Emma Goldman, "Mother Earth," and the Anarchist Awakening
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This book unveils the history and impact of an unprecedented anarchist awakening in early twentieth-century America. Mother Earth, an anarchist monthly published by Emma Goldman, played a key role in sparking and spreading the movement around the world.

One of the most important figures in revolutionary politics in the early twentieth century, Emma Goldman (1869–1940) was essential to the rise of political anarchism in the United States and Europe. But as Rachel Hui-Chi Hsu makes clear in this book, the work of Goldman and her colleagues at the flagship magazine Mother Earth (1906–1917) resonated globally, even into the present day. As a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States in the late nineteenth century, Goldman developed a keen voice and ideology based on labor strife and turbulent politics of the era. She ultimately was deported to Russia due to agitating against World War I. Hsu takes a comprehensive look at Goldman’s impact and legacy, tracing her work against capitalism, advocacy for feminism, and support of homosexuality and atheism.

Hsu argues that Mother Earth stirred an unprecedented anarchist awakening, inspiring an antiauthoritarian spirit across social, ethnic, and cultural divides and transforming U.S. radicalism. The magazine’s broad readership—immigrant workers, native-born cultural elite, and professionals in various lines of work—was forced to reflect on society and their lives. Mother Earth spread the gospel of anarchism while opening it to diversified interpretations and practices. This anarchist awakening was more effective on personal and intellectual levels than on the collective, socioeconomic level.

Hsu explores the fascinating history of Mother Earth, headquartered in New York City, and captures a clearer picture of the magazine’s influence by examining the dynamic teamwork that occurred beyond Goldman. The active support of foreign revolutionaries fostered a borderless radical network that resisted all state and corporate powers. Emma Goldman, “Mother Earth,” and the Anarchist Awakening will attract readers interested in early twentieth-century history, transnational radicalism, and cosmopolitan print culture, as well as those interested in anarchism, anti-militarism, labor activism, feminism, and Emma Goldman.

“There is no boundary of land or time to the resistance of the human mind to coercion; it is world-wide.” —Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama.

This book is a study of why, where, and how anarchism as a radical mode of living developed in Progressive America and beyond. The anarchist English-language monthly Mother Earth (1906-1917), the focus of this book, epitomized the innovation, strengths, and limits of anarchist propaganda in inspiring self-expression and social change. Propaganda, for these anarchists, meant spreading their beliefs by manifesting their cause in a way to which people could respond.Emma Goldman, the publisher, highlighted anarchism as an inclusive ideology while also promoting a coalition between intellectuals and labor in revolutionizing the society. Alexander Berkman, the magazine’s primary editor, advocated labor solidarity across ethnic and national boundaries. Ben Reitman, the business manager of Mother Earth, pushed its production in a commercial style to maximize its radical effect. Other core members, consisting of multi-national immigrants and native-born radicals, helped promote a spectrum of antiauthoritarian agendas. Together, they made Mother Earth the nexus of a hybrid counterculture, surpassing the immediate anarchist movement and making anarchism as widely accessible as possible.

Headquartered in New York City and circulated across the globe, Mother Earth created a comprehensive repertoire of anarchism through its multifarious forms of propaganda. Its core members embraced classical anarchist communism, which advocated a non-coercive, stateless, and classless society based on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals,while promoting and practicing it as a philosophy of life in every phase. Unlike its precursors, which focused on agitating labor strikes, Mother Earth cultivated the native-born intelligent middle class—a new constituency for anarchist communism—for an extensive social reorganization.

Blending politics and art to challenge authorities, Mother Earth promoted itself as “a revolutionary literary magazine devoted to Anarchist thought in sociology, economics, education, and life.” Goldman toured from coast to coast annually to support the magazine while promoting anarchism. In 1907, she and Berkman founded the Mother Earth Publishing Association (MEPA) to bring out a selection of publications on or compatible with anarchism. Core members built up worldwide networks that involved Mother Earth in various libertarian campaigns and social movements. They propagated a wide range of themes, including free speech, syndicalism, modern school education, anti-militarism, prison reform, antiwar, modern drama, free love, sexual liberation, birth control, and women’s emancipation. These agendas partially overlapped with those of other leftist and liberal groups. As a result, the anarchists collaborated but also competed with socialists, labor unionists, feminists, single taxers, bohemian rebels, muckrakers, freethinkers, anti-militarists, and birth control advocates. Mother Earth’s propaganda in speeches, texts, and activities embodied a combination of print activism, sex radicalism, and labor militancy that characterized the Progressive era’s (1890s-1920s) radical politics.

Studying Mother Earth with the proper assessment of its significance would shed light on the history of transnational anarchism and radical culture in the Progressive era. Though recognized by its U.S. or foreign contemporaries and current scholars as the leading anarchist organ in Progressive America, the importance of Mother Earth has not been fully understood. The nature and extent of the magazine’s influence require in-depth elucidation in order to illuminate the place of anarchism in early twentieth-century radicalism. Andrew Cornell’s 2016 book, Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century, remarks that: “the Mother Earth Group’s multipronged strategy of building mass radical unions while boldly leading liberals on the issues of immigration, sexuality, and war remains, to my mind, a high-water mark of sophistication deserving greater study and replication.” Radicalism without Borders seeks not only to illustrate the “multipronged strategy” and “sophistication” of the Mother Earth group, but also to reveal its effects (intended and otherwise) on the anarchist movement. I do this by moving beyond earlier studies of Mother Earth to explicate how it propagated anarchism in a style distinct from its predecessors. A number of factors distinguish this work from earlier scholarship on the subject.

List of Maps

List of Images

Introduction: An Anarchist Awakening Revealed

Part 1 Practices

1. Headquarters Stance

2. Propaganda Space

3. National Movement

4. Transnational Networks

Part 2 Themes

5. Sex Radicalism

6. Modern Drama

7. Labor Activism

8. Free Speech and Anti-Militarism




Publié par
Date de parution 01 mars 2021
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780268200282
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 4 Mo

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Copyright © 2021 by the University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020950367
ISBN: 978-0-268-20029-9 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-0-268-20031-2 (WebPDF)
ISBN: 978-0-268-20028-2 (Epub)
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at undpress@nd.edu
CONTENTS List of Maps List of Figures List of Appendixes Acknowledgments Introduction. An Anarchist Awakening Revealed Part 1 PRACTICES ONE Headquarters Stance TWO Propaganda Space THREE National Movement FOUR Transnational Networks Part 2 THEMES FIVE Sex Radicalism SIX Modern Drama SEVEN Labor Activism EIGHT Free Speech and Antimilitarism Epilogue Appendixes Notes Bibliography Index
MAPS Map 1. Racial/ethnic enclaves and addresses where Mother Earth ’s headquarters (and its successor, Mother Earth Bulletin , Oct. 1917–Apr. 1918), were located, New York City, 1906–1918 Map 2. Locations of Mother Earth ’s “family events” in New York City, 1906–1917 Map 3. The new subway of greater New York, 1918 Map 4. Locations of Mother Earth ’s headquarters (A–F), “family events,” “congenial spaces,” and “competitive spaces,” New York City, 1906–1917 Map 5. Locations and routes of Mother Earth anarchists in Tarrytown Map 6. Locations of Goldman’s U.S. lecture tours before the publication of Mother Earth (1890s–1905) Map 7. Locations of Goldman’s U.S. lecture tours after the publication of Mother Earth (1906–1917) Map 8. Countries or regions covered by Free Society , 1897–1904 Map 9. Countries or regions covered by Mother Earth , 1906–1917
FIGURES Figure 1. Front cover of Mother Earth 1, no. 1 (January 1906)–1, no. 6 (August 1906) Figure 2. Front cover of Mother Earth 1, no. 7 (September 1906)–2, no. 5 (July 1907) Figure 3. Front cover of Mother Earth 10, no. 1 (March 1915) Figure 4. “210,” 210 East 13th Street (now 208) Figure 5. Webster Hall and Annex, 119–125 East 11th Street, Manhattan Figure 6. Mabel Dodge’s Washington Square apartment Figure 7. Front cover of Mother Earth 9, no. 5 (July 1914) Figure 8. Alexander (Sasha) Berkman addressing the crowd in Union Square, July 11, 1914 Figure 9. Advertisement for the debate between Goldman and Maynard Shipley in the Commonwealth Figure 10. jh, “Light Occupations of the Editor While There Is Nothing to Edit,” from the Little Review Figure 11. Front cover of Mother Earth 11, no. 1 (March 1916) Figure 12. Ricardo Flores Magón and Enrique Flores Magón Figure 13. Front cover of Mother Earth 5, no. 12 (February 1911) Figure 14. The Japanese Martyrs Figure 15. “Free Speech Manifesto” Figure 16. Front cover of Mother Earth , San Diego Edition, 7, no. 4 (June 1912) Figure 17. Front cover of Mother Earth 12, no. 4 (June 1917) Figure 18. Illustration of the manifesto and open letter of the No-Conscription League Figure 19. Illustration of Talia Lavin’s article, indicating the Red influence of Goldman (on the right) on the radical women of New York who sought sociopolitical change Figure 20. A massive Emma Goldman puppet appeared in Washington, DC, as a counterprotest to the white nationalist rally on August 14, 2018
1. Agents for Mother Earth
2. Thematic Categories and Titles of Goldman’s Propaganda Lectures, 1906–1917
3. Thematic Categories and Titles of Goldman’s Drama Lectures, 1906–1917
4. Books for Sale by Free Society , 1897–1904
5. Mother Earth Series, Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1907–1918
6. Books Available from Mother Earth and Mother Earth Bulletin , 1907–1918
7. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (I)
8. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (II)
9. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (III)
10. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (IV)
11. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (V)
12. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (VI)
13. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (VII)
14. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (VIII)
15. Series for Sale by Mother Earth (IX)
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to write and publish this work, my first in the English language. My life took an important turn in 2010 as I paused my teaching career in Taiwan to study again at Johns Hopkins University. What I learned there resulted in the completion of my dissertation, from which this book is revised and expanded. Over the years, I have accumulated many debts of gratitude to numerous people without whom this book would have been impossible. My advisers, Judith Walkowitz and Ron Walters, to whom I owe the deepest appreciation, were the dream team that one could only hope for. I learned tremendously from their thoughts, their words, and their deeds as people, scholars, and mentors. Mary Ryan, Mary Fissell, and Toby Ditz contributed greatly to the conception, presentation, and revision of my dissertation chapters. My sincere thanks also go to Tobie Meyer-Fong, who enlightened me with her expertise in modern Chinese history, offered me efficient editorial guidance, and showered me with moral support.
During my six years at Johns Hopkins, many colleagues helped me in various ways. I particularly thank Jessica Clark, Ren Pepitone, David Schley, Jessica Valdez, Elizabeth Imber, Emily Mokros, Tara Tran, and Lauren MacDonald for their generous assistance in editing and commenting on my chapters while they were busy with their own work. Members of the Gender History Workshop, such as Katie Hindmarch-Watson, Adam Bisno, Katherine Boyce-Jacino, Jessica Walker, Jessica Keene, Mo Speller, Morgan Shahan, Catherine Hinchliff, Emily Margolis, Meredith Gaffield, and Amira Rose Davis, among others, gave me constructive comments and useful suggestions on several chapters of my dissertation at different stages. Paige Glotzer and Joseph Clark provided me with timely information and assistance both in life and in research. Lunches with my good friend Katherine Bonil Gómez were joyful moments. Megan Zeller, graduate admissions coordinator, and Rachel La Bozetta, administrative assistant, were wonderfully helpful and responsive to my questions. A travel research grant from the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and the dissertation write-up fellowship from the Department of History at Johns Hopkins both importantly facilitated my research.
Beyond Johns Hopkins, Barry Pateman stands out as the intellectual source from whom I have benefited immensely. Since our first meeting in the summer of 2012 when I conducted my research at the Emma Goldman Archive, Barry has fully demonstrated his anarchistic comradeship in opening his Kate Sharpley Library to me and answering a stream of research questions. His encyclopedic knowledge about anarchist and labor movements, his insights on and corrections of my revised manuscript at different stages, his generous help with translated materials, and his encouragement have been invaluable. I also thank Barry’s wife, Jessica Moran, and Candace Falk at the Emma Goldman Archive, who kindly assisted with my research, and Douglas Haynes and Paola Zamperini, who always readily lent their help. At the last stage of writing the manuscript, I was fortunate to have important, constructive comments from such anarchism experts as Kathy Ferguson, Tom Goyens, and Cynthia Wright. I also appreciate the assistance from Anna Elena Torres and Julie Herrada, whom I met at “A Celebration of Emma Goldman at 150” held by the University of Michigan Library’s Labadie Collection. Among the great team at the University of Notre Dame Press, I particularly want to thank Eli Bortz, editor in chief, for his belief in my work, and Sheila Berg, for her excellent copyediting help.
Friends across national borders have lifted me up with their unfailing support as I pursued my second history PhD in the United States. Margaret Tillman has offered me not only her professional advice on my chapters and my English writing but also her warm advice and generous help, for which I am deeply grateful. During the past few years, the monthly FaceTiming with my close friend Huang Xuelei has importantly boosted my morale and inspired the framework of my book. Back in Taiwan, I owe my profound gratitude to Lu Fang-Shang and Yu Chien-ming, who displayed their unwavering confidence in and genuine care for me. My senior colleagues at National Chengchi University, Liu Long-hsin, Chen Chin-ching, Chen Hong-tu, and Wang Liang-qing, have been my role models as brilliant scholars and teachers. Good friends Wu Pei-ling, Juan Mei-hui, Chen Jen-heng, Wang Cheng-wen, Wang Wen-siou, Zhang Wei-yu, Yi Jolan, Zheng Yi-ting, and Lien Ling-ling have energized me at our annual reunions over the past decade. In particular, I want to thank my close friend, also a brilliant art educator, Wang Li-yan, who responded to my reflections in life and thoughts on research with wisdom.
My most heartfelt gratitude goes to my dearest family, my father, Hsu Jin-shui; my mother, Gao Yu-ching; and my older sister, Hsu Hue-hua. Their unreserved support for my further studies in the United States has been vital. I am deeply indebted to them for their unconditional love. Very regrettably, my father passed away on May 19, 2020, before this book is published. I dedicate this book to him, as a token of my endless gratitude.
Life with my husband, Alistair John Price, has grown in tandem with my studies at Johns Hopkins and the completion of this book. Since our first date in September 2010, he has accompanied me every step of the way, celebrated with me after I achieved my goals one after another, traveled with me to various cities and countries for research, conferences, and family reunions, provided me with a safe, comfortable, and quiet environment to read and write, and embraced me with his devotion. Laughing and living with him brings me the precious moments of true, simple happiness that I have longed for.
An Anarchist Awakening Revealed
There is no boundary of land or time to the resistance of the human mind to coercion; it is world-wide.
—Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama
This book is a study of why, where, and how anarchism as a radical mode of living developed in Progressive America and beyond. The anarchist English-language monthly Mother Earth (1906–17), the focus of this book, epitomized the innovation, strengths, and limits of anarchist propaganda in inspiring self-expression and social change. Propaganda, for these anarchists, meant spreading their beliefs by manifesting their cause in a way to which people could respond. 1 Emma Goldman, the publisher, highlighted anarchism as an inclusive ideology while also promoting a coalition between intellectuals and labor in revolutionizing society. 2 Alexander Berkman, the magazine’s primary editor, advocated labor solidarity across ethnic and national boundaries. Ben Reitman, business manager of Mother Earth , pushed its production in a commercial style to maximize its radical effect. Other core members, consisting of multinational immigrants and native-born radicals, helped promote a spectrum of antiauthoritarian agendas. Together, they made Mother Earth the nexus of a hybrid counterculture, surpassing the immediate anarchist movement and making anarchism widely accessible.

