Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Life of Emma Goldman Part IV: In Which a Revolutionary's Life is Like a Roller Coaster Full of Sex, Violence, and Jail

We've been plugging away at the life of Emma Goldman for a few weeks now, and she's now in her forties, and still going strong. Catch up by reading chapter one, chapter two, and chapter three before you move on!

She was in a relationship with Ben Reitman last time we checked, which seems to have brought her orgasms and heartaches in more or less equal quantities. See, Ben was a good guy, but he was beyond incapable of monogamy. That was fine by Emma, at least, on an intellectual level; she was all for free love. The problem was that it was a lot easier for Emma to have ideological support for free love than it was for her to watch her boyfriend screw around all the time, which holy shit, he did a lot. Ben Reitman was, as I may have mentioned, the Matt Damon of the anarchist movement (it makes sense! I promise. Go back and check.) but he was also kind of an unapologetic horndog, whereas as much as Emma liked free love, she tended to stick to one fellow at a time. This led to clashes. Fortunately, they were really, really enjoying themselves in bed, which I guess makes up for it. Fun fact: I have now done so much reading about Emma Goldman that I know the pet names she and Ben Reitman used, in their utterly filthy love letters to each other (all of which were most likely read by police, which is pretty funny when you think about it) for each others' sexual organs. I'm not telling you, though; that's something you'll have to research for yourself.

Anyway, after a lot of traveling, lectures, and awesome sex, Emma and Ben went to California to join in the San Diego Free Speech Fight, a struggle for free speech rights for unions, socialists, and all the other people Emma Goldman so enjoyed hanging out with. She went there in April of 1912, with Ben, and was heavily involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies there. They were going up against a group of vigilantes who creatively called themselves the Vigilantes. Seriously, that was like, the name of their vigilante organization. They were like “we are the Vigilantes. We are vigilantes, who do vigilante violence, and so we call ourselves the Vigilantes.” Do you think that’s weird? I think that’s weird. I guess that people who typically do vigilante violence aren't all that creative? (Sorry Batman. I didn't mean you. You're a very creative vigilante. Stop glaring at me. Or...maybe that's just your regular face. sorry again. This is getting awkward, Batman, I'm going to go back to talking about Emma Goldman.)

Anyway, the brilliantly-named Vigilantes had been raiding the IWW headquarters, harassing and attacking people, and even kidnapping IWW leaders, all in an attempt to preserve the idea that free speech really shouldn’t apply to people like socialists and union leaders. Emma’s arrival in San Diego was met with a lynch mob, but fortunately she was in a car, and they weren’t, and the driver basically just drove at the crowd, and they scattered, allowing her to get where she was going.

The Vigilantes kept on forming mobs to try and intimidate those fighting for free speech, and it seemed to be working. The mayor of San Diego actually showed up with a bunch of other officials and told Emma that the mob that had surrounded the hotel where she and Ben were staying was so dangerous that all he could offer her was protection if they decided to leave town. Emma said she’d stay, because she spit in the face of fear on a regular basis, and pointed out that the anti-free speech laws that were currently keeping IWW members, anarchists, socialists, and union members from gathering didn’t seem to be stopping the Vigilantes, and wasn’t that interesting? “I have never accepted protection from the police” she told them. “And I do not intend to do so now. I charge all of you men here with being in league with the Vigilantes.” because telling a bunch of assholes you suspect may be in league with an angry mob that wants to kill you that you suspect they may be in league with an angry mob that wants to kill you is totally a survival skill.

They told her it would be her own fault when she got murdered, and left. It was then that Emma discovered that while she had been talking to these sketchy-ass officials, Ben had disappeared from the hotel. Someone came by hours later, and told the understandably panicked Emma that Ben had indeed been taken by the Vigilantes, but that they hadn’t hurt him, had just put him on a train out of town. Not really believing them, but not knowing what else to do, Emma headed to the train station herself. She was met by the Vigilantes, who tried to get at her once she was on the train, but failed, which is good for this blog, because otherwise the whole story would have ended with a lynching in San Diego.

She reached Los Angeles safely, because Emma Goldman was immune to angry mobs. This was a really useful superpower for her. Most people could live their whole lives without such a power ever becoming relevant, but for her it made itself known quite often. Anyway, once she got to LA she became convinced that she had been lied to, and that Ben was dead; he was nowhere to be found. She got a call much later that day, though, telling her that Ben would be on the ten o’clock train from San Diego. The voice on the phone told her to bring a stretcher.

The identity of the caller remains unknown, but whoever he was he gets an A+ for ominous.

Ben eventually showed up. He was not in a good way. What had happened was this: as soon as Emma was off talking to the mayor, men came into his room with guns, and dragged him out of the building. A uniformed police officer watched them throw him into a car. He was beaten, and driven to a deserted place outside of town, where he was stripped, beaten again, and branded, with a burning cigar, with with the letters IWW. He was tarred, and violently sexually assaulted with a walking stick, though they stopped that form of abuse so as to spare women in the mob from seeing him naked. The twisted morality of that is something to think about the next time you’re bored. Ben was then forced to run a gauntlet, during which he was beaten by every member of the Vigilantes, who claimed to have promised the Chief of Police that they would leave him alive at the end of the night. They did, but only barely.

Emma, of course, went straight into political mode; the attack on Ben Reitman had gained them a lot of sympathy. Its effect on Ben was less positive; even once he had recovered physically, it seems likely that he was suffering from PTSD, which makes sense, given the circumstances. He became obsessed with the idea of returning to San Diego, the site of his attack. A lot of his and Emma’s friends thought that was a terrible idea, because they somehow thought that going back to a place where people had kidnapped him at gunpoint, beaten, branded, and sexually assaulted him was, like, unsafe or something. Emma just thought that going back to San Diego would be a great opportunity to keep fighting for free speech, and she believed that it would help free Ben from his trauma. She refused to let him go there alone. A lecture was booked in San Diego, and they headed over.

Ben began to panic on the train, but they arrived safely, only to be arrested as soon as they stepped onto the platform. Emma recognized at least one of the people involved in their arrest as being with the Vigilantes. This trip was starting to look exactly as awesome as the last one.

Emma and Ben spent the night in jail, and woke up to a howling mob demanding Reitman. The police offered to get them both out of town under protection. Emma wanted to stay, but wanted Ben to go, since it seemed he was the main target of the Vigilantes, and besides, Emma pretty much automatically assumed she could handle herself. He told her that if she was going to stay, he would too. Remember, if you’re going to hang out with Emma Goldman you have to be at least seven kinds of awesome. Emma, though, decided she couldn’t let him risk another attack, and they consented to being escorted out of town. As they left, Emma watched and listened to the mob in fascination as people screamed for their blood and spat on them. She decided that she would have to come back again, but that she would leave Ben behind next time. Basically, she decided that she was willing to face down this mob, but that she needed to protect her boyfriend. Did I mention that she was awesome?

So, she and Ben went back to New York. There, Emma went back to work, and began fighting with Ben, due mostly to his aforementioned inability to keep it in his pants, as well as the general tendency of Emma's life to be high drama all the time. Their relationship was rocky. Like Shakespeare said, the course of anarchist free love never did run smooth. He said that, right? Something like that.

More traveling and lecturing with Ben, and an arrest for distributing information about birth control, and the relationship eventually ended. Emma did a little time for daring to tell people how to not have babies, but she was always kind of ok with jail. It gave her a chance to connect with those truly shat upon by society, for whom she never had anything but sympathy, no matter their crimes. And hey, she could read, in between the exploitative prison labor system that forced her to sew a quota of clothes every day. And of course, she could work for prison reform. Which was handy, because quite soon, she would be back in jail, but that, I think, is a tale for the next entry.

Man, a lot of bad things happened in this entry! Let's cheer up with a few olde timey political cartoons! These will be cartoons in support of our intrepid Emma, and I will provide translations, because the one place you could consistently find positive portrayals of Emma Goldman was the Yiddish press.

This is from a satirical Yiddish newspaper, and depicts Emma Goldman’s struggle for free speech.



The caption reads “Emma Goldman, the grogger, and free speech in America.” A grogger is a noisemaker traditionally used to celebrate Purim, seen here in Emma’s right hand. Since the grogger works by being spun, the police officer is trying to silence it by holding onto the moving part. I think this is actually one of the more sympathetic contemporary portrayals of Emma out there. By identifying Emma Goldman with the grogger, the Jewish newspaper emphasizes her Jewishness, thus claiming her as one of their own. It definitely pokes fun at her, but it is the police officer, drawn short, stout and ugly relative to Emma, and with key and club prominently displayed, who is the real target of the cartoon. Traditionally, the grogger is used to drown out the name of the anti-Semitic villain of the Purim story. By placing it in in Emma’s hands, the cartoonist symbolically depicts her as a champion of the oppressed, and as a hero to the Jewish community. So, that’s why I love this cartoon. Also, kindly note Emma’s shit-kicking boots. Those rock. They rock epically. I want those boots. Her hat is pretty cute too, and it looks like the same one she wore in her first mug shot.

So, here's another one:




The heading on this one is "Emma earns her punishment." At her feet is a sign advertising a lecture on "how protect from too many children." Note again how unsympathetic the policeman is in relation to Emma; his caricatured mustache obscures most of his face, and his club is prominently displayed. The figure at the right, who honestly looks like how I told you all to think of Henry Clay Frick a few chapters ago, only with some kind of weird...pocket watch(?) hanging from his belt is labeled "Sweatshop Boss," who is saying "hear this scandal! I need kids to work, and she preaches against children! To prison with her!"

