at her trial, and all I knew about her, made me feel as if she had always been in my life. I was glad to meet the brave girl face to face and to tell her of my admiration and love. She was diminutive and quaint-looking, altogether Japanese in features and stature. But she had shown exceptional strength and she was typical of the Russian revolutionists in her earnestness and the severity of her dress.
Mollie and her escort informed me that they had come as delegates of their group to ask me to write for their Bulletin, which they were publishing underground. Unfortunately I could not comply with their request. Even if I were not already overburdened with too much work, I could not ally myself with secret activities. I told them that I had thought of continuing Mother Earth sub rosa, but had discarded the plan because of the hazard it involved for others. I was not afraid of danger if I could meet it in the open, but I did not want to be trapped by spies and informers, who are always found in secret revolutionary bodies. Mollie understood my attitude. She had not yet recovered from the shock she had experienced at the treachery of Rosansky, the boy who had delivered her and her comrades to the police. She felt, however, that, with every breath of freedom suppressed in the country, our ideas must be spread even at the risk of possible betrayal. I held that the results of such methods are not commensurate with the risk, and I refused to have anything to do with such inadequate efforts. My visitors were much disappointed, the young man even indignant. I disliked hurting them, but I could not alter my decision.
An additional disagreement between us was due to my attitude to Soviet Russia. My young comrades thought that the Bolsheviki, representing a government, should be treated by anarchists like other governments. I insisted that Soviet Russia, the object of attack by the combined reactionists of the world, was not at all to be considered as an ordinary government. I did not object to criticism of the Bolsheviki, but I could not approve active opposition to them, anyway not until they should be in a less dangerous situation.
I longed to take little Mollie in my arms, but she looked stern in her youthful fervour. I let her depart with just a friendly handshake. She was a wonderful girl, with an iron will and a tender heart, but she was fearfully set in her ideas. "A sort of Alexander Berkman in skirts," I jokingly remarked to Stella. Mollie was a true factory child of revolutionary spirit. She had gone to work at the age of thirteen and she had continued in the shop until she fell into the hands of the authorities. She was essentially of the idealistic youth of Russia in times of the Tsar, who sacrificed their lives before they had scarcely begun to live. What a fearful fate --- from the factory to the Missouri prison for fifteen years, with no joy in between for my lovely young comrade!
I found a cozy apartment, and soon Minnie arrived with her mother, and the three of us moved in. For a while it seemed as if Helena would get herself in hand. She was busy attending to the ménage, sewing and mending. To afford her more work, I used to invite many friends to dinner. Dutifully my sister would prepare the food, serve it attractively, and charm everybody with her personality. But soon the novelty wore off and the old woe was again upon her. It was no use --- her life was crushed, she kept on saying; it had lost meaning and purpose. Everything in her was dead, dead as David in the Bois de Rappel She could not continue, she insisted, she must make an end of it, and I must help her out of her purgatory. Day after day she would repeat her piteous appeal, and call me cruel and inconsistent for my refusal. I had always claimed that everyone had a right to do with his life what he willed, and that persons suffering from incurable disease should not be compelled to live. And yet I was refusing her the relief I would give even a sick animal.
It was madness, and yet I felt that Helena was right. I was inconsistent. I saw her dying by inches with a desperate determination to escape from life. It would be an act of humanity to help her do so. I had no doubt as to the justification of making an end to one's misery or aiding another in it when there is no hope of recovery. Moved by Helena's plea, I would decide to comply with her wishes; and yet I could not bring myself to cut short her life --- the life of one who had been mother, sister, friend to me, everything I had had in my childhood. I continued to struggle with her in the silent hours of the night. In the day-time, when I had to leave her, I would go through sickening terror lest on my return home I should find her dashed on the sidewalk. I could not absent myself unless I knew that someone was staying with her when Minnie and I were out.
My deportation hearing, twice postponed, was finally set for October 27. Sasha had already made his statement prior to leaving Atlanta. He had refused to answer the questions of the Federal immigration agent, who had called on him in the prison to give him "a hearing" in the matter of deportation. Instead he had issued a declaration of his position, in which he said:
- The purpose of the present hearing is to determine my "attitude of mind." It does not, admittedly, concern itself with my actions, past or present. It is purely an inquiry into my views and opinions.
I deny the right of anyone --- individually or collectively --- to set up an inquisition of thought. Thought is, or should be, free. My social views and political opinions are my personal concern. I owe no one responsibility for them. Responsibility begins only with the effect of thought expressed in action. Not before. Free thought, necessarily involving freedom of speech and press, I may tersely define thus: no opinion a law --- no opinion a crime. For the government to attempt to control thought, to prescribe certain opinions or proscribe others, is the height of despotism.
This proposed hearing is an invasion of my conscience. I therefore refuse, most emphatically, to participate in it.