Headquartered in New York City and circulated across the globe, Mother Earth created a comprehensive repertoire of anarchism through its multifarious forms of propaganda. Its core members embraced classical anarchist communism, which advocated a noncoercive, stateless, and classless society based on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals while promoting and practicing it as a philosophy of life. 3 Unlike its precursors, which focused on agitating labor strikes, Mother Earth cultivated the native-born intelligent middle class—a new constituency for anarchist communism—for an extensive social reorganization. Blending politics and art to challenge authorities, Mother Earth promoted itself as “a revolutionary literary magazine devoted to Anarchist thought in sociology, economics, education, and life.” 4 Goldman toured from coast to coast annually to support the magazine and promote anarchism. In 1907, she and Berkman founded the Mother Earth Publishing Association (MEPA) to bring out a selection of publications on or compatible with anarchism. Core members built up worldwide networks that involved Mother Earth in various libertarian campaigns and social movements. They propagated a wide range of themes, including free speech, syndicalism, modern school education, antimilitarism, prison reform, modern drama, free love, sexual liberation, birth control, and women’s emancipation. These agendas partially overlapped with those of other leftist and liberal groups. As a result, the anarchists collaborated but also competed with socialists, labor unionists, feminists, single taxers, bohemian rebels, muckrakers, freethinkers, antiwar activists, and birth control advocates. Mother Earth ’s propaganda in speeches, texts, and activities embodied a combination of print activism, sex radicalism, and labor militancy that characterized the Progressive Era’s (1890s–1920s) radical politics.
Though Mother Earth is recognized by its U.S. and foreign contemporaries and current scholars as the leading anarchist organ in Progressive America, its significance has not been fully understood. 5 The nature and extent of the magazine’s influence require in-depth examination to illuminate the place of anarchism in early twentieth-century radicalism. Andrew Cornell, in his 2016 book, Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century , remarks, “The Mother Earth Group’s multipronged strategy of building mass radical unions while boldly leading liberals on the issues of immigration, sexuality, and war remains, to my mind, a high-water mark of sophistication deserving greater study and replication.” 6 In this book I seek not only to illustrate the “multipronged strategy” and “sophistication” of the Mother Earth group but also to reveal its effects (intended and otherwise) on the anarchist movement. I do this by moving beyond earlier studies of Mother Earth to explicate how it propagated anarchism in a style distinct from its predecessors. A number of factors distinguish this work from earlier scholarship on the subject.
First, this book captures a clearer picture of the magazine’s operation, discourses, and campaigns by examining the dynamic teamwork among its members rather than focusing solely on Goldman, as other studies have typically done. 7 It brings out both Goldman’s narratives and propaganda techniques during the Mother Earth years, which remain underexplored, and other core members’ roles in setting the magazine and its nationwide activities in motion. 8 As historians have shown, many anarchists saw anarchism as a living ideal that could be practiced here and now; the operation of Mother Earth provided vivid documentation of a nonfamilial anarchist commune active in urban (rather than suburban or rural) surroundings. 9
Second, assessing Mother Earth ’s impact only in America, as many previous studies have done, misses a rare opportunity to explore the transnational effect of U.S. anarchism. The subscriber list seized by the federal authorities when they raided Mother Earth ’s office in June 1917 held subscriptions from five continents as the publication networked with international revolutionists. 10 Furthermore, the link between Mother Earth and East Asian anarchists uncovered in this book points to the intriguing reception of anarchism by East Asians as one school of Western Progressive thought.
Third, true to the magazine’s actual operation, this book highlights the synergy between Mother Earth , core members’ lectures, the MEPA publications, and its organized activities. While a few scholars have discussed parts of this synergy, its overall effect has remained opaque. 11 It is crucial to identify the multiple, mutually reinforcing forms of productions by Goldman and other Mother Earth members in order to better gauge the magazine’s influence.
Fourth, this book scrutinizes not only core members’ activities within anarchist circles, the usual focus of anarchist studies, but also their interactions with various elements outside anarchist ranks. These include new audiences (beyond labor and immigrants), nonanarchist presses (mainstream and socialist), ideological competitors (socialists and labor unions), and suppressive local and federal authorities. Examining the diverse reception of Mother Earth ’s propaganda by its contemporaries is critical to comprehending its sociointellectual significance.
Fifth and finally, this book goes beyond the field of anarchist studies when considering Mother Earth ’s productions in order to calibrate anarchism’s radical effect on U.S. society. Although Goldman upheld anarchist communism as the ideal for socioeconomic reorganization, her advocacy for free individuality and self-expression was not limited by that ideal. While she insisted that “only revolution can bring about anarchism,” most of her adherents practiced anarchism otherwise. 12 The gamut of agendas pushed by Goldman in the name of anarchism was broader than the scope of the typical “Anarchist movement” at the time, which largely focused on socioeconomic issues and labor struggles. Thus, the influence of Goldman’s work during the Mother Earth years cannot be seen clearly through the lens of the anarchist movement alone.
Transcending the previous research parameters, my book argues that Mother Earth ’s multivalent productions stirred an unprecedented anarchist awakening, which inspired an antiauthoritarian spirit throughout America and imparted a lasting legacy to U.S. radicalism. No previous anarchist periodical published in the United States (either communist or individualist in orientation) was able to arouse such extensive interest in anarchism across social, ethnic, and cultural divides as did Mother Earth . A great mixture of audience members—from immigrant workers to the native-born cultural elite and professionals in various lines of work—were made to “think,” to reflect on society and their lives because of Goldman and her magazine. Primarily, Goldman’s influence was demonstrated through the productions of Mother Earth , which transcended denominational boundaries of anarchism by awakening people to resist suppression and injustice. But unlike the Great Awakening in earlier U.S. history, which helped create a common evangelical identity among Christians, Mother Earth ’s anarchist awakening spread the gospel of anarchism while opening it to diversified interpretations and practices. To many Americans who were touched by Goldman and Mother Earth ’s anarchism, accepting parts of its doctrine did not make them anarchists. Mother Earth ’s anarchist awakening did not create an army of anarchists committed to the Anarchist movement that the magazine earnestly sought. As I demonstrate, the anarchism popularized by Mother Earth ’s core members became detachable from the anarchist movement. This anarchist awakening was more effective on the personal, intellectual level than on the collective, socioeconomic level. The fact that 1910s America did not experience a national or regional revolution, such as those that took place in Russia in 1917 and Spain in 1936, should not eclipse the significance of Mother Earth ’s anarchist enlightenment.
Emma Goldman, “Mother Earth,” and the Anarchist Awakening unveils the bifurcated effect of Mother Earth ’s propaganda by examining what I call its dual approach to anarchism and the Anarchist movement. This approach featured Goldman’s recruitment of new adherents to her inclusive anarchism, in contrast to Berkman’s agitation of a labor-centric Anarchist movement. Ideologically, these two approaches were not in conflict, but their different focuses on propaganda agendas and tactics dispersed the movement’s momentum toward social revolution. This book shows that the inspiration of Goldman’s all-encompassing anarchism for native-born middle-class intellectuals overshadowed—and in a way diverged from—the movement impulse Berkman strove to energize among the working class. The anthropologist David Graeber’s distinction between the “small-a” anarchists and the “capital-A” anarchist groups is instrumental in making better sense of the heterogeneous elements in Mother Earth . Graeber identifies the “small-a” anarchists in current society as those who operated outside of anarchist-exclusive groups while embracing “anarchist principles of anti-sectarianism and open-endedness.” The “capital-A” anarchist groups, in contrast, refer to those that still clung to particular schools of classical anarchism, such as anarchist communism. 13 Graeber uses the “small-a/capital-A” dualism to typify the new/old generation of anarchists, who seldom joined forces with one another owing to their different methods of resistance. Under this characterization, Goldman’s approach attracted devotees who were more in line with the “small-a” anarchists, whereas Berkman’s focus resembled more the “capital-A” anarchist groups (or movements).
The uneasy coexistence of the distinct “small-a” and “capital-A” elements variously promoted by core members resulted in an intrinsic paradox in the manifold operation of Mother Earth . That is, a growing number of anarchist adherents drawn by it did not join the anarchist movement that it propagated. Goldman’s libertarian version of anarchism led to an open-ended reception by her followers, who inclined to adopt anarchism personally without committing to collective struggles against the Establishment. This “small-a” type, open-ended reception of anarchism, though it did not lead to a formidable anarchist movement, turned out to be Goldman’s most enduring influence beyond classical anarchism and anarchist circles. Thanks to the work of Mother Earth , Goldman’s ideas remained highly relevant among those in the twenty-first century U.S. radical culture.
Crossing national borders, Mother Earth upheld transnationalism—another main point of my book—as it prefigured an egalitarian, non-nationalist world order based on universal solidarity. I borrow and revise the term “transnationalism” from the conception of Randolph Bourne, a progressive cultural critic and onetime contributor to Mother Earth , to historicize its manifold dimensions expressed in the magazine. 14 Bourne resisted the pro-war sentiment and melting-pot theory of the American mainstream by proposing what he termed “trans-nationalism” in 1916. 15 He argued that America should outdo European countries, which had engulfed themselves in unprecedented warfare, by creating a new kind of nationalism that made the best of what America already was, namely, “the world-federation in miniature.” In his opinion, America should celebrate its multiethnic heterogeneity as an elevated cosmopolitanism rather than force immigrants to assimilate into its predominant Anglo-Saxon culture. The “trans-nationalism” envisioned by Bourne for America was nationalism transfigured from its European variety. The transnationalism upheld by Mother Earth ’s anarchists, however, was the opposite of nationalism. 16 For Goldman and her comrades, transnationalism incorporated both “trans-national” (across country borders) and “intra-national” (similar to what Bourne proposed, “cross-fertilization of cultures” within a nation) elements for the sake of promoting individual liberty and social solidarity unshackled by national sovereignty. 17 Mother Earth stood for its ideal of transnationalism—“the international republic of free spirits”—which not only broke the boundaries set by nations but also transcended all “otherness” intrinsic in nationalism. 18
Mother Earth ’s anarchists operated their transnationalism tactically to agitate for social revolution both within and without America under the principle of direct action. On the one hand, they extended transnational solidarity with worldwide social rebels beyond anarchist circles. Whereas some anarchist groups in the United States lent their support only to their anarchist comrades in other countries, Mother Earth ’s anarchists defended all kinds of foreign revolutionaries who took up arms against the Establishment demanding socioeconomic equality. Their transnationalism tolerated the nationalist calls of these foreign revolutionaries in antiauthoritarian, anticolonial contexts. On the other hand, Goldman and her comrades refused to collaborate with members of the Socialist Party in the United States, not because they were ideological others, but because of their adherence to parliamentary means—“political action,” as Mother Earth branded it. Core members’ collaboration with labor and trade unions comprising various ethnicities or foreign socialists rested on the premise that they resorted to direct, not representative, action. Mother Earth made local economic struggles tokens of a universal claim for equality and liberty while calling for transnational labor solidarity and intranational support from all ranks of society.
In sum, by presenting the panorama of Mother Earth ’s productions and performance, this book reveals an overlooked history of anarchist awakening in America. The discussion that follows presents the cast, scenes, target audience, and manifold operation of Mother Earth and concludes with an outline of the book.
Mother Earth was as much the centerpiece of Goldman’s propagandistic achievement as the manifestation of core members’ teamwork. Goldman was no doubt the soul but not the only voice of the magazine. The name Mother Earth , while not the first one chosen, symbolized Goldman’s glorification of humanity and the natural world over the mandates of heaven and man-made governments. 19 It also disclosed her motherly personality and matriarchal position. 20 Three front cover images of Mother Earth indicated Goldman’s self-projection of her claim to and protection of her magazine ( figs. 1 – 3 ). Both in public and in private, Goldman affectionately called Mother Earth her “baby” or “child.” Inventively, she fostered a family for those who associated with her “baby” and nurtured it. Although these anarchists generally repudiated the man-made system of family and marriage, they developed alternative kin networks, based on voluntary fellowship and mutual aid.