What's cool about this one, I think, is that it not only depicts Emma Goldman as an innocent victim of repression, it suggests a financial, rather than a moral motive behind that repression. Which is kind of awesome, since it calls the authorities out on their bullshit. They can claim that they want to protect public morals from the dangerous sex-having Emma Goldman, this cartoon seems to say, but what they really want to do is preserve poverty and an exploitative system of underpaid child labor. Which is probably a pretty fair assessment of the situation.

Ok, that's it for today. Next week will be our final entry on Emma, and will include lots of sad stuff, but also some discussion of her legacy, gay rights advocacy, etc. So that'll be fun! And sad! And fun!

(Read the fifth and final entry here!)

Specific Lessons for Modern Activists: Sometimes oppression of free speech will happen rather selectively. On that note, you may hope that you, like Emma Goldman, are immune to violent mobs, but it's best not to assume that you are.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cochise Died of Stomach Cancer. In His 70s. On His Own Damn Land. Because Fuck Imperialism, That's Why.

K'uu-ch'ish, also known variously as Cochise, Chis, and Cheis, was an Apache leader in the mid 19th century, and one of the most dedicated, and successful, resistors to colonialism in North America. Though he was motivated primarily by a desire for peace, he ended up forced to fight against Mexico, the United States, AND the Confederacy. Basically, if you are a North American country, and you are not Canada, Cochise kicked your ass at some point, and you SO had it coming. He is one of a very small group of Native American leader who were able to successfully fight wars against the United States. And he totally won. If Chuck Norris were Apache, and a good person, instead of a right wing asshole (he is! Really! Look it up!) he still would not be as cool as Cochise, but he would be cool enough to hang out with him sometimes. Maybe.

Born in 1805, the sheer awesomeness of this man can be guessed from the fact that, when he was captured by the Mexican army in 1848 (he was captured due entirely to the fact that he sacrificed himself to allow his men to escape; don't go thinking he was caught due to some tactical superiority on the Mexican army's part), he ended up being exchanged for a freaking DOZEN Mexican prisoners. So yeah, that's basically his enemies admitting he's worth twelve of them. It's striking, actually, what a good opinion of this guy his enemies generally had. Some of them sounded like they kinda wanted to jump his bones; there are a LOT of white accounts of Cochise that spend an inordinate, and somewhat uncomfortable amount of time talking about how handsome and charismatic, and handsome, and poised and OMG handsome he was. The whole personal magnetism thing was probably part of what made him an effective leader, though to read the white accounts it probably also got him a lot of "do you like me? Yes/no/maybe?" notes from the dudes attempting to invade his land. Seriously, read them sometimes, they spend an awkward amount of time on his gorgeous physique.

As it happened, as cool as the Europeans may have found Cochise and his sexy, sexy body, he had plenty of reasons to hate them. There was the fact that they scalped his father, just, you know, for a start. Early on, Mexico had put a bounty on Native American scalps (don't think America didn't do that too, because America totally did that too), with different prices paid for scalps coming from men, women, and children. Yeah. Children. That one actually backfired on Mexico when some unscrupulous people (like, so unscrupulous that they were not only murders but liars too!) realized that, hey, most of the Spanish-descended Mexicans had straight, dark hair that was actually pretty similar to the hair of the people the government was trying to pay them to commit genocide against. And Mexicans were all around them, whereas the Apache were all the way over there...you can probably guess what happened next. There's not much info on it, but I'm guessing a lot of people no one would raise too much fuss about (beggars, prostitutes, drunks, etc) suddenly went inexplicably missing.

I would say it served them right, but I'm guessing the people being quietly murdered for their scalps were not the same people who put that bounty into effect, so I'm just going to go ahead and call the whole incident mind-bendingly horrible, and get back to the point, which was that Cochise's father was murdered by some asshole who wanted to collect the bounty placed on his scalp. I'm not saying Cochise was a superhero, but I am going to point out that if he were a superhero, a senselessly murdered father is totally something it would be pretty much standard for him to have.

But Cochise was pretty peaceful for a lot of his life. Sure, once he became leader of the Chiricahua Apaches they skirmished on and off with the Mexican army, who just would not stop trying to grab up land inhabited by Apaches. So he fought with the Mexicans on and off, and even learned Spanish, though he used an interpreter when dealing with them, so that his enemies would underestimate him. If that technique sounds familiar to you it's because you're a geek, and no less a personage than Daenerys Targaryen herself totally used it in Storm of Swords. Or maybe Clash of Kings. I don't remember right now, but either way, yeah, that's who else used that little trick. History is silent as to whether Cochise had a dragon or three perched anywhere on his person during those negotiations, but it's clear that he couldn't have been more awesome if he had. I just compared Cochise to Dany Targaryen; I think I've established that sometimes I put my fingers on the keyboard and weird comparisons come out. (Next article: Was Emma Goldman the Captain Kirk of Anarchism? I am not even sure what that means. I think that they both traveled a lot and had a lot of sex and were awesome? Was Emma Goldman friends with any Vulcans? Probably. Would that make Ben Reitman McCoy? Dear God, what the Hell am I talking about?)

Eventually, the Americans replaced the Mexicans on the list of people who were a pain in Cochise's ass. In the 1850s there was a period of relative peace, during which time Cochise was so chill with America that he was (possibly. History is sketchy that way) selling firewood to an American stagecoach station. That's pretty chill. He even went so far as to beat a young Chiricahua man who, against orders, stole mules from the stagecoach company. So really, he was going out of his way to make life pleasant for Americans.

Guess who went and fucked it up? If you said imperialist, colonialist white people, yay! You are an excellent student of history. To the front of the class with you. What happened was that America started pushing into Apache territory. In retaliation, some Apache raiders stole some livestock. It's important to realize that for the Apache (a really loosely affiliated group of people, only one part of which, the Chiricahua Apache, were under Cochise's authority, though he would ultimately bring unprecedented unity to the Apache people), raiding was often a completely different thing from out-and-out war. Raiding was frequently a financial thing, and one group of Apache raiding Mexican or American settlements, would not, in any way, preclude another group of Apache (or even that group) from having peaceful relations with Mexico or America.

Anyway, raiding was happening. As far as the Apache were concerned, that wasn't a major declaration of hostility, just a way of getting stuff. But then Americans decided to take things to the next, far worse level, by murdering four people, injuring many others, and capturing thirteen women.

A group of Apache decided to retaliate. It's important to note that they were nothing to do with Cochise and his band; the Chiricahua; they were from an entirely different band, the Coyotero Apache, who were not remotely under his command. They stole a herd of cattle, and kidnapped a rancher's twelve year old son. Considering that the last time Americans had attacked they had killed four people and kidnapped thirteen, all female (I'll let you work out the disturbing implications of that for yourself) this retaliation could hardly be termed escalation. If anything, it was a fairly restrained response.

And then along comes a jackass. Enter Lieutenant Bascom of the United States Army, who decides "this raid was probably Cochise, because, well, I'm terrible at my job, and I've decided it was totally Cochise." He invites Cochise over to the US Army camp to chat about this. Cochise was like "sure, why not? You white people are always on the up and up, right?" and showed up to talk, bringing along a few members of his family because hey, it was just a friendly conversation.

Bascom told Cochise that he wanted the kid and the cattle returned safely. Cochise was basically like "well, I can understand why you would. Whoever took them is a total dick. You want some help finding them? I could get some people on it." For some reason Bascom took that response as irrefutable proof of Cochise's guilt. Various explanations are possible, but I think they mostly boil down to the fact that Bascom was, as has previously been mentioned, a jackass. He captured Cochise and the family he'd brought with him, so Cochise took out a knife and slashed his way out of the tent. (Hint to military types who are attempting to capture awesome people: tents are not the same thing as walls. Your more astute opponents may seek to exploit this fact with the cunning use of sharp things. You jackass.)

It's unknown whether Cochise received a bullet wound while he fled; reports vary from zero bullets to three being stuck in Cochise by the time he escaped. This could tell you something about the unreliability of historical accounts of controversial, heated, violent incidents. What it tells me is that Cochise simply did not give a fuck about bullets; you couldn't tell whether he'd been shot or not because it didn't make much difference to his day either way. He was not interested in a bullet's opinion as to whether he should fall over or not. Bullets did not get a say. This is as good at time as any to mention that Cochise was believed to have legit supernatural powers.

Some versions of the story actually say that Cochise had been offered coffee by the Army guys he was talking to, and that he was still holding the delicate little coffee cup, unbroken in his hand, when he finally reached safety. As in, he just forgot he was holding it because he was so busy fighting for his life, and then fought for his life so effectively that the cup wasn't even broken. I have absolutely no evidence with which to back this up, but in my mind, Cochise was calmly sipping coffee the entire time he was fighting his way out of the camp, and made it out of there without spilling a drop.

Having been thwarted, Bascom laid a trap to try and grab Cochise again. Knowing Bascom, you'd expect the trap to be, like, a tunnel painted on the side of a mountain, or a little stack of boxes labelled "Presents for Cochise" with visible fuses burning down at the center, but no, it was a little better than that. Not good enough, though, it utterly failed to capture Cochise. It succeeded instead in doing two things. The first was capturing five of Cochise's family members. The second was Pissing. Cochise. Off.