Sasha, not being a citizen and not caring about that side of the issue, nevertheless joined me in my fight against deportation because he considered such governmental methods as the worst form of autocracy. I also had an additional reason for contesting the Washington scheme to drive me out of the country. The United States Government still owed me an explanation for the shady methods it had employed in 1909 to rob me of my citizenship. And I was determined to have them disclosed.
I had always longed to revisit Russia, and after the February-October Revolution I had definitely decided to return to my native land to help in its reconstruction. But I wanted to go of my own free will, at my own expense, and I denied the right of the government to force me. I was aware of its brutal strength, but I did not propose to submit without a fight. I was no more deceived in its outcome than I had been in regard to our trial. Now, as then, I was concerned primarily in publicly disclosing the utter hollowness of American political claims and the presence that heralded citizenship is a sacred and inalienable right.
At my hearing before the immigration officials I found the inquisitors sitting at a desk piled high with my dossier. The documents, classified, tabulated, and numbered, were passed on to me for inspection. They consisted of anarchist publications in different languages, most of them long out of print, and of reports of speeches I had delivered a decade previously. No objection had been made to them at the time by the police or the Federal authorities. Now they were being offered as proof of my criminal past and as justification for banishing me from the country. It was a farce I could not participate in, and I consequently refused to answer any questions. I remained silent throughout the "hearing," at the end of which I handed to my examiners a statement, reading in part:
- If the present proceedings are for the purpose of proving some alleged offence committed by me, some evil or antisocial act, then I protest against the secrecy and third-degree methods of this so called "trial." But if I am not charged with any specific offence or act, if --- as I have reason to believe --- this is purely an inquiry into my social and political opinions, then I protest still more vigorously against these proceedings, as utterly tyrannical and diametrically opposed to the fundamental guarantees of a true democracy. Every human being is entitled to hold any opinion that appeals to her or him without making herself or himself liable to persecution....
The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society. In truth, it is such free expression and discussion alone that can point the most beneficial path for human progress and development. But the object of deportations and of the Anti-Anarchist Law, as of all similar repressive measures, is the very opposite. It is to stifle the voice of the people, to muzzle every aspiration of labour. That is the real and terrible menace of the star-chamber proceedings and of the tendency of exiling those who do not fit into the scheme of things our industrial lords are so eager to perpetuate.
With all the power and intensity of my being I protest against the conspiracy of imperialist capitalism against the life and the liberty of the American people.
The newspapers reported Mollie Steimer to be on a hunger-strike. We all felt very anxious about her, because the police, State and Federal, had been hounding our comrade ever since she had been released on bail. Within eleven months she had been arrested eight times, kept in station-houses for a night or a week, released and re-arrested without definite charges being preferred against her. In the recent raid of the Russian People's House, where the Workers' Council had their offices, Mollie had been hauled in by the immigration authorities, held for eight days, and then released on a thousand-dollar bond. Later, while walking on the street with a friend, she was accosted by two detectives and told that "the boss wanted" her. She was held in the office of the head of the New York "bomb squad" for three hours without being questioned, then taken to the station-house and locked up. The following morning she read in the press that she was charged with "inciting to riot." She was transferred to the Tombs and after a week's detention released on five thousand dollars' bail. She had barely reached her home when she was visited by three detectives with a Federal warrant for her arrest and taken to Ellis Island. There she had been held ever since. The entire machinery of the United States Government was being employed to crush the slip of a girl, weighing less than eighty pounds.
Fifteen years in prison were facing Mollie, and I wanted to prevail upon her not to waste her strength by a hunger-strike. As her counsellor, Harry Weinberger was permitted to visit her, and the commissioner allowed me to accompany him. We found her in a very weakened condition, but her will indomitable. She showed no trace of any ill feeling as a result of our previous disagreement. On the contrary, she was very glad to see me, sweet and friendly.
She was being kept locked up all the time, Mollie informed us, denied the right to mingle with the other politicals and to associate with those to be deported. She had repeatedly protested in vain, and finally she had decided on a hunger-strike. I agreed that her provocation was certainly extreme, but I urged that her life was too important to our movement to jeopardize her health. Would she terminate her strike if we should persuade the commissioner to change his treatment of her? She was reluctant at first, but finally consented. This time I did not hesitate to take my splendid comrade in my arms. She was like a little child to me whom I longed to shield from the cruelty of the world.
We succeeded in prevailing upon the commissioner to permit Mollie the right of association with her comrades. To save his face he promised "to look into the matter first," and make a change provided Miss Steimer would "meet him half-way." We sent Mollie the message and got her consent to supply her with food.