Figure 1. Front cover of Mother Earth 1, no. 1 (January 1906)–1, no. 6 (August 1906)

Over the years, Goldman conjured up a vision of the Mother Earth family, consisting of the Mother (her), the Daughter (the magazine), and the Anarchist Spirit (shared by the members). Her intention was to supplant the paternal Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Christianity with a maternal, earthly alternative that defied everything inhuman. Goldman and Berkman stressed that it was the anarchist spirit of “true love”—for human liberty, fraternity, and solidarity—that gave birth to and sustained Mother Earth . 21 The Mother Earth family was characterized by two distinct phenomena. One was material, referring to the headquarters and the members living and working there. The other was rhetorical, comprising the publisher, editors, staff, contributors, subscribers, readers, and supporters of Mother Earth all over the world. Goldman purposely declared the status of her “baby” as “illegitimate,” because it lacked both recognition of the social mainstream and a lawful father. 22
As a working-class Jewish immigrant woman, Goldman constantly broke social barriers and combated prejudice as she became the notorious “red queen” of the U.S. anarchist movement. Having emigrated from Russia in 1885 to escape the domestic tyranny of her father, Goldman worked as a seamstress in Rochester, New York, where she had a short, failed marriage. 23 She found her anarchist calling in the aftermath of the Chicago Haymarket affair of 1886, a peaceful labor protest turned bloody by police brutality, during which a bomb of unknown origin killed policemen and civilians. 24 The trial and execution of four (allegedly) involved anarchists in 1887 turned Goldman into an anarchist, committed to fighting the authorities for justice, equality, and freedom. Arriving in New York City in 1889, Goldman transformed herself from a Lower East Side factory girl into a rising anarchist leader, mainly with the help of three émigré anarchists, all of whom were her onetime lovers. Alexander Berkman, her compatriot, became her closest lifelong comrade. Johann Most, from Germany, discovered Goldman’s talent in oratory; she began to lecture, in German and Yiddish, among working-class people and soon established herself as an anarchist speaker. Most and Edward Brady, from Austria, tutored Goldman in anarchist classics, literature, drama, and philosophy. 25 Goldman was a secret accomplice in Berkman’s attempt on the life of Henry Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, for his union-breaking tactics that had led to the bloody suppression of striking steelworkers in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1892. 26 The attempt failed, and Berkman served fourteen years of a twenty-two-year prison term between 1892 and 1906. Goldman met her first judicial punishment in New York in 1893 on charges of inciting to riot. Studying English literature and acquiring basic nursing skills in prison, she came out in 1894 with a better command of English, which served her well in both reading and oratory. Two trips to Europe in 1895 and 1900 expanded Goldman’s intellectual horizons, her interest in the psychology of sexuality, and her transnational networks. 27

Figure 2. Front cover of Mother Earth 1, no. 7 (September 1906)–2, no. 5 (July 1907)

Figure 3. Front cover of Mother Earth 10, no. 1 (March 1915)

The birth of Mother Earth was Goldman’s attempt to kindle a new generation of social rebels after the anarchist movement had ebbed at the dawn of the twentieth century. In 1901, a self-professed anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, who claimed to be inspired by one of Goldman’s lectures, shot and killed U.S. president William McKinley. The assassination triggered an anarchist scare among the general public and the mainstream press. 28 The 1902 New York Criminal Anarchy Act and the 1903 Federal Immigration Act reified the official suppression of anarchism and its alleged acts of terrorism. After keeping a low profile for years by using the alias “E. G. Smith,” Goldman launched Mother Earth in 1906 with the help of friends and comrades. She set two aims for her magazine, to “voice untrammeled and unafraid every unpopular cause” and to “establish a unity between revolutionary thought and artistic expression.” 29 The magazine represented Goldman’s effort to change the stigmatized image of anarchism while increasing its appeal to both cultural avant-gardes and social dissidents.
A dozen core members collaborated in the multifarious operations of Mother Earth despite their varied interests and differing tactics in propagating anarchism. Kathy Ferguson’s book Emma Goldman: Political Thinking in the Streets (2011) provides a roll call of the inner circle.
The Mother Earth family, as Goldman called it, included Goldman herself (nicknamed The Red Queen), Max Baginski (German journalist and the first editor), Alexander Berkman (the second editor, nicknamed The Pope), and others who published the journal for over a decade. The inner circle of Mother Earth also included colorful Czech anarchist Hippolyte Havel (often described as charming when sober); soulful American freethinker Leonard Abbott (nicknamed Sister Abbott); well-known art critic Sadakichi Hartmann; printer and trade unionist Harry Kelly, and Goldman’s flamboyant manager and lover, Dr. Ben Reitman. 30
At least four other members, in my view, should be added to this list in light of their discursive contributions, editorial assistance, event organizing, or office work for Mother Earth . They are the American anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, the novelist John Russell Coryell (active in the earlier period), the native-born Eleanor Fitzgerald (active in the later period), and the Russian immigrant anarchist Rebecca Edelsohn.
The Mother Earth family had a cosmopolitan outlook, thanks to the multinational origins of its inner circle and the remarkably diverse membership. Goldman’s depiction of Mother Earth as “a universal baby” highlighted the international nature of its conception and growth. 31 The core members’ connections and joint efforts made Mother Earth an epicenter of the worldwide anarchist network. Beyond the inner circle, over 370 writers from the United States and abroad contributed to the magazine. They collectively built the textual world of Mother Earth as a transnational voice for radicalism in Progressive Era America. The rest of the “family” members identified by Goldman were subscribers, staffers, volunteers, donors, organizers, correspondents, local agents, readers, and endorsers of its campaigns. Ideologically, this large, extended family incorporated anarchists of all sorts (veteran and novice, communist and individualist, philosophical and militant) and socialist- or liberal-minded individuals from varied ethnocultural and social backgrounds. The unusual complexity of Mother Earth ’s membership displayed an extraordinary range of receptivity to anarchism unseen in American society.
Mother Earth ’s core members witnessed the “global turn” of the anarchist movement while also contributing to it. The magazine was a major vehicle for anarchism when the parameters of anarchist activities expanded beyond the transatlantic world. By 1900, anarchism had spearheaded the international dissemination of radicalism, championing the causes of social revolution and sexual liberation to a global audience. 32 Anarchists attracted not only press headlines because of assassinations some carried out but also the hearts of many thinking people with their idea(l)s. As an antiauthoritarian philosophy, anarchism greatly inspired young intellectuals in such East Asian countries as China, Japan, and Korea. 33 Goldman successfully established a transpacific network to spread Mother Earth and its anarchist messages. The magazine’s international news coverage and campaigns defending foreign revolutionists attested to its solidarity with rebels worldwide.
Meanwhile, Mother Earth emerged at a time when America was growing into a new global power; in the process, the U.S. government became the primary adversary of core members’ transnationalism. The huge influx of immigrants and business capital to the United States, corporate investments overseas, frequent transatlantic exchanges of knowledge and technology, and U.S. imperialist actions in East Asia and elsewhere built up America’s growing global influence at the turn of the century. Mother Earth ’s anarchists condemned the U.S. government for suppressing international revolutions, domestic labor strikes, and political dissidents.
Defying the hegemonic influence of the U.S. government, the multilingual Goldman chose English as her magazine’s language, in order to propagate anarchism among readers of English worldwide. America’s development as a world power—coupled with the British Empire’s influence in India, Africa, and elsewhere—established English as a major international language. Studying in the United States and translating English texts into their mother languages were two means used by non-Westerners to absorb American radicalism, which had already integrated European philosophies with its native liberal, utopian, and progressive beliefs. 34 The historian John Crump described how English (and America) mediated the reception of Western socialism in Japan: “When socialists in Japan knew a language other than Japanese it was generally English, and, if an opportunity to travel abroad presented itself, it was usually to the USA. This meant that European (primarily German) social-democratic ideas had to find their way to Japan through what can best be described as an English-language filter. This reliance on English as the language for most of their international contacts exposed the Japanese socialists to a variety of supposedly socialist doctrines popular in one or other of the world’s English-speaking countries.” 35 Crump’s account points to the importance of the “English-language filter” and to America as the major exporter of Western radical thought to non-English-speaking countries. Goldman gave Mother Earth a lingual edge by taking advantage of the global reach of English while undermining U.S. imperialism with its antistate anarchism.
In the domestic context of Progressive Era America, Mother Earth rose as one of the initiatives to remedy the socioeconomic consequences of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. Goldman and her comrades demanded the total eradication of existing institutions, which they believed were the cause of oppression, inequality, and injustice in society. The rise of Progressivism was another initiative. Progressives heralded extensive programs of social reform driven by the middle class while upholding state interventionism, efficient government, regulation of trusts, and social justice. 36 Muckraking journalism, from the 1890s on, was an expression of the liberal conscience of Progressive elites dedicated to exposing industrial monopolies and political corruption to the public. 37 Another critical initiative was the Socialist Party of America (SPA), formed in 1901, which endeavored to democratize and socialize the American economy through parliamentary politics. 38 Progressive liberals, socialists, and anarchists demanded various degrees of socioeconomic and political change. In principle, progressive liberals were antimonopoly, socialists were anticapitalism, and anarchists were antistate. Anarchists’ antistate stance entailed objections to any kind of government or system of authority. Socialists intended to overthrow capitalism and supplant the current plutocracy with a socialist government and cooperative commonwealth. Progressive liberals, appalled by the socioeconomic chaos and political corruption, set forth various government-based reforms that would impose order on society. Through Mother Earth ’s production, Goldman and her comrades tried to radicalize the reform mind-sets of liberals into a willingness to question the basic legitimacy of the governing system. Chiefly, the Mother Earth anarchists strove to appeal to progressive liberals’ antiauthoritarian impulses. To paraphrase the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Goldman sought to arouse among Progressive liberals “the power to think and the desire to rebel.” 39