Cochise retaliated by laying a similar ambush, and capturing four American hostages in return. Bascom responded by saying he wouldn't return Cochise's family until Cochise returned that captured boy and cattle. You know, the ones Cochise NEVER CAPTURED IN THE FIRST PLACE and had OFFERED TO HELP BASCOM LOOK FOR at the beginning of this stupid incident. Because Bascom was adamantly holding out in his negotiations for something that Cochise literally, physically, couldn't give him, Cochise responded the only way he reasonably could; by going ahead and capturing three more Americans. You gotta wonder about Bascom at this point. How much did he think Cochise wanted this one kid as a hostage? What the hell would the logic of this been, had Cochise actually been holding the kid? We're pretty sure, factually speaking, that he wasn't...Cochise had a reputation for honesty, and Bascom had a reputation for jackassery. (He didn't really, but I think he should. Because he was a jackass.)

So, Cochise, still not able to give Bascom what he wanted, because he NEVER HAD IT IN THE FIRST DAMN PLACE, and having basically gotten the ultimatum that Bascom would accept nothing less than the return of the kid and the cattle, decided, fuck it, there was just no dealing with these people. He fled to Sonora, Arizona, but not before killing his hostages and leaving their bodies where that idiot Bascom would find them.

This blog does not endorse violence. Often. But come on, what the hell else was Cochise supposed to do?

Naturally, Bascom killed Cochise's family in retaliation, including one of his brothers. It was pretty obvious that this was going to happen, considering he left Cochise literally no options that wouldn't end in dead hostages, so it was entirely his own damn fault that the American hostages died, and responsibility for Cochise's family's deaths would be squarely on him too. He never did get the kid or the cattle back. What he got was the twenty-five year long Apache Wars.

Look, I am not a military historian. I would not try to write about military strategy in a meaningful way, but what I will say is this: Cochise was really fucking good at guerrilla warfare. Like, if there were a prize for being good at guerrilla warfare, Cochise would totally win it. As it turned out, there was a prize for being good at guerrilla warfare, and it was a pile of dead American soldiers. Oh, and pile of dead Confederate soldiers as well, marking the Western-most Confederate deaths of the Civil War. He teamed up with such notable badasses as his father-in-law, Dasoda-hae, known to white people as Mangas Coloradas (Spanish for "red sleeves,)" and of course, Geronimo. Cochise hung out with all the cool people.

Stuff started to go badly at the Battle of Apache Pass, where Cochise and Mangas Coloradas encountered artillery fire for the first time. Mangas Coloradas also encountered a bullet to his chest. He lived, but it, or perhaps the artillery brought in by the US Army, did encourage him to call for a meeting to discuss peace (not something Cochise was in any way opposed to). While meeting with a US general under a flag of truce, Mangas Coloradas was captured and tortured. That night, he was killed, supposedly while trying to escape, but it's more likely he was simply murdered. The Army then mutilated his body, cut off his head, boiled it to clean the skull, and sent it to a phrenologist in New York City.

Let me just re-stress what happened. They agreed to meet with him under a flag of truce. Then they captured him, tortured him, killed him, and mutilated his body. Sometimes people act like the US should be done apologizing for all the awful things it did during westward expansion, but in my opinion, we haven't even begun to admit how awful it was.

So, yeah, that didn't do anything to reduce Apache hostilities towards the United States. Cochise kept on fighting them, and although he was pushed back to the Dragoon Mountains he managed to keep on actively raiding and fighting against America until 1872, when he finally decided that it was time for a treaty, if he could get one that America would actually stick to. He was nearly 70 at this point, so it's kind of understandable that he'd want to stop fighting, especially considering he never really wanted to start in the first place. His token white friend, Tom Jeffords (yes, Cochise had a token white friend. I like to imagine that every time he said something derogatory about white people he would be like "no, it's cool, I can totally say that, I say stuff like that in front of my buddy Jeffords all the time, and he says it's ok. Oh wait, I meant I can totally say that because white people MURDERED MY FATHER AND FATHER-IN-LAW AND MUTILATED THEIR BODIES. That's what I meant. No offense, Tom." And Tom would be like "'scool, we do kinda suck," because he was actually a pretty decent guy.) helped negotiate a treaty that got the Chiricahua Apaches a reservation that was actually where their land was, which was a major win, with Tom Jeffords as the Indian Agent for the area, which was another pretty major win, since he was, like I said, a pretty decent guy. He was a white guy Cochise was willing to be friends with, so he must've been pretty ok.

Cochise died two years later, of natural causes, probably stomach cancer. Things he did not live to see included the removal of Jeffords as Indian Agent (he was branded an "Indian lover" by local white people, who demanded that DC fire him from the post) and the removal of the Chiricauhua Apaches from their land, and their forcible relocation to a reservation that came to be known as "Hell's Forty Acres." The treaty he had signed was broken completely, but at least during his lifetime he was able to achieve the victory of holding onto his and his people's land. And it says something that the US was scared so shitless of him that even when he was in his 70s they waited for him to die before trying to screw him over.

Basically, Cochise was thoroughly epic. He isn't as well-remembered as Geronimo, which is weird, because he was objectively more successful. When you're a war leader, dying in your bed is an epic win. Even America seemed to understand how big of a hero they had been fighting all those years; in 1950 a film called Broken Arrow came out, telling the story of Cochise and Jeffords' friendship, and their attempts to create peace. It's widely regarded as one of the first American movies to present Native Americans, and their struggles against colonialism, with sympathy. The movie is narrated by Jeffords' character, and told from his point of view, but he opens by saying "this is a story of a man named Cochise...I was involved in the story." Within twenty minutes of the opening, Jeffords is angrily telling a white man who is trying to get him to help fight the Apache "let's get the facts straight; Cochise didn't start this war!" refers directly to the violations of the flag of truce and the murder of Cochise's family, and then demands to know "who asked us out here in the first place?" It's a fairly direct questioning of colonialism and the methods by which it was achieved. There's also a fair amount of condescension, bullshit, and what might be termed "fail" but for 1950, not nearly as much as you might expect. The most important thing the movie got right, I think, was to avoid the weird Dances With Wolves bullshit; Cochise and Jeffords become friends and come to understand each other's cultures better, but Jeffords never leads the Apache or anything like that. He also marries a Chiricahua woman (an entirely fictional character) but she isn't used as a symbol of her entire culture or anything, he doesn't start dressing like an Apache, and he doesn't mind-rape a flying dinosaur with his ponytail and oh my god Avatar was such a fucking awful movie, but I digress.

The actor who plays Cochise portrays him as an intelligent, compassionate leader, a brilliant military strategist and tactician, and a heroic, tragic figure, fighting against the duplicitous and murderous Americans, while trying to keep his justifiably angry people from escalating the violence. The movie mentions the bounty placed on Native American scalps, and stresses the atrocities committed against the Apache. Jay Silverheels, a Canadian Mohawk First Nations actor plays Geronimo, though many of the major Native American roles, including Cochise, were given to white actors. I think the actor who played Cochise, a guy named Jeff Chandler, handled the role with respect, though the most respectful thing he could have done would have been to turn down the part, and tell the studio to hire themselves an actual Native actor, so I can't give him full credit for that.

Can I do a sidenote about racism and cinema history? I CAN? Gosh, thanks! (Haha, like you get a say...) Anyway, Chandler, the guy who played Cochise is described on Wikipedia as a "deeply tanned" Jew from Brooklyn. Having seen the movie, that description is pretty accurate. No pictures of Cochise exist, but pictures of his relatives do, and this guy doesn't look like them. It would be weird if he did, because he was, you know, a Jew from Brooklyn, not an Apache from Arizona. This was part of a long history of American movies having "ethnic" European actors play Native Americans. Basically, grab someone with darker skin than the average WASP, stick them in some buckskin, and voila, you had yourself a movie Indian. This was bad on several levels. Firstly, it made it all but impossible for Native American actors to find work (Jay Silverheels being a notable exception) secondly it locked Native Americans out of the movies that were claiming to tell their stories, and thirdly it did this weird othering thing to the Jews, Italians, etc, who took the roles, since it basically implied that anyone "ethnic" was completely interchangeable. This practice was mocked brilliantly in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles, where Brooks plays a Yiddish-speaking chief, in full Hollywood stereotype war bonnet and war paint. (That wasn't just Mel Brooks being bizarre, if you watched that moment and had no idea why that was happening) This practice also, it's really important to point out, completely continues to be a thing today. There are rumors out there that when the movie version of The Lone Ranger comes out, Johnny Depp will be playing Tonto. A role that was originated, coincidentally, by Jay Silverheels. Hey, if that happens, let's all boycott the film, ok? Please? For me? For you? For Jay Silverheels? For Mel Brooks? For Geronimo? For Cochise?

Anyway, enough about racism and film! I want to keep talking about Cochise. He was buried above one of his favorite camps in the Dragoon Mountains, in a location known only to the Chiricahua Apache, and to Tom Jeffords. Because they all kept their mouths shut about it, the exact place is unknown today, but the whole area is called Cochise's Stronghold.

I think what we have in Cochise is a man who never wanted to be an activist, but was forced to be, since the alternative was annihilation. And yes, I do consider him an activist, as much as a war leader and a fighter, because he wasn't just fighting against armies, he was fighting against the forces of colonialism and imperialism. He was fighting against people who refused to deal with him as a human being and as a legitimate opponent in war (the fate of his father-in-law certainly proves that), and he was fighting for the right of his people to exist. That's the kind of thing I want to celebrate with this blog. Also he scared the absolute piss out of America, Mexico, and the Confederacy, and that's kind of awesome.