The same evening a reception dinner for Sasha and me was taking place at the Brevoort Hotel, arranged by our indefatigable Dolly Sloan. We had opposed the plan of an exclusive affair; we preferred Carnegie Hall or some large theatre where a popular admission price would permit large numbers to attend. But no place in Greater New York could be secured except the Brevoort, whose management alone lived up to their hospitable traditions. The evening was somewhat marred by the inevitable exclusion of many friends who had travelled from afar to be with us on the occasion. But the fine spirit of the evening made up for that disappointment. Lola Ridge, our gifted rebel poet, inspired the audience by reciting a graphic poem she had dedicated to Sasha and me, and the other speakers were equally generous in paying tribute to us. Even our old co-worker Harry M. Kelly, who had drifted away from us because of the World War, was again in our midst, the same kindly soul.
I spoke of our heroic young rebels on Ellis Island and of Mollie, whose courage and revolutionary integrity put many a man to shame. The Mollies of the rising generation had sprung from the soil we older anarchists had helped to plough, I said. They were our children of the spirit and they would carry further their heritage. In this proud consciousness we might look with assurance towards the future.
A similar affair in behalf of Kate Richards O'Hare was arranged by the group of radical women that were working for Kate's pardon. Crystal Eastman presided, the speakers of the evening including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and me. I talked about Kate's life in the Jefferson City prison and of the good she had achieved for the unfortunates there. I dwelt on the fine spirit of her comradeship, and I related some personal details of our sojourn in the penitentiary that illustrated Kate's character. Her complex about her hair particularly amused the audience. Not for anything would she appear in the shop without an elaborate coiffure. The ritual required considerable time and effort, and, as there was no opportunity for it in the morning, Kate used to devote the last evening hours to it. Once I was awakened at night by Kate lustily swearing. "What is it, Kate?" I called to her. "Stuck again by a hairpin, darn it," she replied. "You will be vain," I teased her. "Sure," she retorted; "how else am I to show off my beauty? Nothing in this world can be had without a price, as you well know yourself." "Well, I would not pay for such foolishness as curled hair." "Why, E. G., how you talk. Just ask your male friends, and you'll find out that a fine coiffure is more important than the best speech." The diners roared, and I was sure most of them agreed with Kate.
The gods had never been miserly in providing me with care and work. No sooner had Sasha left his sick-bed than another patient was on hand: Stella was laid up and had to be nursed. My only chance for rest was when some friends managed to kidnap me, as my friend Aline Barnsdall presently did.
I had first met her at my lectures in Chicago. She was keenly interested in the drama and she had staged some modern plays in that city. We spent many pleasant hours together, and I had an opportunity of learning that she was also wide awake to social problems, particularly to free motherhood and birth-control. Her interest in the Mooney-Billings case proved that her attitude was not mere theory. She had been among the first to contribute to the defence and she had also extended a large loan for the purpose. It was not until I was sent to prison, however, that Aline made me feel that she really cared for me. Her coming to Chicago from the Coast to welcome me on my release brought her very near and helped to cement our friendship, begun four years before. On her arrival in New York she carried me off and made me forget for a while the troubles of the world.
One day, as we sat discussing my approaching deportation, I happened to quote Ibsen to the effect that it is the struggle for the ideal that counts, rather than the attainment of it. My life had been rich and colourful, and I had nothing to regret. "What about material results?" Aline suddenly asked. "Nothing except my good looks," I replied jestingly. My friend grew thoughtful and then inquired whether I would be able to cash a cheque. I could, I told her, but it were better for her not to have my name in her cheque-book. Aline declared that she had the right to dispose of her money as she pleased; the government had no business to control such things. Then she handed me a cheque for five thousand dollars, to be applied to the fight against my deportation or for my needs if I should be compelled to leave the country.
I did not trust myself to thank Aline for her gracious gesture; I had to get my emotions in hand first. Later in the evening I told her that the most disturbing feeling in regard to my deportation was the dread of dependence. Never once since I had come to America had I known the fear of not being able to stand on my own feet. I should rather keep my independence in poverty than give it up for wealth. It was the only treasure which I guarded as a miser does his possessions. To be driven out of the land I had called my own, where I had toiled and suffered for years, was not a cheerful prospect. But to come to other shores penniless and without the hope of immediate adjustment was for me a calamity indeed. It was not the dread of poverty or want; it was the fear of having to do the bidding of those who have the power to withhold the means of existence. This spectre had worried me most. "Your cheque is not an ordinary gift," I said to Aline; "it will be the means of keeping me free, and it will enable me to retain my independence and self-respect. Do you understand?" She nodded, and my heart expanded in gratitude no words could express.
A year had passed since the Armistice, and political amnesty had been granted in every European country. America alone failed to open her prison doors. Instead, official raids and arrests increased. There was hardly a city where workers known as Russians or suspected of sympathy with radical ideas were not being picked up, taken at their work-benches or on the street. Behind these raids stood Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, panicky at the thought of radicals. Many of the arrests were accompanied by brutal manhandling of the victims. New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, and other industrial centres had their detention houses and jails filled with these "criminals." I was besieged by requests for lectures. The Federal deportation mania was terrorizing the foreign workers of the country, and there were many calls upon me to speak on the matter and enlighten the people on the subject.