Mother Earth was distinct from previous English anarcho-communist papers in several aspects. Goldman published the magazine as an 8-by-5-inch pamphlet of 64 (later 32) pages that differed from the 4- to 8-page broadsides used by most of its predecessors. 40 A subscription was ten cents a copy or one dollar for a year. About 3,000 copies were sold within the first week of its initial publication, and another printing of 1,000 copies followed. The magazine’s circulation peaked at 10,000 copies around the mid-1910s, exceeding the circulation of its U.S. precursors. 41 The historian Laurence Veysey, whose estimate is higher than that of other scholars, wrote that Mother Earth ’s “distributed subscribers appear to have totaled more than 40,000 as of March 1911.” 42 In addition to editorials, reports, essays, and international notes, Mother Earth published poetry, fiction, and short drama pieces. From 1907, new genres, such as travelogue and review essays about Goldman’s (later, also Berkman’s) lecture tours, appeared. A range of open letters, public manifestos, and fund-raising solicitations carried by the magazine indicated its members’ associations with international revolutionists and labor activists. Advertisements informed readers of assorted events, organizations, and publications in anarchist and radical circles. Occasional editorial announcements directed readers’ attention to the magazine’s financial condition, current campaigns, and future prospects. Cover illustrations contributed by vanguard artists infused a sense of revolutionary modernism into the aesthetics of the magazine.
The texts of Mother Earth presented a polyphonic ensemble that expressed the central principle of anarchist communism without subordinating its writers’ various concerns. European anarchist classics by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin became the core members’ scriptures for anarchist activism. From Proudhon, they acquired a theoretical basis for anarchism, which targeted the state, capitalism, the church, and laws as enemies of individual liberty. Bakunin inspired them to imagine organized labor as the means to launch social revolution. Bakunin’s appeal to people’s “impulse to liberty, passion for equality, [and] the holy instinct of revolt” particularly drew Goldman, who carried it forward to highlight the inner strength of individuals for attaining anarchy. 43 Kropotkin’s theory of “mutual aid” and his vision of a free communist society shaped the Mother Earth anarchists’ outlook on socioeconomic issues. These anarchist classics appeared as guidelines of anarchism in Mother Earth ; however, the authors’ targeted themes and proposed solutions varied. Goldman, for one, never allowed her communist goal to overshadow her emphasis on individual freedom and inner regeneration. Her discourses encouraged personal resistance to both institutional domination and conventional tyrannies. The writings of other comrades, such as Berkman, de Cleyre, and Kelly, drew readers’ attention to labor grievances, anarchist tradition, and collective protests.
Mother Earth crystallized its core concepts—anarchism, free communism, and direct action—in several slogans that repeatedly appeared in the magazine. Its editorial in November 1906 summed up core members’ beliefs: “The hopes of the Anarchists for a grand future are based upon the exercise of the feeling of solidarity of free individuals. . . . Anarchism recognizes the diversity of life, the differentiation of individuality in its fullest sense. It finds in voluntary communism—free enjoyment of commodities—the safest material basis for the highest development of diversity, which after all is the only creative source of life.” 44 This statement also clarified the essence of Goldman’s anarchism: individual freedom and creativity would only find their true meaning through voluntary communism. The core members’ ideal of anarchy, to quote Berkman, “expressed the highest conception of individual liberty and social solidarity.” 45 Their support for not only personal freedom but also collective unity in social life distinguished them from individualist anarchists. This distinction explained the ultimate collective activism that Mother Earth ’s inner circle deemed necessary to create social revolution.
Although Goldman sought to propagate anarchism in a peaceful manner through Mother Earth , core members could not escape their association with violence by the police and the public. Acts of violence as a justified “defense armed with a right”—embodied in “propaganda by the deed”—against oppressive authorities had long been entangled with anarchist theory. 46 Originally conceived by Bakunin and carried out by Italian anarchists in the 1870s, “propaganda by the deed” emphasized the potency of anarchists’ individual violence against the organized violence of the state and corporations to inspire the masses to rise up for the social revolution. Over the next two decades, Kropotkin adjusted his earlier open advocacy of all rebellious acts to express more sympathy than overt encouragement for those who committed political violence. 47 In the Mother Earth years, Goldman and Berkman—at least publicly—aligned themselves with the attitude of Kropotkin. While believing in individual action as (in Goldman’s words) “the forerunner of collective insurrection,” they refrained from openly promoting—though they continued to defend—individual acts of violence. 48 Rather, Goldman and her comrades encouraged all kinds of nonviolent personal defiance of authorities. Their self-restraint from pro-violent narratives and the orderly nature of their meetings, however, did not prevent them from suffering the violence imposed by the police and patriotic citizens. Moreover, despite Goldman’s reluctance, the rhetoric of violence in defense of oppressed labor and anarchists remained common in the pages of Mother Earth , particularly during Berkman’s editorship.
While seeking to distance her magazine from the rhetoric of violence, Goldman aimed to spread her gospel beyond anarchism’s traditional labor, immigrant, and radical constituencies. In essence, Goldman’s anarchism was a fusion of the classical anarcho-communist thought, her individualist propensity, her sexological approach, and her female consciousness. 49 She highlighted the philosophical underpinnings and cultural practices of anarchism as the cornerstone of a self-emancipated life. For her, the anarchist revolution would begin when people came to oppose all forms of authorities. This “individual awakening” to social solidarity became the core tenet of Goldman’s anarchism. Both to popularize her anarchism and to satisfy her own tastes, she incorporated literary and artistic elements in the magazine at its onset. The first co-signed open letter by Goldman and editor Max Baginski on behalf of Mother Earth promised a political and aesthetic regeneration. 50 Characteristically, Goldman’s anarchist propaganda focused more on raising audiences’ social awareness across class lines than concentrating on labor agitation, as Berkman and many other comrades tended to do. Not only the ways she interpreted anarchism—and the emphasis she put on it—but also the ways she propagated it reflected her intention for Mother Earth to reach “outsiders” of anarchist communism: native-born middle-class intellectuals. While Mother Earth drew educated audiences, including autodidacts (like herself) and white-collar workers, Goldman paid particular attention to white college graduates and professionals who had both intellectual aspirations and a social conscience.
Goldman developed an expectation that intellectuals could facilitate the social revolution she envisioned before launching Mother Earth . In 1903, various liberal elements answered Goldman’s appeal to support a free-speech campaign challenging the Immigration Act. 51 This experience reinforced her faith in the passion of the intellectual elite for social change, which she had first observed in Russia. The demise (from lack of funding) of the labor-oriented anarchist paper Free Society in 1904 further drove Goldman to seek middle-class support. 52 Berkman, who was then in prison, reconfirmed her thoughts in their correspondence. “The intelligent minority of the natives constitutes our real hope,” he wrote to Goldman in 1904. 53 Goldman came to view intellectuals as the mainstay of society who could help with the anarchist communist cause when awakened to action. Mother Earth marked the first attempt made by the anarcho-communist press to cultivate an English-speaking, middle-class intellectual audience in America with the ultimate goal of collective social transformation. Many intellectuals who later became involved with the Mother Earth family considered themselves liberal, such as Hutchins Hapgood, a journalist who was a self-professed philosophical (or intellectual) anarchist. 54
Goldman’s ideological categorization, as well as expectation, of intellectuals as potential recruits to anarchism was evident in her 1914 Mother Earth essay, “Intellectual Proletarians.” In her discourse, Goldman attached a somewhat ambivalent class import to “intellectuals” (or “thinking people”) as she tried to mobilize them to act along with the workers. She interpreted intellectuals as “those who work for their living . . . with brain” rather than “with hand.” 55 In this sense, she distinguished intellectuals from manual laborers, ascribing to the former a middle-class position, as society generally viewed them. But at the same time, she mocked intellectuals’ middle-class standing and reclassified them as “proletarians” in the context of the labor-capital confrontation. She argued that capitalist tyranny deprived and degraded all those who worked for a living, whether with hands or brains. Intellectual professionals, she suggested, suffered more than wage laborers from the degradation of their individuality. 56 She urged intellectuals to recognize the exploitative and soul-crushing status quo that was endangering their existence. 57 Goldman expected from intellectuals a proletarization, which would compel them to cast off their self-righteous “middle-class traditions” and merge with the working-class “revolutionary proletarians” to “wage a successful war against present society.” It was her hope that the more the “intellectual proletarians” accepted anarchism, the less necessary it would be for social revolution to involve violence.
Goldman’s design for Mother Earth to attract these intellectual “outsiders” is evident in the new genre arrangements of the magazine. In particular, she replaced the correspondence column that typically existed in anarchist papers with travelogues and tour reviews. Editors of previous anarchist papers had used the correspondence column to communicate with “insiders,” namely, anarchist comrades and like-minded radicals. 58 By contrast, Goldman wanted Mother Earth to publicize its philosophy among the unconverted “outsiders.” Travelogues and tour reviews were aimed to familiarize new audiences with anarchist ideas and events, so as to forge social solidarity among anarchists and nonanarchist readers. Furthermore, Goldman pioneered the use of drama as a medium for revolutionary agency and artistic expression in anarchist papers. She considered the modern drama the most powerful disseminator of radical ideas to inspire intellectuals. The twelve-year life span of Mother Earth coincided with the heyday of her drama lectures, which attracted not only labor but also middle-class audiences, which otherwise would have shunned anarchism.
What essentially distinguished Mother Earth from other anarcho-communist papers was not its philosophy but rather the inclusive approach it adopted in propagating anarchism. Berkman recognized that anarchism’s ideals applied to a person’s intellectual, physical, and psychic life, which was not very different from Goldman’s notion of anarchism as an ideal that freed people, body and soul. 59 Likewise, de Cleyre wanted freedom from institutions and conventions for women no less than Goldman did. As anarchists, Berkman and de Cleyre—or Hippolyte Havel and Harry Kelly, among the core members—sought to prefigure a life of free individuals disregarding traditions and sexual norms in their personal lives. But, similar to their spiritual leader, Peter Kropotkin, they did not dwell much on personal and sexual issues in their anarchist propaganda. In contrast, Goldman put as much emphasis, if not more, on personal awakening as on the mass movement in Mother Earth ’s anarchist propaganda, which was atypical for an anarchist communist organ and hence incurred criticism from her comrades. Goldman cared about spreading anarchism as the basis for extensive social reorganization, whereas most core members of Mother Earth aimed at agitating an “Anarchist movement” that was (to quote Kelly) “more humanitarian and less personal.” 60 Despite the tension in its dual approach to anarchist propaganda, Mother Earth continued to appeal to middle-class intellectuals with its inclusive interpretation of anarchism. Agendas that were not anarchist-specific such as free speech, birth control, and modern drama championed by Goldman effectively drew many thinking people from various ethnocultural backgrounds closer to anarchism to an extent unparalleled in U.S. history.
While Goldman deployed an inclusive approach to propagating anarchism via Mother Earth , she initiated unusual ideological and spatial interactions between anarchists and nonanarchists. Tom Goyens, among other historians, notes the important spatial implications of such ideological practices as anarchist movements. In the study of anarchist history, the mapping of places and motion in space is no less crucial than charting change through time. 61 Situating anarchists in the spaces where their embodied experience, symbolic rituals, collective identity, and political beliefs materialized illuminates how they sought better positions for their propaganda. Whereas previous studies have tended to focus on the anarchist activities within their own, self-sufficient communities, this book tackles anarchist performance without anarchist places in order to assess its propaganda effect. 62 By venturing—or being invited—into new venues that were formerly foreign to anarchists, Goldman built herself and her magazine into a bridge for “outsiders” to access anarchist ideas and the anarchist movement. More than map core members’ living/work space and the use of particular places, I locate where and how they drew audiences, befriended supporters, vied with competitors, and resisted adversaries. Entering new social venues compelled core members to distinguish themselves from other radical groups as they sought allies against common enemies and to spread their messages. This multidirectional spatial approach sheds light on the interplay of core members’ anarchist practices and their maneuvering to make their voices heard among competing leftist groups.
The diverse spatial formations from which Mother Earth ’s radical culture evolved typify the versatility of its members’ anarchist project. Goldman’s multipurpose dwelling in New York was Mother Earth ’s office and the birthplace of an anarchist commune. In core members’ pursuit of social revolution, the household/headquarters became the matrix of what Goldman dubbed “the Mother Earth family.” Through such family events as annual reunions and seasonal balls, Goldman constructed a hybrid space that was home to anarchists as well as open to the nonanarchist public. As the activities of the magazine—lecture tours, social gatherings, and various rallies—took place from coast to coast, Goldman particularly sought to reach the public outside of anarchist places. On the train, in the public library, at women’s clubs, and in the church (to name a few), Goldman was able to popularize her anarchism in ways and places more diversified than ever.
Geopolitically, core members teamed up with comrades abroad to agitate for a transnational anarchist movement. Core members’ campaigns for international revolutionists in words and deeds created a transnational activist space for radical culture. In translation, the productions of Mother Earth found their way into the space of nonanarchist journals in East Asia. The motley and contesting characters of Mother Earth ’s propaganda space add new dimensions to exploring the spatiality and effects of anarchism.
Thanks to Goldman’s notoriety and her inclusive approach, Mother Earth gained a certain popularity, or sympathy, while voicing every unpopular cause that echoed anarchism. But, as I stated earlier, we cannot grasp how widespread the magazine’s messages were until we examine the various forms of its production. The interdependence and mutual strengthening operation of Mother Earth ’s fourfold propaganda forms—lectures, monthly issues, literature, and events—inspire me to develop an analytical framework that I call the “propaganda quartet” in order to assess the magazine’s overall effects. Goldman’s annual cross-country promotional tours for her magazine greatly boosted its circulation, the morale of local anarchists, and the interest of new audiences, though it also opened her up to all sorts of violent threats from opponents. Her self-dramatizing performance, plus Reitman’s versatile marketing, turned her lectures into an unprecedented mobile buffet of anarchist ideas. These lectures gave nonanarchist audiences easy access to anarchism. Soliciting subscriptions for Mother Earth and pushing the sale of MEPA literature were two must-dos before and after each lecture. Mother Earth launched the tours by advertising them in advance. Its monthly issues broadcast the local effect of the lectures and related activities to its international subscribers in travelogues written by Goldman, Reitman, and Berkman, as well as tour reviews contributed by nationwide attendees. Printed propaganda helped deepen the audience’s interest in a wide range of radicalism. Assorted events organized by core members promoted anarchist solidarity while challenging authorities among both friends and foes.
This book examines how core members operated the propaganda quartet amid certain tensions in their dual approach. Basically, the division of labor between touring, soliciting funds, editing, printing, organizing, and miscellaneous work allowed each core member to develop their strength. Mother Earth ’s various outlets and multiform productions helped reduce tensions and disagreements within the inner circle. Being on tour with Goldman kept Reitman occupied selling tickets and securing venues instead of fighting with Berkman in the headquarters. At the same time, Berkman was able to be more militant in his activism in New York when Goldman was on the road. These core members worked both individually and collectively to build up an extensive network with a variety of leftist groups and labor unions. Goldman spent more time befriending middle-class Progressives and avant-garde bohemians, while Berkman won growing support from junior anarchists, immigrant labor, and social rebels. Over the years, the inner circle garnered a considerable amount of money for various printing and campaign funds, as well as bail money for themselves and other persecuted comrades. Most of the donations came from Goldman’s lecture meetings and local events, in particular, the Mother Earth family reunions in New York.

Seldom had a leftist or nonprofit magazine functioned in such a manifold fashion across and beyond America. This book reveals the largely ignored synergy of Mother Earth ’s fourfold propaganda, the neglected interactions between its core members and nonanarchist elements, and its overlooked transpacific networks. It showcases how a magazine as a medium as well as an organization could be operated in diverse forms to maximize its multiethnic, cross-class, and transnational influence.
Situating Mother Earth in a multispatial context, this book charts its propaganda strategy and transnational networks to assess its cultural influence in American radicalism from two different perspectives.
In part 1, I examine the practices of Mother Earth ’s anarchists to evaluate how much they accomplished as their propaganda expanded from New York to America and then to the world. The four chapters in this part examine the magazine’s headquarters stance, propaganda space, national movement, and transnational networks. I draw on the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice to analyze the operation of Mother Earth ’s propaganda in diversified contexts and assess its sociohistorical significance. 63 Bourdieu’s key analytical categories—habitus, capital, field, and social space—help position the anarchist movement pushed by Goldman and her comrades in their time and place. Habitus, to quote Bourdieu, “is a set of dispositions, reflexes and forms of behaviour people acquire through acting in society.” 64 Habitus determines what people of a certain group or class think and do and how they think and behave to distinguish themselves from other groups or classes in society. A person’s or group’s habitus operates both as “structured structures” (socially internalized systems of thought and action) and as “structuring structures” (individually generated thought and action) in society. Social practices, according to Bourdieu, emerged from interactions between habitus and “fields”—specific sets of networks or configurations of social relations governed by their own internal “logic of practice”—by utilizing diverse (but transferrable) forms and amounts of resources (“capital”). 65 Each field, functioning as a site of struggle among individuals or groups, witnesses people exerting their economic, cultural, social, or symbolic capital to secure a favorable position for themselves. All the different positions in which individuals or groups engage in various fields of the society define their position within social space. 66
Historicizing Bourdieu’s concepts with necessary revisions, part 1 reveals the practices of Mother Earth ’s anarchists as they interacted with friends, foes, audiences, and the public to make their case while fighting against authorities. 67 It unfolds the physical environment and geographic space of these anarchists’ activities and charts their social space. The anthropologist Deborah Reed-Danahay suggests that the Bourdieusian study of social space sheds light on individuals’ and groups’ values, status, identity, and affinity in distinction from others. 68 In this sense, part 1 characterizes and assesses the strengths and limits of Mother Earth ’s anarchist propaganda in social space at the local, national, and international levels. This characterization and assessment is aimed at clarifying the double-edged effect of their propaganda: the anarchist awakening it stirred did not lead to the anarchist revolution it envisioned.
Part 2 scrutinizes the themes of Mother Earth ’s production to illuminate the radical import of core members’ anarchist discourses that underlay, as well as justified, their actions. By shifting the focus from core members’ spatiotemporal movement to their discursive activism, this part brings to light Goldman and her comrades’ ideological standing and border-crossing radicalism. The four chapters in this part canvass the representative topics of Mother Earth ’s inclusive propaganda. Sex radicalism (ch. 5) showcases core members’ fusion of the anarchist free-love tradition and European sexology to stimulate people to question institutional tyrannies and sociosexual norms. Modern drama (ch. 6) epitomizes Goldman’s pioneering use of the genre as a propaganda form to channel radical thoughts. Labor activism (ch. 7) embodies the labor-oriented direction of Mother Earth ’s operation as core members addressed such sensitive topics as political violence and labor strikes with words and deeds. Free speech and antimilitarism (ch. 8) reflect core members’ integrated campaign to fight for universal freedom and resist legal, civilian, patriotic, corporate, and state violence. Finally, the epilogue reveals how the Mother Earth anarchists left an enduring intellectual imprint that is ever more relevant to American radicalism and the revolutionary movement today.
In sum, Emma Goldman, “Mother Earth,” and the Anarchist Awakening explores the interplay of motion in space and mobility over time in the operation of Mother Earth to capture its overall significance. The multiethnic and cross-class diversity, geopolitical range, labor militancy, antiauthoritarian vigor, sexual iconoclasm, and versatile propaganda of Mother Earth ’s members exemplified the highly charged radical dynamics of early twentieth-century anarchism.
Part 1

Headquarters Stance
A Proposition.—Would it not be wiser to explain theories out of life and not life out of theories?
— Mother Earth , March 1906
In 1906, Emma Goldman reoriented herself and anarchism in the field of radical culture by publishing Mother Earth , from which evolved a communal lifestyle, an inclusive approach to propaganda, and a transformed understanding of anarchism. As Mother Earth ’s sole proprietor, publisher, and main editor, Goldman rightly claimed it as her “baby” and located the magazine’s office in her lodging place, which had moved across Manhattan over the years. 1 Out of either financial concern or editorial convenience, she housed an increasing number of people toiling for the magazine in her flat. Their cohabitation bonded them in an unconventional, counternormative “ Mother Earth family,” an alternative kin group that fused their living, social, textual, and activist spaces for their anarchist cause. Goldman courted native middle-class intellectuals with various activities in order to facilitate an overall social reconstruction. Interactions between Mother Earth ’s members and the new intellectual audience expanded the anarcho-communist radius beyond its original immigrant, labor, and ghetto circles. With this subtle but significant move, Goldman strove to gain better ground for anarchist propaganda, which had been stifled in American society.

