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Chicago Daily Tribune Article
"Emma Goldman, High Priestess of Anarchy"

[ Questions on Chicago Tribune Article | Freedom of Expression | Next Exhibit |

"Emma Goldman,
High Priestess of Anarchy,
Whose Speeches Inspired
Czolgosz to His Crime"
September 8, 1901
CONTEXT: On September 6, 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz attempted to assassinate President William McKinley. Although Emma Goldman did not know Czolgosz and opposed assassination as a political tactic, she was implicated and arrested as a co-conspirator. Because Czolgosz had attended one of Goldman's speeches, the press blamed Goldman for the attempt on the President's life. The assassination incident increased the people's belief that anarchism was a philosophy of violence. This demonic portrayal of Goldman illustrates the prevailing perception of women who take on a public political role as either devils or angels.


Cleveland. O. Sept. 7 -- [Special] -- An address delivered in this city on May 6 by Emma Goldman, the Anarchist, is believed largely responsible for the attempt on the life of President McKinley.

Miss Goldman spoke here twice on that date, and a copy of her address was found in the pocket of Leon Czolgosz when searched by the Buffalo police. In the audience on that occasion was the man who tried to kill the President, and his associates now recall that he was one of the most enthusiastic in his applause of the utterances of Miss Goldman.

The hall in which the lecture was delivered is at 170 Superior street, the same hall in which the Anarchists now meet in this city.

In the course of her address of May 6, Miss Goldman first outlined the principles of anarchy and detailed the methods whereby she hoped to accomplish the ends of anarchy. Her talk was full of forceful passages, and some cases more notable for their strength than for their elegance.

"Men under the present state of society," she said, "are mere products of circumstances. Under the galling yoke of government, ecclesiasticism, and a bond of custom and prejudice, it is impossible for the individual to work out his own career as he could wish. Anarchism aims at a new and complete freedom. It strives to bring about the freedom which is not only the freedom from within but a freedom from without, which will prevent any man from having a desireto interfere in any way with the liberty of his neighbor.

"Vanderbilt says, 'I am a free man within myself, but the others be damned.' This is not the freedom we are striving for. We merely desire complete individual liberty, and this can never be obtained as long as there is an existing government.

"We do not favor the socialistic idea of converting men and women into mere producing machines under the eye of a paternal govenment. We go to the opposite extreme and demand the fullest and most complete liberty for each and every person to work out his own salvation upon any line that he pleases. The degrading notions of men and women as machines is far from our ideals of life.

"Anarchism has nothing to do with future governments or economic arrangements. We do not favor any particular settlement in this line, but merely ask to do away with the present evils. The future will provide these arrangements after our work has been done. Anarchism deals merely with social relations, and not with economic arrangement."

The speaker then deprecated the idea that all Anarchists were in favor of violence or bomb throwing. She declared that nothing was further from the principles they support. She went on, however, into a detailed explanation of the different crimes committed by Anarchists lately, declaring that the motive was good in each case, and that these acts were merely a matter of temperament.

Some men were so constituted, she said, that they were unable to stand idly by and see the wrong that was being endured by their fellow-mortals. She herself did not believe in these methods, but she did not think they should be condemned in view of the high and noble motives which prompted their perpetration. She continued: "Some believe we should first obtain by force and let the intelligence and education come afterwards."

Miss Goldman did not hesitate to put forward a number of sentiments far more radical and sensational than any ever publicly advanced here. During Miss Goldman's lecture a strong detail of police was in the hall to keep her from uttering sentiments which were regarded as too radical. This accounts for the fact that the speaker did not give free rein to her thoughts on this occasion. By reason of anarchistic uprisings elsewhere it was thought best by the city officials to curb the utterances of the woman.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 8, 1901

Questions on the Chicago Tribune Article:
  1. What does the illustration and headline say about the press response to the assassination attempt?

  2. What does Goldman say about violence?

  3. Do you think this speech could incite violence? Do you believe that a person who makes such a speech is responsible for violence that might result?

  4. Do you think that a speech can incite violence?

  5. Were the anarchists the only people who believed in direct action? What other reform groups engaged in direct action?

General Questions on This Exhibit:

  1. Find other historical examples of American political leaders who have been assassinated or who have had attempts made on their lives.

  2. Do such incidents affect the country's general perception of democracy and the freedoms granted in the Bill of Rights?--freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech.

  3. Is assassination of a political figure ever justifiable? Explain your response.

  4. What other avenues are open for expressing dissent and effecting change? In your opinion, are they adequate? What are your ideas about government leadership and accountability?

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