Causes: Anti-imperialism, Anti-colonialism
Specific Lessons for Modern Activists: I'm tempted to just put don't trust white people who are not named Tom Jefford, but I'll add that it is occasionally possible to stop what seems inevitable. I will also add that only assholes practice whitewashing in their casting choices. I will add for clarification that yes, that makes M. Night Shyamalan an asshole. And yes, I know we already knew that long before he made Avatar: The Last Airbender, but come on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Emma Goldman's Life, Part III: In Which Life Is Not Easy For Anarchists (or Presidents)


Emma Goldman's 1901 mugshot. Note how arrest seems to make her annoyed and bored.


So, where were we? I think Emma was running around Europe, getting all educated and stuff. Go ahead and catch up by reading the first two articles. They are here and here. We'll wait.

Eventually, Emma came back to New York, now with a couple of degrees under her belt. Around this time, she had two (count them! Two!) interactions with an unremarkable young man, who went by the name “Nieman” and who asked her to recommend some reading to him. Later, he came to her house, and, since she was on her way out the door, accompanied her to the train station, talking to her about the Socialist group he belonged to, and how he felt like the people in it lacked enthusiasm. Are you bored by this? You should be, because nothing happened. Seriously. It was a boring conversation on a train, and in no way involved murder. AT ALL.

She introduced him to a few friends who were waiting for her at the train station, and told them to introduce him to more anarchists. Then she left, and, let’s be clear (can you tell this will be important later?) never, never saw him again. Notably absent from their conversation was any statement from Emma Goldman along the lines of “you know what would be great? If you were to murder President William McKinley. Please do that; I actively encourage, no, instruct you to assassinate the President. You should shoot him in the torso, in front of lots and lots of people. Do that.”

Can you see where this is going?

Besides their two (TWO!) really uneventful meetings, the only interaction Emma had with him was to defend him in a letter after some other anarchists accused him of being a government spy in their newspaper. All she said was that there didn’t seem to be any evidence that this Nieman guy was anything of the sort, and that she was pretty sure he was just a lonely guy looking for a community. Her friend retracted the accusation. And that. Was. It. as far as her interactions with this guy went. Are we clear?

So, let’s leave Nieman alone and follow Emma. She attended the Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo, New York. Those of you who have seen Sondheim’s (excellent) Assassins know what happened there, and are probably already humming it, but try not to give it away for everyone else and just keep reading, ok?

A couple days later, Emma was in St. Louis, when she heard a newsboy yelling “Extra! Extra! President McKinley shot!” Apparently the president had been shot in the chest while at the Pan-American Exposition, the same one Emma had just attended. A friend pointed out what a good thing it was that Emma had already left by the time the shooting took place; it was the sort of thing that the press would try to connect to her. Emma thought that was crazytalk. The next morning, she was in a shop, and caught sight of another newspaper headline. This one read “ASSASSIN OF PRESIDENT McKINLEY AN ANARCHIST. CONFESSES TO HAVING BEEN INCITED BY EMMA GOLDMAN. WOMAN ANARCHIST WANTED.” She decided her friend’s fears might not have been crazytalk.

Yes, that non-threatening Nieman guy turned out to be one Leon Czolgosz, Polish-American factory worker from Michigan, and official crazy person, who shot President William McKinley on September 6, 1901.

Ok, everyone who's been humming Assassins for the last couple paragraphs, and those unfortunate people who don't know it, here's the full Czolgosz song. You're welcome. (It's a bit of an earworm.)



Because while I write about 19th century revolutionaries, I like to listen to showtunes. You don't?

Anyway, Emma didn’t make the connection between Czolgosz and the guy she'd talked to months ago until she saw “Nieman’s” picture in the paper. By this time, enough of her friends had been arrested for, basically, being her friends (America tends not to fuck around after a president has been assassinated), that Emma ballsily decided it was her duty to turn herself in. (I just realized that it’s kind of pointless adding the adverb “ballsily” to anything Emma Goldman did. You could just kind of add it to everything she ever did, ever. She really never did anything non-ballsily in her entire life.) She wanted to turn herself in in Chicago, not St. Louis, so she got on a train, where she spent the ride listening to the other passengers arguing over whether this Emma Goldman woman everyone was suddenly talking so much about ought to be locked up, or lynched.

This would freak most people out, but it more amused than frightened her. “I listened to the good Christians,” she says in her autobiography “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 gentlemen, 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.” That’s right; Emma Goldman didn’t reveal herself to people whom she had just heard actively calling for her death, because she didn’t want to freak them out. Emma Goldman was basically made of brass-plated badassery. And also balls. (The ovary kind. Those are balls, too, in case that wasn't clear before.)

After a quick meeting with some friends she announced her intention to go down to police headquarters and turn herself in. Her friend, with whom she was staying, wanted her to run for Canada instead, telling her that if she went into the police station, she was a dead woman. She agreed to let him make the arrangements for her to get to Canada, although she had no intention of actually going. She was basically planning to let him go along with that, and then turn herself in when he wasn’t looking, and when she could avoid being tied to him in any way, to keep him out of trouble (and jail). We call this “self-sacrificial ballsiness.” It’s a subset of regular ballsiness.

The next day, while her friends were out, she heard a noise at the window sill. She was in the bath at the time (people on the run and suspected of helping to assassinate the president need to maintain their hygiene too, you know!) but she threw on a robe, and went to see what it was. She found a man dangling from the third floor window sill, with a gun in his hand. She let him in, which I think was awfully decent of her under the circumstances. He got in, and told her to open the front door.

Twelve policemen came in, and demanded to know who she was. Emma, not particularly wanting to be arrested in her friends’ home, and also apparently not wanting to have an epic conversation while in her bathrobe, pretended to be a maid, and to little speak English. The cops, proving to be the dumbest ones ever, not only bought that, they showed her a picture of herself, and said they were looking for Emma Goldman, and did she know where she was? For some reason, every time I think about this part of the story, I picture the cops being Stephen Fry's character from Gosford Park. These are some dumb, ineffective cops. Emma said she hadn’t seen this woman in the picture. Again, she wasn't trying to avoid arrest for some sort of cowardly reason, she just didn’t want to be arrested in her friends’ home, for fear of getting them in trouble.

The Incredible Cops of Gullibility City (police department motto: Courtesy, Professionalism, Stupidity) probably would have bought it too, if one of them hadn’t found a pen, inscribed with her name, and decided to stay in case she came back. At this point, Emma decided that things were getting ridiculous, and told them who she was. They were completely shocked. Because, as I may have mentioned, they were kind of dumb.

Emma was arrested, interrogated, threatened, and intimidated. The police falsely claimed to have witnesses placing her with Czolgosz in Buffalo. She stuck to her story, (because, you know, it was true), which was that she had spent a grand total of a half hour in Czolgosz’s presence, and had gone to the Exposition because it seemed like a fun thing to do, not because she was involved with a plan to kill anyone. She was deprived of sleep, and of any communication with the outside world, apart from hate mail from strangers who were angry at her for her supposed role in the shooting. I can only assume they let her read that as a form of intimidation, and had they been dealing with the subset of the human race that is not Emma Goldman, that might have worked. Sample text: “we will cut your tongue out, soak your carcass in oil, and burn you alive,” though there was much nastier stuff than that. Emma, far from being intimidated, calmly observed that “the description by some of the anonymous writers of what they would do to me sexually offered studies in perversion that would have astounded the authorities on the subject.” She was given daily stacks of this type of letter, but was allowed no messages from her friends.

Emma never did actually denounce the assassination. While the president was dying, she said that, as a nurse, she would care for him, but her sympathies were with the man who had shot him. This was not awesome for her PR. After a week or so, she was transferred to the Cook County Jail, and on the way was hit in the face, and had a tooth knocked out by a guard, who didn’t care for her backchat, or for the fact that she was an anarchist. When a journalist, the next day, asked her if she could identify the guard who did it, Emma casually responded that she wasn’t sure that she could, and anyway, firing the one officer who had hit her would neither get her her tooth back nor end police brutality; it was all the fault of the system she was trying to fight against. Not many people can look on a disfiguring injury to their own personal face in an objective way a day after it happened, but most people, it is abundantly clear, are not Emma fucking Goldman.

Soon, she was told that the president was dead. When she was asked to respond, she said (awesomely) “is it possible that in the entire United States only the President passed away on this day?” and asked why she should feel more sorry for him than for people who died in poverty, leaving behind families. This was actually a pretty good point, but probably not the most diplomatic thing to say. She was eventually set free, there being absolutely no evidence to tie her to the assassination, but her support of Czolgosz didn’t do her public image any favors; she lost a lot of support from fellow anarchists, especially when she wrote an article called “The Tragedy of Buffalo” in which she argued that Czolgosz’s crime was not the action of a lone madman, but the inevitable result of an unjust society. She compared Czolgosz to Brutus, which is the classical allusion people like to make when they think it’s great that someone assassinated someone, but not the allusion a nation in mourning wanted to hear.

The public turned against anarchists hard after that, and McKinley’s successor, who happened to be Teddy Roosevelt, promised to crack down on anarchists and their supporters. Stuff got nasty; anarchists became targets of hatred and violence. Emma’s good friend (spoken very well of in Sasha Berkman's Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist) and fellow Jewish American anarchist Harry Gordon was very nearly killed. He had previously been arrested for being a friend of what the newspapers called "the Goldman woman." The account of his arrest published in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette is kind of hilarious, if you're into ignorance; it says that the detectives were busily trying to get papers seized in Gordon's rooms translated: "there was a mass of writings in Russian and Hebrew, and considerable trouble is being experienced in having these letters translated." You have to wonder how much the police department sucked if they couldn't find translators, but maybe knowing the goddamn difference between Hebrew and Yiddish, which they clearly didn't, would've helped some.

After Gordon was released from jail, during the public backlash against anarchists, he was nearly lynched in a particularly dramatic fashion: he and his girlfriend were cornered by a lynch mob, which was bad enough, but his girlfriend also happened to be in labor at at the time (most writers will tell you that adding a woman in labor to a violent situation is a really cheap, cliched way of upping the tension, but sometimes reality just doesn't listen). They hid, but the mob figured out where they were and threatened to burn down the house, so Gordon surrendered himself to the mob, calmly telling them "here I am; do what you will with me," in order to save his girlfriend and her child. According to some accounts, he actually had a rope around his neck before someone in the mob noticed that he was wearing a badge that showed he was a member of a machinists union to which that particular mob-member also belonged, and called for him to be let go. Emma had a lot of very brave, occasionally very lucky friends. Not all of them will get their own entry on this blog, but damn, Harry Gordon. Damn.

Emma's old friend Johann Most (the term “friend” here used slightly more sarcastically, if you recall how badly they were getting along. Friends don't hit friends in the face with horsewhips.) was arrested as well, but I won't spend as much time talking about him because his arrest wasn't nearly as fucked up as what happened to Harry Gordon, and besides, last I checked Most was kind of a prick. Basically, it was not an awesome time to be an anarchist, and it was an even less awesome time to be Emma Goldman.

Frustrated with her fellow anarchists and their lack of support for someone who had actually done the sort of thing they were always talking about, and finding herself a little too notorious, Emma assumed a false name (it was Smith, because why mess with tradition, even if you are one of history’s greatest iconoclasts? Smith is the name you use when you don't want people to know who you are. There is no messing with that.) and began practicing as a nurse again, and working as a seamstress, taking in piece-work. Her other main occupation was worrying about Sasha, who was still in prison, and having a really shitty time of it. Meanwhile, the campaign against anarchism in the US picked up speed. This was a definite low point for Emma. But then Russia hit the fan; struggles against the czar were picking up, which galvanized political activists in America, and Emma ended up throwing herself back into politics, speaking and raising money for striking coal miners and for those fighting in Russia. Emma was immediately pulled out of the funk she had been in; nothing like a speaking tour surrounded by hostile police to really improve your mood, if you’re Emma Goldman.

But hey, remember how America was cracking down on anarchists? In 1903 a law was passed banning anarchists from immigrating to America. If that sounds awful and probably unconstitutional, it’s because holy shit, yes, it’s awful and probably unconstitutional. The law actually helped Emma; it improved public opinion about her, since a lot of people seemed to realize that law was holy shit, yes, awful, and probably unconstitutional, so her fight against it earned her some sympathy.

Still, it wasn’t a great time for her. Her lover, Ed Brady died, leaving behind a child that he had never allowed Emma to meet, whom she saw for the first time at his funeral, which must’ve been rough. As she generally did when life made her sad, Emma responded by throwing herself even harder into her political life. She began the anarchist magazine Mother Earth in 1906. Shortly thereafter, Sasha was finally released from prison. Fourteen years in prison had not been kind to him, and their relationship was a bit tense. Sasha didn’t want to do lectures and speeches any more, so Emma put him in charge of editing Mother Earth, basically to give him something to do and some way to contribute while she ran around continuing to be awesome.

In 1908 Emma met someone else who may get (and certainly deserves) his own article on this blog someday; a Dr. Ben Reitman, aka the Hobo Doctor. He was called that because, you see, (stay with me, this is going to get complicated) he was a hobo and a doctor. And because he acted as a doctor for hoboes. And for prostitutes. And for poor people; basically, if capitalist society was crapping on someone, Ben Reitman was there to give them some much-needed medical care. He even provided abortions, which was a pretty huge deal in 1908, and he was also, by the way, a dedicated political activist. Easy to see why Emma might take a liking to him. He was born in Minnesota, to poor immigrants, and apparently became a hobo at the age ten or eleven, but somehow managed to get a job sweeping up in a lab that eventually led to him getting a thorough education when the people there realized how damn smart he was. Yes, Ben Reitman was Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, only Jewish, an anarchist, and from Minnesota. History is silent as to whether he also had a gruff but caring therapist to tell him that his shitty childhood was Not His Fault, but it doesn’t seem likely, and a good thing too.

Emma was immediately smitten with Ben. She began working (and sleeping) with him in Chicago. I want to reiterate here just how openly Emma Goldman enjoyed her own sexuality. Remember, this was the early 20th century, and women were not supposed to be into sex, or if they were, were certainly not supposed to talk about all the crazyawesome mindblowing sex they were having with hobo anarchist abortion doctors. Emma describes their first night thusly:

“That night at Yampolsky’s I was caught in the torrent of an elemental passion I had never dreamed any man could rouse in me. I responded shamelessly to its primitive call, its naked beauty, its ecstatic joy.”

And people say folks born in the 19th century were repressed. Anyway, the two of them began traveling, lecturing, working for all of Emma’s usual causes, but especially for the distribution of information on birth control. We'll leave them there for this week, because it all starts to get crazy once they hit California. That's a story, as they say, for another day.

Specific Lessons for Modern Activists: Sometimes you will be singled out and persecuted for your beliefs. Sometimes you will have great sex. Life is kind of a mixed bag that way.

Emma Goldman's story is continued in Chapter IV, here...

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Life of Emma Goldman, Part II, in which Emma Goldman Continues to Dazzle the World With Awesome, if by Dazzle You Mean Terrify/Infuriate, and I Do


A young Emma Goldman. Just look at the revolution in her eyes.

If you didn't read Part I, you probably should, for continuity's sake. It's over here. I believe we were discussing how awesome Emma Goldman was. Last time we checked in with her, she was hanging out with Alexander Berkman (aka Sasha) and Johann Most, but she was fighting with Most a lot, mostly (ha!) because he was kind of a prick. This has been your late-19th century anarchist movement recap.
So, come 1892, and the Homestead Strike is happening. The details of the strike aren't particularly important for the purposes of this blog. If you're interested though, and you totally should be, because DAMN, an overview can be found here. The relevant bit is basically that the strike was huge, ultimately insanely violent (Pinkerton agents actually surrendered to the strikers at one point. That didn't work out as well for them as they'd hoped.) and that the steel company, led by an industrialist named Henry Clay Frick, was making a strong effort to completely screw the union.

Emma and Sasha went to Homestead, Pennsylvania themselves, and a few days after their return to New York, that serious violence I mentioned broke out. Seven strikers were killed by Pinkerton agents, including a child. Emma and Sasha basically saw this as the start of the revolution they had been waiting for.  They had been planning to get a manifesto written and distributed; now they decided that wasn't enough. Since Frick had given the order for what happened, they decided that there was only one thing to do. Recalling Johann Most's idea of "propaganda of the deed," they decided it was time to murder Henry Clay Frick.
Lest you start feeling bad for Frick, he was not a good guy. His role in the Homestead Strike aside, he was generally known for being an immoral dick, even by 19th century capitalist standards. Whenever I mention Frick, try to imagine him with a monocle in his eye, a massive cigar in one hand, and a brandy snifter full of orphans' tears in the other, leaning back in a leather-upholstered armchair, with his feet resting on a weeping poor person. He should be laughing maniacally, and maybe kicking a puppy or something. That should give you a general idea. (This blog does not condone shooting rich douchebags. It does, however, condone pointing out that rich douchebags are rich douchebags. Also, in fairness to Frick and his surviving descendants, if he has any, I should clarify that the above description is hyperbole, and Henry Clay Frick almost certainly never drank orphans tears by the snifterful.)

Anyway, Sasha said that he would do the murdering. Emma wanted to go with him, but he insisted that it was unnecessary to have more than one person die (death penalty being still VERY much in effect in 1892) to bring down one man, and besides, he wanted someone to be able to tell the American people why he had done it. He had it all worked out; he would kill Frick, he would be sentenced to death, and he would then dramatically kill himself in prison, like Lingg, the Haymarket martyr. Emma found this, it has to be said, an incredibly sexy idea. I mean that both in the sense that she thought it was a really sound idea, for propaganda purposes, and that it made her want to bone Sasha’s brains out even more than she was already doing. Seriously, read her autobiography; it’s right there in the subtext. Ah well, she was young, and he was fairly dashing, I suppose, if you like them young, Russian, and with poor self-preservation instincts. Not to mention (spoiler!) terrible marksmanship.


Even with a flawless plan like the one above (and many people would say that a plan that involves killing yourself in prison is at least two degrees removed from flawless), problems started to arise quite quickly. Sasha was trying to make a bomb, and it turned out that he kind of sucked at it. Or the materials they'd bought kind of sucked at exploding, either way, it wasn't going to kill Frick. Then they realized that, after the money they'd spent on the shitty bomb materials, they couldn't afford to both get Sasha to Pittsburgh and pay for a gun. So either Sasha was going to have to get to where Frick was, and then kill him with his bare hands, or he was going to have to shoot him from very, very far away.
Sasha decided to go ahead and buy the ticket, and leave Emma in charge of finding the money for a weapon and sending it to him once he got there.

Faced with needing to buy a murder weapon and having no way to do so, Emma decided to try prostitution, because why not? She reasoned that Sasha was giving up his life, she should be able to give her body. She made herself some fancy underwear (seriously, she was a multi-talented lady! Cook, dressmaker, orator, revolutionary, that is a pretty impressive resume for someone still in her early twenties!), borrowed five bucks to buy a dress, and went out on Saturday night, walking up and down Fourteenth Street (in case you want to go on an Emma Goldman walking tour of NYC, yes, Fourteenth Street is where she attempted to hook) looking for a customer.


Emma soon found that she wasn’t very good at the whole prostitution thing. After a while, she was approached by a kindly elderly gentleman, who took her into a bar, bought her a beer, told her she wasn’t very good at the whole prostitution thing, confirming what Emma had just deduced for herself, gave her ten dollars, and advised her to go home. She took the money, a little embarrassed, and wrote her sister Helena, saying that she was sick and needed fifteen dollars. She got it, and was able to send Sasha the money he needed for his gun.

Unfortunately, Sasha was even worse at shooting people than Emma was at prostitution. After all, Emma got some money, so that’s something. Sasha, by contrast, while he definitely managed to get into Frick’s office and shoot him a few times, demonstrably failed to kill him in any way, shape, or form. He got off a couple of shots at point blank range, some of which hit some parts of Frick’s body, and after he was wrestled to the ground he even managed to stab Frick in the leg, but a few days after the attack, Frick was back at work, and Sasha was in jail. Henry Clay Frick: 1, Alexander Berkman: 0.

It should be noted that when Frick was shot, like, literally as he was lying there bleeding, he announced “I do not think I will die. But whether I do or not, the company will pursue the same policy. And it will win.” Again, not saying he deserved to get shot, but how is that not a supervillian thing to say? It’s like an evil, capitalist version of “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” The more I read about Henry Clay Frick the more convinced I become that he was secretly spending his nights trying to kill Batman or something.

The assassination did not have the effect Emma and Sasha had hoped for. They wanted to spark an uprising of the workers, and that frankly might have worked in their native Russia, but in America all it did was spark a mainstream backlash against the strikers, and a movement among the strikers to distance themselves from this crazy, foreign, Jewish, anarchist, outside agitator.
While Sasha was awaiting trial for attempted murder, a devastated Emma took over his leadership role. She was having a problem though; she couldn’t find anywhere to live. She had become notorious enough by now that landlords didn’t want to rent to her, but she did eventually find a room in house where no questions were asked as to her identity. It took her a couple days to realize that it was a brothel, but that didn’t particularly bother her. After convincing the other girls there that no, really, she wasn’t, as she put it, “in the business,” she realized this could actually be a good arrangement. She was a dressmaker, and she was living in a house full of women whose income was reliant on their appearance. She was able to earn a living that way, and became quite close with all of her housemates.

Outside the house, things weren’t going so well. Johann Most, the guy who had been such a strong advocate of shooting and exploding your way to a new society, was going back hard on his ideas now that one of his associates had been arrested for, you know, doing that. He began attacking Emma and Sasha in
his paper. So Emma, following her well –established pattern of calm conversation in the face of disagreement, bought a horsewhip and attended Most’s next lecture. She challenged him on what he had said about Berkman. He called her a “hysterical woman,” so she jumped up onto the stage, lashed him across the face and neck, broke the whip over her knee, and threw the pieces at him. Like you do. She was immediately grabbed by an angry mob, but Fedya (the artist who was her friend and lover, see Part I) and a few other friends picked her up and physically carried her out of the hall, probably saving her from serious physical harm. Debate in the days before the internet was way more fun, is what I’m saying.

In the end, Sasha was convicted, and sentenced to 22 years. It didn’t help that he had chosen to represent himself, so that he could use his defense to argue his political position, despite, like Emma, not really speaking English that well. The court appointed a translator, but apparently the guy sucked at speaking either Russian, or English, or both, so after trying to correct him several times, Sasha tried to address the jury in English himself, but the judge shut him down, saying that the court had already heard enough of him. Which was interesting, because they hadn’t really heard anything from him at all, but you know. The jury came to a guilty verdict without even leaving the courtroom to deliberate, and the judge gave the maximum penalty on all charges, which added up to twenty two years in jail. Not that Alexander Berkman didn’t completely try to shoot Henry Clay Frick to death, because he totally did, but there’s a definite argument to be made for the idea that he did not receive an entirely fair trial, and that prejudice against both immigrants and anarchists played a role in his sentencing. Considering that he was 22 years old when he received his 22 year sentence, it must have seemed unbelievably long, both to him and to Emma.

Sasha was allowed a visitor, but it had to be someone in his immediate family. He sent Emma a message asking her to get his “sister from Russia” to come see him. Not being an idiot, Emma figured out that he meant her. Posing as his sister, she went in to see him. Though neither were particularly proficient in English, they were forbidden from speaking in any foreign language. Consequently, not all that much was actually said. However, Sasha kissed her, and pulled off the old trick of passing something into her mouth; a note with instructions to get another meeting. She didn’t get the other meeting though. The official she talked to was determined that Sasha, who had “tried to kill a good Christian man” would have no other visitors, and he eventually twigged that Emma was not, in fact, Sasha’s sister. One has to wonder if the kiss was what gave it away; it’s hard to imagine a kiss that would both look appropriate for siblings, and allow something to be passed from one mouth to the other. You know, unless you're a Targaryean.  Emma left, but not before sweeping all the stuff off the guy’s desk onto the floor. Emma Goldman did not make a habit of holding back her feeling. Which is, of course, why we love her.

With Sasha in jail, Emma took over the leadership role he used to hold. She acquired a new lover, a guy named Edward Brady. To hear her talk about it, he was ok, but not nearly as awesome as poor martyred Sasha.

She continued speaking, collecting and distributing food for the homeless, and organizing a mass meeting in Union Square. It was at that meeting that she made her famous speech exhorting the crowd to “demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread. It is your sacred right!”
She was arrested the next day in Philadelphia. The meeting she was supposed to be running that day went on, with Voltairine de Cleyre (future blog entry waiting to happen, believe me!) taking Emma’s place, and the crowd protesting against her arrest. Although she was, like Emma, an avowed atheist, Voltairine’s Christian schooling came through kind of hilariously obviously in her defense of Emma Goldman. It largely consists of her explaining, in detail, why Emma Goldman is exactly like Jesus. Which is not a comparison a good atheist would make, but is still kind of awesome. Emma learned a very important lesson on this occasion in jail.

She was kept in a cell for a couple days with nothing to do, and when she asked for something to read, the guard brought her a Bible. Emma, a better atheist than Voltairine, threw the book back at the guard. “I had no need of religious lies; I wanted some human book, I told her.” Instead, she got a lecture on how much she was going to burn in hell. From then on, she carried a book with her whenever she spoke publicly. Getting arrested was fine with her, but being put in jail with nothing to read was simply unacceptable. This is #7 on my list of personal list of reasons Emma Goldman was amazing.


Emma Goldman's (first) mugshot. We should all look so badass in our mugshots.

While she was being taken back to New York for trial, the detective accompanying her busted out the classic “good cop” routine, telling her what a shame it was that such a “brilliant girl, with such abilities,” with her whole life before her, was going to waste it in jail. He told her that he was Jewish too, and that he felt sorry for her, and was just trying to help her. Then he asked her, in exchange for her freedom, and a large cash payment, to inform on other political radicals in New York. Emma threw a glass of water in the guy’s face. She called him a “miserable cur,” (it was the 19th century, you could say stuff like that. Oh, the insults of old…raise your hand if you wish you could call a cop a miserable cur. That’s what I thought.) and declared “I’ll take prison for life, but no one will ever buy me!”

She used her trial as a platform to express her political ideas. Obviously. She ended up being sentenced to a year in Blackwell’s Island for inciting to riot.
Or, in her words, "for talking," which actually sounds just as accurate. Prison sucked. It usually does. However, Emma got a ton of reading done, (including authors like Thoreau, Whitman, John Stuart Mill, and Emerson) and began training as a nurse. When she was released, she was met with a crowd of supporters, happy to see their favorite anarchist safe and free once again.

She went straight back to work. She was still getting medical training, and she traveled to England, where she, to make a long story short, fucking rocked it. She brought her incredibly powerful public speaking style with her, and coped pretty well with the English tradition of ruthless heckling, then traveled to Vienna, and started reading Nietzsche and Freud. She went to hear Freud speak, and heard, for the first time, frank discussions of homosexuality.

She would go on to be an advocate of LGBT rights, before there was even a term for it. This was in spite of her being not remotely LGBT herself, but in fact being what some might call avidly, enthusiastically, and perhaps even voraciously heterosexual. (Emma Goldman really like dudes. That in itself was kind of a radical position to take in her day and age.) (Heh, I said “position” when talking about sex. Yeah, that was kind of funny.)


She came back to New York, and began working as a midwife and a nurse in the tenements of the Lower East Side. It was around this time that she became a fan of the idea of birth control; she helped many women give birth to babies they didn’t want and couldn’t afford to take care of, and was repeatedly asked for help performing abortions, something she refused to do, not because she was opposed to it, but because she had never been trained to do it safely. Emma’s work with birth control has led some to call her a eugenicist. Eugenics was definitely something that a lot of early feminists and birth control advocates were into, including Emma's friend Margaret Sanger (for more on feminism's eugenics problem, see Victoria Woodhull), but Emma was definitely not a eugenicist, even a little bit. She basically just thought people should be able to decide whether having kids was a good option for them. It’s a pretty major leap from that to eugenics.

Emma was arrested again around this time, and told “anarchists have no rights in this community” (the community in question was Providence, Rhode Island, but it would turn out to include the whole United States. (Teaser for Part III!)
She was also fighting with her lover, Edward Brady, who had basically decided that women were for making babies and while he was fine with Emma going around being a nurse and stuff, didn’t like the whole getting educated, lecuturing, Nietzsche-reading thing. They basically broke up over Nietzsche. I have absolutely no statistics with which to back this up, but I’d guess they weren’t the first couple to do that.  During the next few years, Emma became incredibly active in politics, traveling and speaking, and generally being a badass. I won’t get into every meeting and piece of awesomeness she organized during this time, but I will mention one argument she had with a fellow anarchist, because I think it’s hilarious. See, Emma had become passionate about sexual freedom and birth control, and a lot of anarchists weren’t fans of that idea; they thought it wasn’t important, and that talking about it made them look bad in the eyes of society’s prudes. (Note: for extra points, guess what was in the pants of the people who said birth control wasn't important. If you said a penis and a couple of testicles, you get five extra credit points. If you said that only men wore pants in the 19th century, so the question was kind of silly to begin with, you get seven.)

Emma got into a lengthy argument with Kropotkin, one of the world's most prominent anarchists on the subject, with him claiming that the issue of sex, sexual freedom, and birth control needed less attention, her claiming that it needed all the attention it could get. Finally Emma ended the argument with these words: “All right, dear comrade, when I have reached your age, the sex question may no longer be of importance to me.” He had to agree that she had him there. We all had to agree that that was simply an awesome, and thoroughly ballsy thing to say.


She spoke at anti-war meetings in England, met up with a few more famous anarchists, including Hippolyte Havel, a Czech anarchist and student of the great Jara Cimrman who became (you guessed it!) her lover. She traveled with him to Paris.

One night, she was offered the chance to go have dinner with Oscar Wilde, who was in exile in France at that time. She was about as excited as, well, any reasonable person would be to hang out with Oscar Wilde, until her friends pointed out that she was kind of already supposed to be giving a talk that night. She was understandably upset, and tried to reschedule Oscar Wilde for the next day, but his failing health kept him in, and she never did get to hang out with him, which I think may represent the saddest missed connection in the history of awesome witty 19th century people EVER. Try and picture Oscar Wilde and Emma Goldman hanging out socially. Did your mind just explode from the amazing? Mine did. It’s making it hard to keep typing actually, but I’m going to try and keep going.


Emma Goldman didn’t just want to hang with Oscar Wilde because he was the wittiest wit to ever wit; she had vocally defended him when he was on trial for his homosexuality. When she was asked “how did you dare come out in public for Oscar Wilde in puritan America?” she responded with one of her other top best lines ever. “Nonsense! No daring is required to protest a great injustice.” Because she was awesome.

I think we'll leave it there for now. Join me next week, for Part the Third, in which someone gets shot by someone with way better aim than Berkman.

Lessons for Modern Activists: If you have the opportunity to meet Oscar Wilde, for God's sakes, take it! I'm sorry, I know other things happened in this chapter, but I can't get over the crushing sadness of Emma Goldman not meeting Oscar Wilde.

The life of Emma Goldman continues in Chapter III, here...

Victoria Woodhull: Running in an Election She Couldn't Vote in and Not Giving Even One Fuck About It


Victoria Woodhull is known mainly for being the first woman to run for President of the United States, and it should tell you something about her that's definitely not the coolest thing about her. I'd say it's in the top five, but it's facing some heavy competition. Victoria Woodhull was easily the greatest woman named Victoria in the 19th century. In fact, from now on, I declare that the term "Victorian Era" refers to the years of Victoria Woodhull's life, not to anything having to do with any Imperialist queen. (The Victorian Era will now therefore be considered as beginning a year later than it is traditionally thought of as starting, and lasting until 1927. Look at that; not only is she the better Victoria, she just lengthened the Victorian era by twenty five years! What a great Victoria, is our Victoria Woodhull.)

Victoria (the cool one, not the queen) was the born in a tiny town in Ohio, daughter of a Scottish-American man named Reuben Claflin, a con artist, snake oil salesman, arsonist, and occasional fraudulent doctor. It was probably from him that she inherited her epic amounts of chutzpah. She was 14 when her family took her to an unlicensed doctor named Canning Woodhull (unlicensed doctors were not a particularly uncommon occurrence in rural Ohio in the 1850s), and when she was 15, she and Canning were married. He was 29. The fact that he was nearly twice her age did not bother her, but the fact that he was a womanizing alcoholic started to get on her nerves after a while. She had two children by him, often working outside the home to support the family while he was off drunkenly womanizing. Victoria responded as any well-brought up 19th century woman would; by becoming a passionate advocate of free love.

Victoria was the best type of free love advocate; she believed people should have the right to love whoever they wanted, in whatever type of relationship they wanted, which means that she did not oppose monogamous relationships, she just felt people should have the right to choose if they wanted them or not. She advocated for the right to divorce without the intense social stigma, and for the rights of women to (warning: groundbreaking idea coming up) choose whether or not they wished to have sex with someone before sex occurred. She got out of her own shitty marriage, and eventually started a relationship with anarchist Benjamin Tucker.

She wasn't just about the free love, though, this lady. She also, along with her sister, Tennessee, took Wall Street by storm. She wasn't particularly well-educated; she was mostly self taught, but you don't have to be a college graduate to know that Wall Street is a place where money is. She and her sister were the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street, and they made a ton of money. Naturally, this displeased the menfolk of Wall Street, who made a big thing of referring to the sisters as though they were doing something wrong in trading stocks. Amazingly, they somehow made the leap from "women in the business world" to "prostitution," and basically implied that if these women were trading stocks, they must also be, you know, trading stocks, winkwink, nudgenudge, knowwhatImean? Victoria didn't care, because she was rich now.

The sisters used the money they made in the stock market to start a newspaper, one that published stories on such controversial topics as vegetarianism, sex education, free love, short skirts (gasp!), and women's suffrage. The paper also published the first English version of the Communist Manifesto, as well as exposes of financial scams. A prominent minister attacked Victoria's free love ideas, and, since the hypocrisy of a society that allowed men to screw around but insisted on female chastity was a huge focus for her, she had no choice but to publish evidence of his adulterous affair. (That is exactly the 19th century equivalent of an anti-gay politician being caught with a "wide stance" in an airport bathroom). Scandal ensued. Scandal has always been our real national past-time. The preacher did not come out looking good. Do not fuck with Victoria Woodhull.

There were plenty of attempts to get a scandal going about Victoria herself. When she was speaking about free love, some spectators (including one of her sisters; she had a strained relationship with most of her family) called out, asking her if she was herself a "free lover." Victoria threw down her speech notes and replied with epic awesomeness:

"Yes, I am a free lover! I have an unalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please!"

This may sound mildly scandalous to us; we could imagine a few raised eyebrows. It was a little worse than that. The crowd went nuts; they'd just heard a woman standing on a public stage admit to sleeping with people. Like, multiple people. Because she wanted to. Not only did she not get a chance to finish her speech, her family was evicted from their home. It didn't do any harm to her notoriety, or to her ability to get speaking gigs. It did do harm to her ability to, you know, exist, though; unable to find anywhere to live, she and her family ended up sleeping on the floor of the newspaper office. Her private life came under intense scrutiny; much more than a man in her position would have had to endure, and it eventually came out that she and her current husband were, for a while, sharing a home with her former husband (he showed up, sick, addicted to drugs, and in need of help, and Victoria took him in), with lovers also visiting the house. Moral outrage occurred.

For reference, here is what contemporaries thought of Victoria's ideas of free love:


Victoria was rising to prominence in the women's suffrage movement (though unlike many suffragists, she maintained that women's ability to be financially independent was just as vital to their achieving equality as the vote), and in 1870, she announced her plans to run for President, on a platform of social reform. In 1872, she was nominated by the Equal Rights party. Frederick Douglass was nominated as her running mate, though he never actually acknowledged the nomination, perhaps not taking it seriously. I want you take a moment to imagine how goddamn cool it would have been if Frederick Douglass and Victoria Woodhull had been in the White House in the 1870s. Someone write an alternate history novel where that happens, and I will bake you some cookies or something.

If you were paying attention in US History class, it might strike you as a bit odd that a person legally unable to vote would run for office, but Victoria claimed that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution actually had granted women the right to vote, and that all they needed to do was start voting. It definitely wasn't illegal for a woman to run for office, although astute historians have pointed out that she was not of the legal age (35) necessary to be President. And then there's the fact that she refused to release her long form birth certificate, despite persistent rumors of having been born in Kenya. (Note: previous sentence not true) Ultimately she got around 2,000 votes. So...not that many, but more votes than a person not legally permitted to vote might have expected.

Exposing the hypocrisies of men who slept with whoever they wanted, but condemned and opposed the free love movement proved to be a dangerous idea. Victoria and her sister were accused of criminal libel, and for distributing obscene material, and Victoria was actually in jail on Election Day the year she ran for President. Jail, fines, and other badness followed. Her next presidential campaign, in 1892 went even less well (yes, it is possible for a presidential campaign to be worse than one where the candidate is in jail on election day) as it wasn't really taken seriously in the press. This was because Victoria, a lifelong spiritualist and occasional fortuneteller, announced that she was prophesied and destined to be President. Admittedly, that's maybe not something a presidential candidate should go around saying if they want people to listen to them.

There were other problems with Victoria as a figure to admire. Big problems. Big, eugenics-shaped problems. Though not a particularly strong advocate of eugenics, she, like many early proponents of birth control, definitely believed in it, and also seems to have fallen into the trap of believing that for white women to be treated as the equals of white men, it was necessary for women to help maintain white supremacy. I'm not going to attempt to make any excuses for her. What I will say is that she was a great, and admirable woman in many respects, and a reprehensible one in others. We can condemn her racism and still be inspired by her good qualities.

Causes: Feminism, women's suffrage, anti-slavery, communism, spiritualism.
Specific Lessons for Modern Activists: It may seem like a good idea to raise your own oppressed group up by doing a little oppressing of your own, but ultimately, you're just going to look like an asshole. Also, live your beliefs. But be aware that living with your husband and your morphine-addicted ex-husband and taking a series of lovers will not help your political career. It would, however, make a great sitcom.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Spoke in Character to Occupy Wall Street Protestors

In real life, I, the author of this blog, have been at the Occupy Wall Street Protests on and off since day two. This has involved two arrests so far (damn that kettling technique the police seem to like so much!), but I'm still going back. I've been quite inspired by watching this movement come together, and I hoped to use a bit of 19th century activism to inspire the movement in return. Here is the in-character appearance I made as Steampunk Emma Goldman:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Emma Goldman: Dictionary Definition of the Phrase "Incredible Badass" (part I)

As Steampunk Emma Goldman, I feel like it only makes sense for me to talk about the historical woman herself, and the truly amazing things she did in her life. Like all the articles on this blog, this will be a brief overview, and an explanation of why the figure being discussed can, and should, be a source of inspiration for modern activists. Most people will get one entry each, but I'm going to be dividing up Emma Goldman's into several parts, because I'd like to go extra in-depth. Don't like this blatant favoritism towards Emma Goldman? You probably shouldn't be on Steampunk Emma Goldman's blog. The good news is, while I’m biographizing Emma, I’ll be doing two articles a week, not one. One about her, one about someone else amazing.

Emma Goldman, like many future badasses, did not come from a happy home environment. She was born in 1869 to an Orthodox Jewish couple in what is now Lithuania (then the Russian Empire). Her parents’ marriage had been arranged, and her father seemed to have been selected by the matchmaker primarily for his misogyny and violence. He was abusive, and Emma got the worst of his beatings, because, as her biographers say, she was more rebellious than her siblings. This should surprise no one who knows a thing about Emma Goldman. Her siblings would have had to have been Milton's Satan to be more rebellious than Emma.

Her attempts to get educated met with resistance from her father, and by "resistance" I mean throwing her school books in a fire and talking like an offensive, outdated Old Country stereotype ("all a Jewish daughter needs to know is how to make gefilte fish, cut noodles fine, and give the man plenty of children!" he said, apparently in an effort to sound like an evil version of Tevye.) and she had trouble within the school itself, including unwanted sexual advances from a teacher. Emma got herself educated anyway, though it would take a stint in jail for her to really complete her reading list. We'll get to that.

Her father tried to push Emma into an arranged marriage at 15. Perhaps having seen how well that had worked out for her mother, Emma refused. During this time she was working in a corset shop. Sometime when she was working there, she was sexually assaulted, probably raped, by a male acquaintance, in an incident she would later write about but find too traumatizing to discuss in detail.

Somehow, Emma's early life made of her a staunch feminist. Hard to see how her experiences could have left her feeling that women were not being treated well by society, but there you go. She and her sister, Helena also started to get emotionally involved with the news, specifically, with the aftermath of the Haymarket Affair. When the anarchists in Chicago were hanged, Emma and Helena wept openly. While they were doing so, another woman, who had come to her father's house (the family was in Rochester, NY by this time) to discuss the news, sneered at them, referring to the dead men as "murders." Emma, being well-versed in reasoned political discourse, was, in her words "with one leap...at the woman's throat." She was pulled back, wrenched herself free, "grabbed a pitcher of water from the table, and threw it with all my force into the woman's face. 'Out, out,' I cried, 'or I will kill you!'" Let it never be said that Emma Goldman was shy about expressing her views. This marks the first, but not the last time that Emma would use a drinking vessel to share her opinions with someone. (Teaser for Part II!)

Not to get too in depth in terms of this early period, by 1889, Emma had been married, divorced, re-married, re-divorced, kicked out of her parents' home, and arrived in New York City, alone, with five bucks and a sewing machine. She immediately started hanging out with a revolutionary crowd on the Lower East Side, meeting up on her first day with Alexander Berkman, a famous anarchist, and like her a Russian Jew, who may also accurately be described as the great, but by no means the only, love of Emma's life. She also met Johann Most, a German anarchist, and an inspirational figure to her, particularly in terms of his discussion of "propaganda of the deed," the use of actions, including violence and destruction to achieve political ends. She idolized him, and when she started doing public speaking and lectures, she was disappointed in herself to realize that she was basically just saying what he always said. Johann Most liked that just fine. Emma Goldman would not be the basis for this blog if she were the type of person to go around parroting what some other guy said, though.

At an early speech, an old man pointed out to her that it was all very well working for a great future, but if he was going to see any benefit from his work he needed reform. Persuaded by the idea that it was valid to try and actually help people in the present, rather than work solely towards a future revolution, something Most was decidedly not down with, Emma began speaking for herself, instead of just repeating Most's ideas. This pleased him not one bit, but Emma was never one to let others dictate her point of view. She would, for the rest of her life, continue to work for both reforms and revolution, and would do work to improve the lives of people shat on by society, for example by feeding the homeless, something some anarchists and communists considered counterproductive, as lessening the suffering of poverty was seen as delaying the revolution. Emma, to the other hand, was not an asshole.

Most started to piss Emma off in more ways. He was always disdainful of women in the anarchist movement, saying that they were just in it to meet a man, and that when they did they took themselves, and the man, out of the movement. After Emma started speaking, she asked him whether he thought she had done well. He said that yes, but he was interested in her as a woman at the moment, not as a speaker. And proceeded to try to hit on her. Emma was having precisely none of that. "I flared up," she said, "declaring I would not be treated as a mere female. I blurted out that I would never again follow blindly...that the five minute speech of the old worker had convinced me more than all of his persuasive phrases." He called her a lot of names, mostly pertaining to various animals, and used the phrase "who is not with me is against me," which is just never a good sign. When he realized she was more into Berkman than she was into him, he demanded to know what she could possibly see in that "Russian Jew."  Emma, somewhat offended, reminded him that she was one of those too.  She got the hell out of that situation.

If you think that's the lowest their relationship could possibly sink, wait till you see what happens after the Homestead Strike. (teaser for Part II!)

During the time she was becoming known as a speaker, Emma was also living the ideal of free love, carrying on sexual relationships with both Alexander Berkman, whom she calls "my pal, Sasha" in her autobiography, and an artist named Fedya, who provided her with the beauty in life that she constantly desired. Sasha was cool with that, more or less. Meantime, she and Sasha (I’ll be calling him that too, because it takes fewer keystrokes) were doing piece-work to support themselves, sewing for as much as eighteen hours a day. Eventually, the three of them opened a cafe and ice cream shop together to pay the bills. It's not her most famous trait, but Emma Goldman was apparently a pretty rockin' cook.

The whole beauty thing, the reason she was so into Fedya, is a really important aspect of Emma Goldman's personality, philosophy, and legacy. Probably her best-known quote is a paraphrase of something she said in her autobiography, usually worded in the fitting-on-a-dorm-room-poster sentence "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution," or "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution." The actual quote comes from an incident where the young Emma was at a party, and another anarchist, a cousin of Berkman's, basically yelled at her for having too much fun. He told her that she was hurting the Cause (her capital letter, and, presumably, his. Sometimes you can hear capital letters when people talk) by dancing with such "reckless abandon."

Emma responded, first by telling him to "mind his own business," which is always a good diplomatic start. "I did not believe," she said, "that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to behave as a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things. Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world--prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal."

It doesn't fit as well on a poster as the common paraphrase, but it has to rank as one of the coolest things ever said, and it really emphasizes what made Emma Goldman truly special. Her conviction in her ideals wasn't dependent on support from anyone, not even her fellow radicals. Her belief that beauty was a human right was a source of constant struggle for her from the beginning of her life; she was once fired from a job in a factory when she asked for higher wages because, she said, while she could feed and house herself she couldn't afford the occasional luxury of a book, theater ticket, or flower. The boss who fired her noted that she had expensive taste, for a factory girl. Even Sasha used to criticize her love of frivolous extravagances like flowers, but Emma never once allowed anyone to make her feel guilty about her desire for the proverbial bread and roses. When Sasha criticized her for spending money on "luxuries," Emma responded simply "Beautiful things are not luxuries. They are necessaries."

Her love of beauty contradicts the image that Emma's enemies tried to paint of her as a wild-eyed, single-minded fanatic. Emma Goldman was a woman who took great pleasure in life, and who felt that life without pleasure was oppressive, and inherently contrary to her political and philosophical goals. On a personal note, I'd say that's one of the reasons I don't think she'd mind Steampunk Emma Goldman. We're having fun as we get political. I believe she could find it in her heart to respect that.

Here endeth Part I. Tune in for Part II, where people start getting shot.

Specific Lessons for Modern Activists: Oppressive religious upbringings breed either super-religious people, or rebels. Beautiful things are not luxuries, they are necessaries. And if a guy thinks all women are only out to land a man, chances are there's only one thing he wants from women, and it ain't her voice in the revolution, if you know what I’m saying (you know what I’m saying.)

Read more about Emma Goldman in Chapter II, here...