Our own fate was hanging in the balance, and Sasha was still an invalid. It seemed preposterous to begin a lecture tour, yet I could not refuse. I had a foreboding that it would be my last opportunity to raise my voice against the shame of my adopted land. I consulted Sasha and he agreed that I ought to go. I suggested that he come with me; it would help him to forget Atlanta and enable him to be with our comrades for perhaps the last time, and he consented.
Our friends and counsel unconditionally opposed our undertaking the campaign. The question of our deportation was still under consideration by the Federal Government, and it was therefore inadvisable to prejudice our case, they argued. But Sasha and I felt that it was the psychological moment to speak out in behalf of Russia. We could not allow personal interests to influence our decision.
From New York to Detroit and thence to Chicago we made a whirlwind tour, our movements watched by local and Federal agents, every utterance noted down and attempts made to silence us. Unperturbed we continued. It was our last supreme effort and we felt our die had been cast.
Notwithstanding sensational press reports of police interference, warnings to keep away from our gatherings, and similar methods calculated to deter our audiences from attending, our meetings in Detroit, as well as in Chicago, were crowded by thousands. No ordinary assemblies, these; monster demonstrations they were, a tempest of vehement indignation against government absolutism and of homage to ourselves. It was the eloquent voice of the awakened collective soul, thrilled by new hope and aspiration. We merely articulated its yearnings and dreams.
During the farewell dinner given us by our friends in Chicago, on December 2, reporters dashed in with the news of Henry Clay Frick's death. We had not heard of it before, but the newspaper men suspected that the banquet was to celebrate the event. "Mr. Frick has just died," a blustering young reporter addressed Sasha. "What have you got to say? " "Deported by God," Sasha answered dryly. I added that Mr. Frick had collected his debt in full from Alexander Berkman, but he had died without making good his own obligations. "What do you mean?" the reporters demanded. "Just this: Henry Clay Frick was a man of the passing hour. Neither in life nor in death would he have been remembered long. It was Alexander Berkman who made him known, and Frick will live only in connexion with Berkman's name. His entire fortune could not pay for such glory."
The next morning brought a telegram from Harry Weinberger informing us that the Federal Department of Labor had ordered our deportation, and that we must surrender on December 5. We had two more days of freedom and another lecture on hand. There was much to attend to in New York, and Sasha left to arrange our affairs there. I remained for the last meeting. However the storm might rage and the waves mount high, I was determined to face it to the end.
The next day I took the fastest train for New York, Kitty Beck and Ben Capes accompanying me. It was a royal send-off that was given me on leaving Chicago. Our friends and comrades almost monopolized the station platform, the sea of faces expressive of the most precious token of complete solidarity and affection.
I was on the fastest American train, travelling in state with my two companions. "A sleeper or compartment on what may be your last trip in the U. S.?" my friends had declared; "never!" A drawing-room was none too good, and champagne to go with it. Somehow Benny had managed to unearth a couple of bottles in spite of Prohibition. He was an old hand at getting on the good side of porters, and he captured our darky's heart. Our porter had been busying himself about our room and sniffing the air all the time. "Great stuff," he grinned, closing one eye. "Bet your life, George," Benny admitted; "can you get us a bucket of ice?" "Yah, sah, a whole chest." We had not enough bottles to fill a refrigerator, Ben told him, but he might "come in on the swag" if he would bring an extra glass. The sly Negro proved to be a philosopher and artist. His observations on life were keen and his mimicry of the passengers and their foibles masterly.
Kitty and I, left alone, talked into the wee hours of the morning. Her life had been very tragic, perhaps because nature had made her all too lavish. Giving was to her a ritual, to serve to the uttermost her only impulse. Whether it was the man she loved, a friend, or a beggar, a stray cat or a dog, Kitty always emptied the fullness of her heart. She could exact nothing for herself, yet I have seldom known a being so in need of affection. Those in her life accepted from her as a matter of course; few, if any, of them understood the craving of her own heart. Kitty was born to give, not to receive. That was at once her supreme achievement and her defeat.
At the Grand Central terminal in New York friends awaited us, including Sasha, Fitzi, Stella, Harry, and other intimates. There was no time left even to go to my apartment to bid my dear Helena goodbye. We piled into taxis and drove straight to Ellis Island. There Sasha and I surrendered, while Harry Weinberger prepared to demand the return of the thirty thousand dollars deposited as our bond.
"That is the end, Emma Goldman, isn't it?" a reporter remarked. "It may only be the beginning," I flashed back.
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