The working and networking of the Mother Earth family in its headquarters featured an unusually permeable spatiality for anarchist communism. Tom Goyens has stressed the importance of examining the “spatial practices” of such oppositional groups as anarchists. His study of German immigrant anarchists in New York from 1880 to 1914 discusses the “spatial countercommunity” that they formed while engaging in their public campaign for anarchism. 2 Goyens details the lifeworld of these anarchists, “[who] existed physically in a space replete with its own signifiers, symbols, and rituals,” which could be understood as demonstrations of the anarchist habitus. 3 Habitus, to quote Bourdieu, implies a “sense of one’s place.” 4 More than habit or socialization, habitus inherits the personal/collective past (family, ethnic, and class history, for example) of individuals or groups to inform their present thoughts, decisions, and actions. For such anarcho-communists as those portrayed in Goyens’s book, or Goldman and her comrades, their habitus carried the trace of their anarchist genealogy, as well as the stigmatized image of anarchists, to shape their self-identity and movements in American society. Goyens’s study of the German immigrants’ anarchist habitus brings to light a “culture of defiance” sustained by an active but rather closed social network in distinction from nonanarchist German immigrants and other groups. 5 Mother Earth ’s anarchist habitus, as I explain, structured its headquarters and propaganda in a different way.
This chapter explicates what I term the headquarters stance of Mother Earth as the basis for understanding core members’ lifestyle and performance in the urban space of New York City. Stances—namely, “position-takings”—were “practices and expressions of agents,” according to Bourdieu, as opposed (and also in relation) to their positions in society. 6 “Stance” indicates the subjective roles one adopts, while “position” refers to the objective probabilities of one’s social space generated by the volumes and forms of capital that one could possess. 7 “Stance” reflects the options that are open to individuals or groups to modify or maintain their social position. For scholars like Hanna-Mari Husu, who applies Bourdieu’s theory to the study of social movements, organizations “differentiate themselves on the basis of the stances they assume in respect to strategy, goals, and identity.” 8 Drawing on this conceptual framework, I characterize the headquarters stance as the choices that core members made for their strategy, goals, and identity as they practiced and preached anarchism in New York. These choices involved the behaviors, attitudes, and agendas of Goldman and her cohabiting comrades as they operated Mother Earth ’s production to spread anarchist messages. A systematic study of Mother Earth ’s headquarters stance reveals core members’ anarchist practices and expressions in a complex interplay of their dispositions, resources, and social environment. While core members freely adopted their roles as individuals, together they helped present to the public a headquarters stance that was basically consistent with Goldman’s choices. Thus, I highlight Goldman’s stance as the embodiment of the strategy, goals, and identity that she intended her magazine to adopt with regard to the activities orbiting its headquarters.
Goldman’s stance during the Mother Earth years, I argue, exhibited an adaptable approach integrated into her habitus to take a better position for anarchist propaganda. Bourdieu’s conception of habitus, some scholars point out, is more of a durable nature that cannot fully elucidate individual/group agency and creativity in making (or responding to) personal or social change. 9 The sociologist Chris Shilling deconstructs Bourdieu’s class-based notion of habitus into three “ contingent and relational ” modalities of action to highlight “the social shaping of our embodiment” as well as “the individual mediation of these experiences.” 10 These modalities—habitual action, embodied crisis, and creative revelation—allow us to better grasp an individual’s or group’s structured, reflective, and innovative actions in continuity and change. Shilling’s revision of Bourdieu’s concept is instrumental to grasping how Goldman’s stance was informed not only by her anarchist disposition but also by her personal reflection under crisis and move to improve her anarchist social status. Goldman’s experience cooperating with middle-class intellectuals in 1903 and 1904 revealed to her a new prospect for propagating anarchism. 11 While her mind-set, values, and lifestyle—including her ethnocultural choice of Mother Earth ’s office locations—remained deeply rooted in her anarchist habitus, she tried to turn the antianarchist crisis into an opportunity to expand the influence of anarchism. Goldman consciously adjusted the conventional mode of anarchist thought and action to better position anarchist propaganda in a competitive milieu. She did so by acquiring symbolic capital and social capital with Mother Earth ’s multiform production. 12 By winning the support of respectable or cultured people for anarchism, Goldman sought legitimacy or recognition (symbolic capital) and a broadened social network (social capital) for her propaganda work in the field of radical culture.
Goldman’s creative adaptation oriented the headquarters stance of Mother Earth toward a multiethnic and cross-class public, which attested to a broader propaganda effect of anarchism. In contrast to the self-sufficiency, closeness, and homogeneity of the German anarchist community depicted by Goyens, the Mother Earth family exhibited openness, inclusion, and ethnic diversity. The ideological and spatial receptivity of the Mother Earth family to various othernesses set itself apart from other monoethnic, anarchist-exclusive, or rural communities. 13 Beyond its office, core members located a range of venues to organize “family” events such as annual reunions, balls, and a variety of anniversaries. They developed the headquarters stance toward a common cause, diverse agendas, and versatile strategies to jointly create alternative spaces in the capitalist-dominant urban setting as they forged an anarchist identity and expanded support for anarchism. Core members’ efforts to produce texts and set up contexts revolving around the headquarters, as we shall see, gave rise to a new situation for repositioning anarchism in Progressive America.
The core of the Mother Earth family in its headquarters formed a voluntary kinship and multiethnic commune committing to anarchist propaganda. By publishing Mother Earth from her flat while housing several members to live and work together, Goldman made its headquarters a justifiable household. 14 As the feminist scholar Clare Hemmings remarks, by depicting these associates as “family” members caring for her “baby,” Goldman had in mind a nonconformist bond to “challenge limited understandings of kinship as a prop of capitalism and nationalism.” Long before Goldman envisioned what Hemmings calls “universal kinship” when she married James Colton (a Welsh anarchist miner) during her exile in Britain in 1925, she had tried communal life, first in the early 1890s and then with the Mother Earth core members. 15 Bound not by blood or marriage but by choice to work toward a common goal, the members living in Mother Earth ’s office related to Goldman as (ex-)lover, friend, comrade, auntie, and mentor. 16 As Hemmings writes, Goldman “foreground[ed] empathy and loyalty as central to this understanding of universal kinship.” As Goldman opened her flat to conjure up a Mother Earth kin group with anarchist spirits, she both demonstrated and expected fraternity and solidarity from the members. 17
The first trial of this new kinship took place at Goldman’s flat at 210 East 13th Street (referred to hereafter as 210), the birthplace of Mother Earth ( fig. 4 ). Upon her arrival in New York alone in August 1889, Goldman settled on the Lower East Side, a Russian Jewish enclave. 18 Her numerous, mostly involuntary moves from one residence to the next across Manhattan reflected her vulnerability as an anarchist agitator. The worst situation occurred in 1901, after Leon Czolgosz’s assassination of President McKinley implicated Goldman. 19 Police soon arrested her but later released her for lack of evidence. The stigma that burdened Goldman, however, kept her from finding lodgings and from using her real name. 20 During this period, she started to associate with white middle-class liberal figures beyond radical and immigrant circles. The rental flat that Goldman moved into in 1903, 210, was no stranger to a social mixture of new nonanarchist friends and old comrades. In early 1906, Goldman and her comrades and friends met in 210 and gave birth to her magazine venture. 21
In opening her living space at 210 to a diverse group of inhabitants, Emma was experimenting with a prefigured communal lifestyle that was structured by her anarchist habitus and strained financial circumstances. 22 “Prefiguration,” a core concept of anarchism, refers to various practices of antiauthoritarian organization, tactics, epistemology, and ethics in the here and now, before the arrival of anarchy. 23 The unorthodox family of Mother Earth stood for an anarchist attempt to prefigure a new way of intimate cohabitation liberated from political, legal, or religious restraints. Emma constantly took in comrades, friends, strangers, and even vagabonds, turning the narrow space of 210 into a communal haven. Emma’s niece Stella Ballantine first came to 210 around 1905; her friend Max Baginski and his family soon followed. Max was a German émigré anarchist and seasoned journalist from Chicago. He became Mother Earth ’s first editor and strongly supported Emma’s incorporation of art and drama into anarchist propaganda. From 1906 on, teenage radical Rebecca (Becky) Edelsohn, old comrade Alexander “Sasha” Berkman, and new lover, Ben Reitman, moved into 210 one after another. Harry Kelly and Hippolyte Havel, both good friends of Emma, came to 210 almost daily to work for the magazine. Becky and Sasha were Russian Jewish immigrants, like Emma. Ben, born in the United States to a poor Russian Jewish immigrant family, had been a hobo since his youth, yet managed to earn a medical degree; the native-born Harry came from a Christian family and later became a printer; Havel, of Czech (then Bohemian) origin, had been imprisoned for his anarchist activism before immigrating to the United States. 24 None of them were free from financial stress while toiling for the nonprofit magazine. They displayed the spirit of mutual aid informed by their anarchist habitus.

Figure 4. “210,” 210 East 13th Street (now 208). From “East Village Tenement Housed ‘the Most Dangerous Woman in America,’” http://gvshp.org/blog/2011/11/29/east-village-tenement-housed-the-most-dangerous-woman-in-america/ .

Life and work at 210 blurred the spatial lines between public and private, as well as between men and women. The public-private spatial divide vanished in 210, where living quarters and work space became one. “My room was the living-room, dining-room, and Mother Earth office, all in one,” Emma later recalled. While she could admit to her flat or turn away anyone she wished, her generosity compromised her own privacy. “I slept in a little alcove behind my bookcase,” she recalled of her life at 210. “There was always someone sleeping in front, someone who had stayed too late and lived too far away or who was too shaky on his feet and needing cold compresses or who had no home to go to.” 25 Emma’s elite journalist friend Hutchins Hapgood nicknamed 210 the “home of lost dogs.” 26 The lack of personal space in her living quarters for a single woman like Emma indicated her nonconformity to existing gender norms. Since the nineteenth century, family had embodied the private sphere, a (middle-class-oriented) feminized and reproductive space. By contrast, women in the Mother Earth family joined men in productive labor. The spirit of fraternity and free expression liberated these anarchists from the gender norms that drew spatial boundaries around the sexes. Gender relations—comradely, sexual, or other kinds—in this household were free and open. Hapgood once mentioned in his autobiography a group of male and female anarchists who “naturally bunked up together at the most convenient places” after attending a ball and without the means to go home. While Hapgood praised the anarchists’ self-liberation from the “sex convention” that still dictated his behaviors, he drew a class distinction between himself (“I being a member of the bourgeois class”) and them. 27 From Hapgood’s bourgeois perspective, the anarchists at 210 were exercising a new sense of spatial freedom and gender solidarity. For Emma and her comrades, it was immoral not to shelter those who needed help. Hapgood’s frequent visits to 210 probably led to his conclusion that “their [the anarchists’] morality seemed different and better than that of the ordinary man of the world.” 28
Members at 210 tested their anarchist communal ideal of equal association with common property, voluntary teamwork, and comradely love. The replacement of hierarchy and a rigid gendered division of labor with comradeship and equality among the cohabitants of 210 characterized this alternative kinship. Despite Emma’s matriarchal role and Sasha’s paternal management, they exerted no control over other members. No parental or hierarchical authority that typified the traditional family reigned at 210. Family kin mixed with comrades, lovers, and friends while sharing expenses for the common cause of popularizing anarchism. The material conditions of 210 were far from comfortable. “There were no facilities for heating at 210, except the kitchen stove, and my room was farthest from it,” Emma recalled. 29 Temporary guests who joined the regular dwellers often found 210 “short in blankets and other bedding.” 30 But members at 210, mostly working-class and low-income radicals, were used to the scarcity of material comforts and the rhythms of sharing their resources. Everyone worked for Mother Earth and its production in one way or another. Thus, the income from the magazine—if there was any—provided for all who lived and worked at 210. 31 Emma was the real provider, however, touring the country annually to promote Mother Earth and thus sustain the household. A good cook and caretaker, she took up such kinds of housework at 210 when not traveling while other members would tidy and decorate the flat with flowers to welcome the fatigued Emma on her return. 32 Four male comrades, Max, Sasha, Harry, and Hippolyte, were in charge of the office work. At 210, political missions were entangled with personal romances; hobos mingled with professionals; immigrants befriended native-born Americans. The belief in the anarcho-communist principle of mutual aid prevailed at 210, turning outsiders into insiders. Bill Haywood, the labor union leader and militant socialist, felt at home at 210, where “he could read and rest to his heart’s content, or drink coffee,” as Emma recalled. 33
The cordial atmosphere of Mother Earth ’s office attracted visits from younger radicals, whom Emma called “our boys,” enabling constant recruitment of novices for the anarchist movement. 34 There they found comradely warmth, intellectual enlightenment, and a sense of community. 35 Many of them came to 210 to read and socialize. They volunteered for office tasks and general logistics, regular activities, and impromptu campaigns. The Russian Jewish immigrant Isidore Wisotsky was among them. “I was working in the [ Mother Earth ] office,” he recalled, “packing books to be shipped out.” “Many people used to come up to say hello,” he continued, “or to buy a book, or to pay their subscription.” 36 Some mainstream newspapers captured certain literary elements in 210 when revealing to readers what the “living space” of anarchists looked like. A reporter for the politically conservative New York Sun described 210 this way: “The place is bright and sunny, the book cases are filled with the newest output of advanced literature and there is a vase of pink roses in the middle of a table heaped promiscuously with manuscripts and letters.” 37 Big dailies like the New York Times had similar observations. Quoting other tenants in the same building, the reporter depicted 210 as “a ‘queer place’” and noticed two “unusual” things there: “the group had an unusual number of books,” and “there were an unusual number of persons coming and going to and from the flat.” 38 The “queer” reputation of 210 even led gamblers in the neighborhood to come by asking for help, in the belief that “the police may look for bombs, but never for chips” at Emma’s place. 39
Sasha’s participation in the 210 household and his growing importance resulted in the dual direction of Mother Earth . In May 1906, Emma welcomed Sasha, just released from prison after serving fourteen years, to the Mother Earth family and opened 210 to him. 40 As one of Sasha’s secret accomplices, Emma bore a burden of guilt as she became increasingly influential in the development of anarchism during his absence. 41 Her eagerness to help Sasha start a new life met with huge challenges. Sasha suffered from social anxiety after his long-term incarceration; the nonanarchist visitors particularly irritated him, as he felt they turned 210 into “a sort of salon.” 42 But Emma’s resolve to look after him, combined with his temporary inability to make a living, kept him at 210. In March 1907, Emma made Sasha the editor of Mother Earth in an effort to revive him. 43 The gradually regenerated Sasha demonstrated his aptitude for editorial work and helped found the Mother Earth Publishing Association. Sasha downplayed Mother Earth ’s earlier emphasis on fusing politics and arts, which had been designed by Emma and Max, and devoted more attention to socioeconomic issues and labor strikes. 44 Having failed to issue a revolutionary labor weekly in 1907, Sasha made Mother Earth a major organ to agitate labor before publishing his own anarchist weekly, The Blast , in 1916. 45 In general, Sasha’s shared leadership was publicly recognized, as in a 1908 New York Times article that labeled Mother Earth “the organ of the Berkman-Goldman creed.” 46 For her part, Emma kept recruiting middle-class supporters through modern drama and literature in her national tours.
While members at 210 freed themselves from gender and sex norms, they were embroiled in infighting that ultimately undermined the harmony of the commune. During the period of his recuperation in 1907, the thirty-seven-year-old Sasha developed a relationship with the fifteen-year-old Becky, with whom he shared a fervent dedication to labor struggles that he found lacking in Emma’s inclusive approach to anarchism. 47 Though upset by Sasha’s choice and jealous of Becky’s youth, Emma (who was then thirty-eight) tried to put up with Sasha’s growing relationship with Becky within their shared space. 48 But Sasha found that Emma always seemed biased against Becky. He, in turn, was reluctant to tolerate Emma’s new lover, Ben Reitman. A physician from Chicago with the nickname “King of Hobos,” Ben met and fell in love with Emma during her tour stop there in 1908. 49 He followed her across the country, becoming her tour manager and, later, Mother Earth ’s business manager. In late 1908, accompanying Emma back to New York, Ben joined 210. 50 Sasha judged Ben’s pompous and fickle temperament unworthy of Emma’s love and thought it contravened the anarchist spirit. By contrast, Sasha felt justified in his romance with Becky because she was a devoted anarchist like himself.
Ben’s new role in the Mother Earth family, based on his romance with Emma, had a double-edged effect on the headquarters culture and its operation. On the one hand, Ben’s marketing skill boosted the sale of Mother Earth and MEPA’s literature. Emma often credited the success of her lecture tours in reaching a greater variety of audiences and stirring wider public interest in anarchism to Ben’s logistical efficiency and versatile showmanship. 51 On the other hand, Ben did not blend in well with other 210 members, who judged his immodest, frivolous character out of sync with their anarchist habitus. 52 Ben had an especially hard time winning Sasha’s approval. Over the years, the two men got along as reluctant comrades. There were times when Ben saw Sasha as one of his best friends, and Sasha responded in kind. 53 Sasha even served a five-day workhouse sentence for defending Ben at an unemployed meeting at Cooper Union on September 7, 1908. 54 More often, however, there was little consensus about personal interests or propaganda methods. Sasha scarcely appreciated Ben’s management of Mother Earth as a business; he particularly disdained Ben’s tendency toward spendthrift living at the expense of the anarchist movement. 55 Ben was envious of Sasha’s importance to Emma and felt unappreciated for his propaganda work. Sasha showed no mercy when rejecting Ben’s overblown reportage on Emma’s tours for Mother Earth , seeing it as unfit for the magazine’s upright nature. 56 Once, writing to Emma out of self-pity, Ben lamented, “You are a power, Berkman is a force and Reitman is a joke .” 57 For years, Emma tried hard to reconcile the men’s disagreements in order for them to work (and live) together on behalf of Mother Earth but without much success.
The communal life at 210 came to an end despite some attempts by members to maintain a congenial atmosphere, including creating another headquarters space in the countryside. When the atmosphere at 210 grew tense, the family members escaped to a farm near Ossining, New York, which Ben described as their “country club.” 58 Situated thirty-five miles from Manhattan, this little farm was a gift to Emma from her attorney friend, Bolton Hall. 59 Its idyllic surroundings and serenity made up for its lack of a water supply and its decrepit state. The farm served as the core members’ temporary lodging, country getaway, and writing retreat. The peaceful country environment even relieved Sasha’s grievances against Ben. 60 Emma and Sasha both used the farm to work on books that would have been very hard to write in the crowded confines of 210. There, Emma also prepared many of her lectures and articles, often with Sasha’s help. Escaping to a secluded space like the farm inspired the family members’ writing and eased the strains of their living situation. Temporary retreat to the rural space, however, did not resolve the overcrowding and increasing tensions among members at 210. After an attempt to separate the living and work space failed, Emma began to look for a new home. 61 She found a ten-room house at 74 West 119th Street (referred to hereafter as 74) in Uptown Manhattan, in Harlem, with cheaper rent than that of 210. 62 In late September 1913, 74 became Mother Earth ’s new headquarters. Four new members—Ben’s mother, Ida Reitman (for a short period of time); Emma’s nephew Saxe Commins; a new secretary, Eleanor Fitzgerald (known as “Fitzi”); and a housekeeper, Rhoda Smith—joined the old ones. 63

The removal of Mother Earth ’s new headquarters to Harlem indicated both the continuation of Emma’s habitual behavior and her creative move to take a new stance for her magazine. Harlem was undergoing rapid transformation at the time. New water infrastructure and lighting, improved sanitation, and expanded transportation boosted the area’s growth. Once a rising and respectable white neighborhood, it had become a “Negro ghetto” by the early 1900s. 64 The black community mainly inhabited north Harlem, while an upper-middle-class population gathered in central Harlem. Russian Jewish and Italian immigrants of working-class backgrounds were heavily congregated around East Harlem. 65 Emma located Mother Earth ’s office in the working-class Jewish sector rather than in black Harlem or upscale central Harlem ( map 1 ). Nevertheless, Goldman’s ambition to spread anarchism more widely prompted an open stance at the headquarters to a variety of publics. Black residents, though not numerous, did show up at the headquarters activities; and Sasha’s diary referred to his interactions with Negroes in Harlem. 66 The proximity of 74 to Columbia University also helped core members make connections with college students of varied nationalities. Gray Wu, a Columbia philosophy student from Canton, China, took an interest in anarchism and became the newcomer at 74. He cooked Chinese food in the kitchen for Mother Earth ’s family parties. 67 Meanwhile, Mother Earth ’s events introduced anarchism to growing numbers of English-and Yiddish-speaking Harlemites. Local people of diverse backgrounds who were curious about radical thought or anarchism visited the office of Mother Earth for information and literature.
In 1914, the year World War I erupted, the communal life in Mother Earth ’s headquarters came to an end. Love and politics continued to entangle the members at 74. 68 Within a year, the spacious household collapsed because of a financial crisis, Emma’s fading romance with Ben, and the unresolved tensions between her, Sasha, Fitzi, and Becky. Government violence against labor strikers and the unemployed provoked Sasha, who used Mother Earth ’s revenue for all kinds of antiauthoritarian campaigns. In so doing, he depleted the magazine’s funds. “The house in my absence had been turned into a free-for-all lodging-and feeding-place,” Emma wrote of the messy condition of 74 after returning from her tour in September 1914. 69 She and Sasha quarreled over the costly campaigns and, in his view, her hostility to both Becky and Fitzi. 70 With Sasha’s decision to move out accompanied by Fitzi and Becky, Emma saw no reason to maintain the 74 household. The following month she moved herself and Mother Earth ’s office to a loft at 20 East 125th Street (referred to hereafter as 20), where she stayed from October 1914 through June 1917. Gone was the previous Mother Earth household that had tried to live out its anarchist ideal. The loft at 20 had two rooms, one for Emma’s bedroom and the other for Mother Earth ’s office. Emma lived alone, except for her fellow tenant and old friend, Steward Kerr. With Sasha and Fitzi leaving for a cross-country tour in late 1914, Emma resumed the role of Mother Earth ’s editor. The magazine’s heavy workload and its varied activities still brought numerous helpers streaming in and out of 20. Saxe, Max, and two new secretaries, Anna Baron and Pauline H. Turkel, were among them. 71 Emma later admitted that “readjustment to the altered conditions [from the previous communal life] involved many hardships.” 72 One of them was Ben drifting away from her romantically, though he still helped with the magazine’s work and her tours. But Emma’s strong tie with Sasha remained, despite the dissolution of their communal trial. In January 1916, Sasha and Fitzi introduced The Blast , a revolutionary labor weekly, in San Francisco, with Emma’s endorsement in Mother Earth .

No. Address Duration A 210 E. 13th St. Sept. 1906–Dec. 1906 B 308 E. 27th St. Jan. 1907–Feb. 1907 A 210 E. 13th St. Mar. 1907–Dec. 1910 C 55 W. 28th St. Jan. 1911–Sept. 1913 D 74 W. 119th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1913–Sept. 1914 E 20E 125th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1914–June 1917 F 226 Lafayette St. July 1917–Jan. 1918 G 4 Jones St. Feb. 1918–Apr. 1918
Map 1. Racial/ethnic enclaves and addresses where Mother Earth ’s headquarters (and its successor, Mother Earth Bulletin , Oct. 1917–Apr. 1918), were located, New York City, 1906–1918. Based on “Map of the borough of Manhattan and part of the Bronx showing location and extent of racial colonies,” Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, New York Public Library, New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b64407eb-3d17-c912-e040-e00a1806617d .

No. Address Duration A 210 E. 13th St. Sept. 1906–Dec. 1906 B 308 E. 27th St. Jan.1907–Feb. 1907 A 210 E. 13th St. Mar. 1907–Dec. 1910 C 55 W. 28th St. Jan. 1911–Sept. 1913 D 74 W. 119th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1913–Sept. 1914 E 20 E. 125th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1914–June 1917 F 226 Lafayette St July 1917–Jan. 1918 G 4 Jones St. Feb. 1918–Apr. 1918
1. American Palace Hall
2. Everett Hall
3. Forward Hall
4. Grand Manhattan Hall
5. Lenox Casino
6. Lexington Hall
7. Manhattan Lyceum
8. Mt. Morris Hall
9. Progress Assembly rooms
10. Royal Lyceum
11. Terrace Lyceum
12. Webster Hall
Map 2. Locations of Mother Earth ’s “family events,” New York City, 1906–1917. Based on Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library, “Map of the borough of Manhattan and part of the Bronx showing location and extent of racial colonies,” New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b64407eb-3d17-c912-e040-e00a1806617d .

During its last phase, Mother Earth waged intensified campaigns for sex radicalism and against militarism, and its nonanarchist public grew despite the dissolution of the headquarters commune. Emma’s birth control campaign in 1915 led to an increasing demand for anarchist literature nationwide and heightened public support (see ch. 5). 73 The celebration of Mother Earth ’s tenth anniversary in March 1915, along with the issuance of its “souvenir number” edition, was a momentous occasion for Emma. The homage paid to Mother Earth by nonanarchist liberals and radicals showcased its unconventionality as an anarchist magazine, as well as its intellectual influence beyond anarchist circles. Emma considered these tributes from supporters in America and abroad evidence of “the niche in people’s hearts my child [ Mother Earth ] had made for itself.” 74 In late 1916, Emma reunited with Sasha and Fitzi, who moved The Blast ’s office from San Francisco to the upper floor of 20 to carry on their militant propaganda. Together, Mother Earth and The Blast defended labor activists held responsible for the Preparedness Day bombing in San Francisco on July 22, 1916, while fighting for free speech and against militarism (see ch. 8). Soon after America entered the war in April 1917, Sasha and Emma organized the No-Conscription League. On June 15, 1917, the U.S. Congress passed the Espionage Act. 75 That same day, federal authorities raided 20 without a warrant. They arrested Emma and Sasha on charges of conspiring against the Draft Act. The trial, in which they defended themselves, began on June 27. On July 9, the jury declared both guilty and the judge issued each of them a two-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. 76 During and after the trial, Fitzi, Stella, and Carl Newlander, a young Swedish anarchist, worked hard to sustain Mother Earth . Later in July, the landlord forced the remaining core members out of 20. They moved the office to 226 Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan.
Emma and a few members managed to issue a successor to Mother Earth before the government relentlessly used the war as an excuse to put down the anarchist movement and its propaganda. Mother Earth folded in September 1917, after the U.S. postal authorities denied its second-class mailing privileges. Yet Emma, who was out on bail pending the Supreme Court verdict on their appeal, had not given up on spreading anarchist messages. 77 The next month, she reincarnated Mother Earth as an eight-page circular, titled Mother Earth Bulletin . On the front page of the first issue, Emma called the Mother Earth Bulletin “the wee Babe of Mother Earth.” She appealed to readers to support her new magazine as they had “its mother.” 78 Emma and Sasha’s appeal failed in January 1918; they started their two-year prison terms in February. The same month, Stella and Carl established the Mother Earth Book Shop at 4 Jones Street to circulate radical books and pamphlets. 79 In April 1918, the publication of Mother Earth Bulletin ended because of government suppression. Following the closure of the bookshop in July 1918, the twelve-year Mother Earth venture came to an end.
The alternative kinship and prefigurative lifestyle tested in Mother Earth ’s headquarters illustrated its members’ agency negotiated between their habitus, resources, and situations. Structured by their habitus as anarchists (mutual-aid spirit, free love, equal comradeship, and fraternal solidarity) and propelled by their limited resources (meager income and property; social networks among Jewish, Russian, and German immigrants), they chose—or, rather, consented to—Emma’s invention of an unorthodox family identity as they resided and toiled together for the common cause of social revolution. Their shared living constantly tested the compatibility of personal needs and preferences and the collective good. Lacking direct relationships by blood or marriage, this family of intergenerational and multiethnic members was challenged by love affairs, uncongenial personalities, and same-sex rivalries. 80 And yet these individuals stood together against the authorities at all times. Whereas German immigrant anarchists in New York lived and convened by “ethnicity, not [by] ideology,” as Goyens points out, the opposite was the case in the Mother Earth family. 81 Its members’ belief in anarchist communism dictated their principle of living “all for one and one for all” in order to sustain the magazine. Meanwhile, Emma and Ben strove to diversify the ethnic and class makeup of their audience as they established their social network and cultural competence for anarchist propaganda. At a time when bohemian culture was on the rise in New York, Chicago, and other cities while official and mainstream animosity against anarchism remained, Emma spared no effort in paving a new way for spreading anarchist messages. Recognizing the futility of earlier anarchist papers with distinct ethnic or class identities, she moved partly beyond her anarchist habitus and took the initiative to appeal to the antiauthoritarian sentiments of white bohemian intellectuals. Optimizing her vision of universal, nonfamilial kinship with her magazine as its matrix, Emma engaged herself in a range of border crossings to recruit an ethnically and socially diverse membership. “MOTHER EARTH represents quite a family,” she told her readers. “With each one demonstrating his kinship, we could easily weather the storm.” 82 The members’ commitment to human justice was the kinship she referred to. Through the spatiotemporal operation of a series of “family events,” Emma Goldman intended to cement and expand this kinship so as to elevate Mother Earth ’s headquarters status.
Choosing Venues for the Family Events
Both in and beyond the space of Mother Earth ’s headquarters, Goldman exhibited her creative revelation of a new position-taking for anarchism in the social space. Bourdieu stated, “Human beings are at once biological beings and social agents who are constituted as such in and through their relation to a social space.” 83 The physical space the core members occupied was connected to the social space of their magazine through habitus. 84 In this section, I show how Goldman made a stance for Mother Earth that was distinct from that of previous anarchist periodicals by her choice of venues for its family events, which ranged from annual or biannual reunions, anniversaries, and seasonal balls to various commemorations of anarchist or social rebel predecessors. Geographically, Mother Earth ’s family events took place in the vicinity of its headquarters, namely, the Lower East Side and Harlem. Jewish and Italian immigrants, who congregated in the two neighborhoods, turned out in numbers for the events. The attendees, however, were not limited to immigrants; native radicals and liberals were also present. Core members hosted Mother Earth ’s family events in venues scattered as satellites of its headquarters for group bonding, fund-raising, and tension releasing among kindred spirits and anarchist sympathizers ( map 2 ). Attendees at these events, including the magazine’s members, friends, and supporters, were far from exclusively anarchist. But compared to other public occasions meant for propaganda—core members’ lectures, protest assemblies, and various campaigns, for example—the family events were primarily anarchistic in spirit. Above all, the places where these family events occurred were conceptualized as an anarchist space and a space to build social capital for anarchist propaganda.
Goldman’s creative move to befriend native bohemians and liberals began in the space of Mother Earth ’s headquarters. The location of 210, where the Lower East Side meets Greenwich Village, made it easy for a diversity of radicals, including nonanarchist intellectuals and avant-garde artists, to visit. 85 Berkman’s sense of out-of-placeness when he first joined the 210 household illustrated a changing ambience created by Goldman that was somewhat foreign to his anarchist habitus. 86 After moving to 74, Goldman maintained strong ties with a range of thinking people out of personal affinity and propaganda concern. The 1914 New Year’s party at 74 saw a house full of (immigrant and American) social rebels, men of letters, and bohemians debating philosophy, art, sex, and social theories, the magazine’s repertoire of topics. 87
Goldman’s intention to send a welcoming message to white middle-class intellectuals was shown in her preference of respectable venues for Mother Earth ’s family events. As a principle, she favored popular, big, and tastefully maintained halls to host the gatherings. Terrace Lyceum at 206 East Broadway met her material and spatial requirements. Located in the heart of the Lower East Side, it featured a dining room for up to two thousand guests on the first floor and a dancing hall upstairs that could hold a thousand. 88 From 1907 on, Terrace Lyceum hosted various Mother Earth events, mostly family balls. The magazine’s first anniversary concert and ball at Terrace Lyceum on February 21, 1907, gathered more than four hundred guests “from New York, Brooklyn and New Jersey,” Goldman reported. 89 From then on, the annual balls became a local celebration on behalf of the magazine’s worldwide members. “Those who could not attend gave evidence of their interest and appreciation by sending contributions,” Mother Earth reported. 90
In addition to choosing the family event spaces for their decency, cleanliness, and crowd capacity, Goldman considered their cultural implications. In a letter to Reitman in 1910, Goldman urged him to find a venue other than the Jewish-dominant Terrace Lyceum. “Now, the task will be to find an English Hall,” she wrote. “If only that Lyric Hall were not so expensive, possibly he would let you have it more reasonably for a course of lectures. That and the Trade Union are the only ones I know and the latter is so wretchedly small.” 91 Goldman did not want to circumscribe Mother Earth as culturally Jewish. Since the mid-1890s, her experience had led her to recognize the importance of reaching an English-speaking audience to facilitate dissemination of anarchist propaganda in America. 92 Securing a venue for anarchist events was a challenge even on the Lower East Side, however. It was common for the owners of the halls to cancel the contract with anarchists at the last moment. 93 Also, as Goldman’s letter showed, she and her comrades had limited choices for event venues given their tight budget. As Terrace Lyceum met all criteria except for the multiethnic spatial imagery, it became an acceptable choice for Mother Earth ’s family reunions.
Still, Goldman tried to increase accessibility to Mother Earth ’s family events for native audiences. Her linguistic sensitivity to a politicized event at Terrace Lyceum on August 12, 1909, was telling. It was a rescheduled celebration to honor the anarchist labor uprisings in Spain, during which several core members gave talks to a crowd of anarchists and radicals to show solidarity with their Spanish comrades. It is worth quoting at length a report in the New York Times that contrasted Goldman’s performance with those of other core members.

The two policemen who were assigned to the postponed Anarchist meeting which took place at Terrace Lyceum, 206 East Broadway, last night, nearly fell asleep and were utterly unable to stifle their yawns while Alexander Berkman reiterated “We must be pioneers,” Harry Kelly, the Irish Anarchist, muttered mild sentiments, and Max Baginski, the editor of Freiheit, hurled verbal bombs in German.
But when Emma Goldman . . . rose to cast anathemas at the Police Department, at all Governments, at all religions, at militarism, at those who oppose strikes, at Philistines, and at self-satisfied members of the middle class, at Kings, and at Presidents, they woke up. . . .
It was also stated that Commissioner Baker had asked what Miss Goldman intended to say upon this occasion. This information was not vouchsafed to him, but he was assured that Miss Goldman would be perfectly willing to personally take the consequences of anything she said. So that she might live up to this she spoke in English in order that the policemen in the back of the room could have their ears easily burned, in spite of the fact that many of those present only understood Yiddish. 94
Unlike Goldman’s other regular propaganda lectures in Yiddish for the Jewish audience, her decision to speak English at a family event that evening was intentionally political. It was the supportive atmosphere among Mother Earth ’s members at Terrace Lyceum that made possible Goldman’s English address as a free-speech statement against legal authorities.
In any case, Goldman and other core members made sure that their family events demonstrated their hospitable and fraternal spirits to their multiethnic guests from all social ranks. Grand Manhattan Hall on the Lower East Side, for example, was both respectable and cosmopolitan enough for hosting Mother Earth ’s anniversary celebrations. With a capacity of three thousand and located in the central Lower East Side (309–311 Grand Street), Grand Manhattan Hall was a handy choice. It had hosted rallies of the Socialist Party and numerous other sociopolitical events. 95 In the early spring of 1910, Goldman, Reitman, and Berkman were planning an enlarged anniversary celebration. Mother Earth ’s editorial in February 1910 promoted the upcoming event to its readers: “The friends of MOTHER EARTH will celebrate its fifth birthday by an international meeting, combined with a Commune Memorial and Ball, Friday, March 18th, at 8 P.M., in the Grand Manhattan Hall, 309–311 Grand Street. We ask all friends and sympathizers to help us make this double anniversary a success.” 96 The “double anniversary” was meant to highlight the magazine’s international solidarity and revolutionary spirit by including a tribute to the 1871 Paris Commune. Speeches in multiple languages by core members and other invited speakers were typical of Mother Earth ’s family events as of its fifth anniversary. The magazine announced that there would be English, German, Spanish, Italian, Bohemian, and Yiddish speeches. 97 The evening of March 18, 1910, at Grand Manhattan Hall marked a spirited moment for anarchism. In that time and space, language was no less a symbol for internationalism than a means for communication.
From downtown Manhattan, the family events stretched to Harlem, mingling Jewish and Italian immigrants while reaching out to black communities and others. Mother Earth ’s members closely associated with several radical institutions and progressive groups in Harlem (see ch. 2). The rapidly growing subway and rail system made it possible for Mother Earth ’s downtown members and sympathizers to attend their gala activities uptown ( map 3 ). 98 Lenox Casino became the major venue for Mother Earth ’s events in Harlem due to its fitting condition, its convenient location, and its owner’s liberal disposition. Located at 100–102 West 116th Street, Lenox Casino could entertain up to fifteen hundred guests, with easy subway and bus access. It was the home of the free-thought Harlem Liberal Alliance, whose organizers were supporters of Mother Earth . Lenox Casino had catered a range of progressive sociopolitical events while venturing into “illegal” (pornographic) film screening in its dance hall without obtaining a theater license. 99 The owner’s audacious act in the face of legal suppression was to Goldman’s liking. She also enjoyed Lenox Casino’s beautiful ballroom, as it was well suited to the magazine’s celebratory events. 100 Over the years, Lenox Casino hosted Mother Earth ’s eighth birthday concert, seasonal balls and festivals, antimilitarist gatherings, birth control meetings, and Goldman’s lectures. Other activities sponsored by Mother Earth , such as the fund-raising ball for The Blast , also took place at Lenox Casino.

Map 3. The new subway of greater New York, 1918. Based on “Map of the new subway of greater New York: (Interborrow system)” (New York: Manhattan Publishing Company, 1918). From Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C., 20540-4650 USA dcu, www.loc.gov/resource/g3804n.ct002192/ .

Goldman’s prudent choice of the family event venues manifested her creative calculation to nudge her anarchism toward a status that was culturally acceptable to middle-class intellectuals. The extent to which Goldman sought decent halls and the ways she tried to appeal to a respectable audience incurred criticisms from her own comrades, such as Voltairine de Cleyre, as being too “bourgeois” (see ch. 3). Nonetheless, her broadened social capital contributed to the attendance of a galaxy of radicals and liberals, who showed their moral or financial support. While Mother Earth ’s family events were often held in venues near its office, which moved around different Jewish sectors in Manhattan, the attendees came from multiethnic and cross-class backgrounds. The guest list ranged from such social elites as attorney Gilbert Roe, journalist Hutchins Hapgood, reformer James G. Phelps Stokes, writer Ernest Crosby, artist Robert Henri, and socialist William English Walling to labor leaders like Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, to name a few. Some of these prominent figures identified themselves as “philosophical” anarchists, believing in anarchism while rejecting violent means to achieve its ideal. They subscribed to Mother Earth as a token of supporting free speech and radicalism for social change. To a certain extent, the presence of these intellectuals at Mother Earth ’s family events was conducive to giving anarchism a better name. Mabel Dodge, the famous art patron and salon hostess, had remarked that respectable intellectuals like Hapgood importantly helped dispel the terrorist image of his anarchist (communist) friends. 101
Goldman’s effort to win more social and cultural capital to better position anarchism was evident not only in her choice of event venues but also in how she arranged these spaces. The next section elucidates how Goldman infused Mother Earth ’s “anarchist space” with both comradely sentiment and performative sense to take a stance that featured openness and inclusion.
The Comradely and Performative Anarchist Space
Delving into the manifold spatiality and ambiance of Mother Earth ’s family events, this section reveals the making of anarchist performativity and its propaganda significance. In her study of performing Greek drama, the theater theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte highlights the importance of the “performative space.” “We must distinguish between the architectural-geometric space, in which the performance takes place,” she wrote, “and the performative space through which the performance comes into being.” She further explicates, “In contrast to the architectural-geometric space, the performative space is unstable, permanently fluctuating and changing. In performance, spatiality does not exist but ‘happen.’” 102 Fischer-Lichte’s notion of the performative space illuminates the interactions among the Mother Earth inner circle and their comrades, nonanarchist attendees, and anarchist propaganda in the locations of their choice. The rental halls—the “architectural-geometric space”—in which these events took place, were neither owned nor inhabited by anarchists. A Mother Earth “anarchist space” did not exist but rather would “happen” during the moments when core members staged their family events. The advance promotion, preparation, decoration, program, and sound and lighting effects arranged by the members for the events transformed the venue into an “anarchist space.” In this respect, Mother Earth ’s family events created an anarchist space that was by nature performative. The ways that Goldman optimized this aspect of Mother Earth ’s family occasions epitomized their position-taking.
Mother Earth ’s family events, through which the anarchist spatiality and performativity came into being, were to serve the inner circle’s propaganda purpose, in addition to comrade bonding. Among the members, their carefree enjoyment and fraternal closeness of the family balls could serve as a performance, a habitual, ritualistic reification of their anarchist (group) identity. But particularly, the anarchist performativity happened in these spaces in the presence—also for the sake—of nonmembers. Unlike German immigrant anarchists, whose activities were exclusive, Goldman and Reitman made their family occasions welcome to outsiders. She and Reitman promoted these events in ways that invited journalists and the intrigued public to experience “anarchist” moments with them. Thus, the anarchist space of Mother Earth ’s family gatherings was at once close and open. As it happened, these occasions, which served useful purposes for socializing, fund-raising, and promotion, also opened themselves to criticisms from outsiders beyond the anarchists’ control.
An anarchist space came to life in Mother Earth ’s family events through a combination of ornamentation, comradeship, entertainment, and movement. Young volunteers often took charge of the preparatory work for the events, from decorating the space to preparing music, buffet food, drinks, lights, and literature for sale. Isidore Wisotsky’s reminiscence provides a glimpse of Mother Earth ’s annual ball.
The hall was well lit, gaily decorated, and filled with spirited, happy, dancing young people. The sound of lively music swept through the rooms. Revolutionary and workers’ songs could be heard from all corners. Such leaders of our movement as Alexander Berkman, Harry Kelly, Leonard D. Abbot[t], Max Baginsk[y], Hippolyte Havel, and sympathizers like Big Bill Haywood, Bolton Hall, [Elizabeth] G[u]rley Flynn, Carlo Tres[c]a and others—moved through the crowds, talked to the guests, and seemed to derive pleasure from watching the dancing and singing youth. From time to time, they went to the buffet table and treated themselves to food and spirits for which they paid as part of the income for Mother Earth . Tall, broad-shouldered Ben Reitman . . . was busy harnessing subscriptions for the publication as well as selling anarchist literature. . . . Emma Goldman, elegantly dressed, and beaming like a proud and happy mother on the wedding day of her youngest daughter, circulated among the crowd and greeted everyone with her warm words and soft smile. 103
Wisotsky also mentioned that young people like him merrily “danced all kinds of dance” at the ball. Even the middle-aged Goldman could not resist joining the youths in a sher , an Eastern European Jewish folk dance. In moments like this, a sense of intimate community emerged across age, social, and ethnic divides.
Characteristically, Mother Earth ’s family events mingled artistic and ideological elements. Goldman tried to unite revolutionary ideas and artistic expression in the family reunions, reflecting her initial design for Mother Earth . 104 In turn, the magazine’s editorial accounts further boosted the events’ momentum. In November 1913, Berkman wrote, “The annual reunion of the MOTHER EARTH family has grown to be the most unique and interesting event of its kind in the radical circles of New York City.” According to him, the guests did not forget to donate to their campaigns while enjoying “joyous good-fellowship.” 105 The interplay of the events and the narratives was meant to produce a favorable standing for Mother Earth ’s anarchists in the field of radical culture.

For propaganda purposes, Goldman transformed bona fide comradeship into promotional presentation in the performative space of their family events. The fine decorations, artistic performances, ethnic dancing, multilingual speeches, and joyful music were designed to both reward members and entice visitors. Reitman, in a New York Times interview in August 1909, invited the general public to “come and see the Anarchists eat ice cream and be playful” at a social event of the Mother Earth family. 106 At a time when the mainstream press typically depicted anarchists as (dangerous) others, some people were tempted to see what anarchists really were like. Seizing public curiosity, Goldman and Reitman turned their genuine bonding moments with comrades into presentations of anarchist lifestyles for outsiders. Access to the places of Mother Earth ’s family events had never been free of charge; still, numerous members, friends, and sympathizers actively attended. Not only did they have to pay entrance fees, but they were also expected to make contributions to the magazine and its campaigns. Admission to Mother Earth ’s balls at Terrace Lyceum, Grand Manhattan Hall, and Lenox Casino, for example, ranged from 15 to 25 cents, excluding hat check. The average weekly earnings of male workers around 1905 was $11.79; female workers earned on average $6.54. 107 Spending 25 cents for a meal was a luxury to them, but Mother Earth ’s family events offered much more than food. Paying the admission fee brought the working-class attendees into a congenial, blithe environment where they could leave the drudgery of work behind for an evening. These events were not just a feast of sensory pleasures; they were also occasions to seek kindred spirits and social solidarity. Meanwhile, young people who danced, sang, and drank at the family balls were viewed as manifesting typical anarchist behaviors in the eyes of the nonanarchist beholders.
A news article by the journalist Glenn Guernsey provides an intriguing entry into the mainstream assessment of Mother Earth ’s propaganda performativity in its anarchist space. Guernsey gathered what he titled “News and Gossips” of New York and sent his pieces to periodicals nationwide. In the Evening Statesman (Walla Walla, Washington) on September 26, 1908, Guernsey’s gossip focused on Mother Earth ’s ball. “There will be great doings in New York next Saturday night, although practically all of the millions of people resident here may know nothing about it,” he wrote. “The occasion will be the ‘harvest ball and fall reunion of “Mother Earth” friends,’ and the place, the Terrace Lyceum in East Broadway. This may not sound exciting, but the visitor is likely to find it so.” Next, he briefly introduced Mother Earth and Goldman and mentioned that Berkman and Havel would attend the ball. He then predicted that “the event will doubtless be the great social event of the season in East Broadway society.” His next paragraph showed a certain familiarity with Mother Earth ’s family gatherings.
If the visitor, having paid his two-bits [25 cents] for a ticket, expects to see only the rough, violent, unkempt anarchists of popular fiction, he will be disappointed. Even at the gatherings of the revolutionary anarchists, this type is almost unknown. There will be artists and physicians and professional men in dress suits; pretty girls in ball gowns; aged women, plainly clad, with the light of semi-insane fanactism [ sic ] shining in their eyes; men and women of every age and class and nationality in this cosmopolis of anarchism. Some are sincere in their belief and look upon anarchism as a great cause, to which they would sacrifice their lives, if necessary; to others the no-government theory is but a fad, an affectation, entered upon lightly and to be abandoned in the prospect of any trivial inconvenience. 108
While Guernsey’s account destigmatized anarchists represented by the Mother Earth members and their events, it trivialized anarchism and scoffed at many ball attendees’ lack of commitment to the ideology. Instead of echoing the terrorist stereotype of anarchists, Guernsey tried to normalize Mother Earth ’s members and this event. Moreover, he downplayed the gravity of anarchism as a profound no-government theory. Guernsey appeared to balance his critiques of Goldman and of her adversaries, namely, the government and mainstream press. In another article, he defended Goldman as “a woman who, when all has been said and done, is more sinned against than sinning.” 109 But his real intent was to project anarchism as insignificant and, moreover, fallacious. In his article of September 26, 1908, Guernsey disapproved of what he termed Goldman’s absolute authority over “her disciples,” who obeyed her like servants. In his eyes, Goldman’s powerful talks left “anarchism itself [as but] a new name for a despotism in petticoats.” 110

Notwithstanding its criticism, Guernsey’s narrative confirmed outsiders’ attendance at Mother Earth ’s family events and the performativity of the orchestrated anarchist space. Supposedly from experience, Guernsey foretold that the Mother Earth ball would be a “great social event of the season in East Broadway society.” He apparently found it a festivity worthy of reporting and of encouraging out-of-towners to attend. Whether or not the attendees fully (or slavishly, as Guernsey hinted) committed to Goldman’s anarchism, the events enabled interactions between anarchists and nonanarchists in a comradely atmosphere. Propaganda work (garnering subscriptions, selling literature, and soliciting donations) was regularly blended with personal amusement and social gaiety on such occasions. Mother Earth ’s editorials highlighted the merry and fraternal air of their balls to boost the morale of its family members. 111
Mother Earth ’s family events continued to attract outsiders’ interest and observation as representative of large-scale anarchist jubilees in New York. The Red Revel Ball on February 20, 1915, at Lenox Casino was a prominent example. 112 The advertisement for this event in Mother Earth highlighted that red —the symbolic color of anarchism and defiance—“will predominate in costume or any other form.” 113 “The committee [of the Red Revel] expects an attendance of 1,000 persons,” according to the New-York Tribune , “among whom, it is asserted, will be represented ‘the temperament and brains of the radical world.’ . . . The list also includes ‘women who believe they have a right to live their own lives without lying and cheating.’” 114 Though not intending to promote the event on behalf of Mother Earth , the New-York Tribune report outlined its grand, radical, and liberating aspects—precisely what Goldman attempted to show.
Guido Bruno, a famous Greenwich Village figure, characterized the Red Revel as a snapshot of nonviolent, joyful anarchist festivities in New York City. A small press publisher, Bruno introduced as well as commented on people, places, and activities around Greenwich Village in his Bruno’s Weekly (1915–16). His account of Mother Earth ’s Red Revel first appeared in his weekly in June 1916, titled “Anarchists in Greenwich Village.” Three months later, an extracted version of the same article reappeared in the literary monthly Current Opinion with a new title, “Anarchists at Close Range.” 115 In this article, Bruno sketched a human (rather than terrorist) image of anarchists with whom he had become acquainted. Arguing the harmlessness of the anarchists’ activities, Bruno offered the Red Revel as evidence. “It was red all right,” Bruno recorded, “but not the red that stands for dynamite and shooting and murder. It was the red Jack London speaks of, the red of comradeship.” This pageant drew a range of celebrities from liberal and radical circles, including Bruno. Attendees at the Red Revel “danced and laughed and were happy,” he confirmed, “and if anyone would want to call a gathering of young men and women like that dangerous, it wouldn’t be safe to attend an opera performance or to enter a subway train.” 116
In a sense, Bruno’s narrative of Mother Earth ’s Red Revel echoed that of Glenn Guernsey in humanizing anarchists while undermining the political and intellectual significance of anarchism. Highlighting Goldman and Havel (with a passing mention of Berkman), Bruno took the inner circle of Mother Earth as the prototype of anarchists in New York City. His snapshots of these “real live anarchists” depicted them as “in reality harmless creatures, living a conventional life.” Bruno’s portrayal of the Red Revel, including its symbolic color, red, brushed over the dangerous elements of anarchists presumed by the general public. His depiction of anarchists, however, bordered on caricature. In his view, these anarchists were no more than “professional preachers of anarchy,” who made a living, just like the evangelist Billy Sunday, by “passing the plate.” “They might be sincere,” Bruno wrote, “but they surely get their share out of it.” For him, these anarchists were overly romantic, “craving for companionship” and adventure. Bruno further trivialized anarchist activities: “There are certain places in our metropolis which are known to the elect as anarchist meeting places. But mighty little anarchism do they talk about. They usually plan something. Something that any other club or any other society could plan also—an outing, a picnic, or a dance.” 117
The nonanarchist narratives were in contrast to Mother Earth members’ accounts of the magazine’s family events as a form of anarchist propaganda. Mother Earth ’s editorial reports tended to emphasize the achievement of their family reunions, highlighting the enthusiastic attendance, artistic show, joyful ambiance, and comradely solidarity. A cosmopolitan anarchist space happened during Mother Earth ’s family events. Goldman, Berkman, and Reitman had indicated the representativeness of their family celebrations as international anarchist occasions. Such an indication received general recognition by other presses, which also emphasized the merry and sociable features of these events. By contrast, nonanarchist narratives often cast doubt on anarchists, their followers, their ideology, and their commitment, even while de-demonizing them. Guernsey and Bruno pictured the Mother Earth anarchists as ordinary humans, revealing more of their negative, not positive, characters. The editor of Current Opinion , in prefacing Bruno’s article, remarked, “The rendezvous of ‘anarchists’ in New York City is Washington Square and the neighboring sections of Old Greenwich Village. Guido Bruno has been dwelling and circulating among them. From his description, they seem to be a rather pitiful, futile lot. Anarchism appears to be the only luxury of their lives.” 118 Mother Earth ’s family events did not strike the editor as occasions that demonstrated a serious commitment to anarchism. Nonanarchist commentators mocked the blind obedience of many “anarchist (or Goldman’s) followers,” who dabbled in anarchism while neither grasping its true meaning nor committing to it. Anarchism in these nonanarchist narratives was at best harmless and at worst a sham, a poorer form of governmentalism, in Guernsey’s opinion. According to these narratives, the family events of Mother Earth contributed more to enhancing the quantity rather than the quality of anarchist followers.
Some inside stories, however, unveiled the interactions among the anarchists that were unknown to onlookers. Wisotsky’s autobiography recorded an unexpected episode while recalling the family ball’s joyous moments. “Because of a sad incident [after the ball],” he wrote, “I shall never forget one of the affairs.” The incident took place late at night, when most of the guests had left and only a small group of friends and core members remained to clean and pack up. Hippolyte (“as usual, [he] was drunk”) started to complain about Mother Earth not being (proletarian) revolutionary enough and hurled abuse at Goldman. “We were astounded! Emma paled!,” wrote Wisotsky. “She rose from her chair and, without saying a word, she walked directly up to Hippolyte and slapped his face. Then she returned to her place, sat down, buried her face in her hands, and wept bitterly.” 119 Episodes like this uncovered the rifts that existed within the inner circle, whether over personal or tactical disagreements. Their common anarchist cause did not prevent them from clashing over their differences. Havel judged Goldman’s catering to a bourgeois audience as a weakness in her revolutionary efforts; Goldman, however, thought the opposite was the case. 120 Despite disagreements over their approach, these anarchists worked closely to propagate their common ideal of anarchy. The forty-page biographical sketch that Havel wrote for Goldman in her first essay collection, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910), fully demonstrated that he appreciated the significance of her anarchist endeavors. 121

Figure 5. Webster Hall and Annex, 119–125 East 11th Street, Manhattan. Courtesy International News Service.
In addition to the ripples from within and criticisms from without, Mother Earth ’s family events had to contend with occasional police obstruction. A canceled Masquerade Ball at Webster Hall in 1906 is a case in point. Goldman intended to host the magazine’s opening ball, also a fund-raising event, in Greenwich Village so as to attract more native-born radicals, writers, and artists. 122 Located in East Greenwich Village at 119–125 East 11th Street, Webster Hall was a suitable choice. A leading public hall built in 1886, this three-story building featured a saloon and restaurant on the first floor, a ballroom on the second, and a gallery and sitting rooms on the third ( fig. 5 ). By the 1910s, the stream of bohemian guests made Webster Hall a unique place to frolic. 123 Goldman’s choice of Webster Hall for the family event predated other Village groups, such as the Liberal Club and the socialist illustrated monthly The Masses (1911–17). