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She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885. In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to “induce persons not to register” for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with 248 others—and deported to Russia. During her life, Goldman was lionized as a freethinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution.
Emma Goldman was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Kovno in the Russian Empire, which is now known as Kaunas in Lithuania. Goldman’s mother Taube Bienowitch had been married before to a man with whom she had two daughters—Helena in 1860 and Lena in 1862. Taube’s second marriage was arranged by her family and, as Goldman puts it, “mismated from the first”.
Her second husband, Abraham Goldman, invested Taube’s inheritance in a business that quickly failed. The ensuing hardship, combined with the emotional distance of husband and wife, made the household a tense place for the children. Emma Goldman was born on June 27, 1869. Her father used violence to punish his children, beating them when they disobeyed him. He used a whip on Emma, the most rebellious of them.
Her mother provided scarce comfort, rarely calling on Abraham to tone down his beatings. Goldman’s relationships with her elder half-sisters, Helena and Lena, were a study in contrasts. Goldman’s childhood with “whatever joy it had”. Lena, however, was distant and uncharitable.