University of Rochester

Famous Activist with Rochester Connection Subject of Exhibit

April 9, 1999

Beginning April 26, an exhibit documenting the life and career of anarchist, feminist, activist, and one-time Rochester resident Emma Goldman will be on display at Midtown Plaza in downtown Rochester. The traveling exhibition, to be shown in the Main Street display windows of Midtown Plaza, includes historical photographs, papers, and personal correspondence from the Emma Goldman Papers Project in Berkeley, CA. It will remain here until June 6.

Goldman was an outspoken anarchist and feminist throughout the early 1900s. Through her writings and demonstrations, she advocated free speech, birth control, women's rights, union organization, and the eight-hour workday. She was a forceful critic of war and the military conscription of young men during World War I.

Born in 1869 in a small Russian-Jewish city in what is now Lithuania, Goldman witnessed brutality and social oppression at an early age. In 1885, she fled to America and settled in Rochester, where she worked in a textile factory and married a co-worker.

In 1886 in Chicago, a labor protest erupted into the famous Haymarket Square Riot, where a bomb killed several policemen and demonstrators. Four anarchist leaders were subsequently tried, convicted, and executed for their roles in the affair. The persecution of these anarchists inspired Goldman to social activism.

She left her husband and found a home in New York City, where she communed with other Russian-born anarchists, including her life-long colleague, Alexander Berkman. Soon afterwards, she was implicated in the shootings of businessman Henry Clay Frick and President William McKinley, which earned her a national reputation as an anarchist leader. Goldman founded a magazine, Mother Earth, which introduced readers to controversial writers and cartoonists. By 1917, she had gained international renown.

Goldman soon became an advocate for birth control as well as other women's issues. She was a spokesperson for free love and female empowerment, criticizing the shortsightedness of the suffrage movement. Her controversial lectures inspired First Amendment debate, and she was arrested and jailed numerous times before being deported to Russia in 1919. She spent her remaining years wandering from country to country, protesting war and supporting anarchist revolutions. She died in 1940 and is buried in Chicago.

The Emma Goldman exhibit has made visits to more than 30 locations, including New York University, Stanford University, Georgetown University, and the Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame. The project is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the University of California at Berkeley, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other agencies.

The exhibit is sponsored locally by the University of Rochester's Gender and Society Group, the Department of History, the John F. Wegman Fund, and the Rochester Labor Council. For additional information, contact John Summers at (585) 244-8560 or at More information can also be found at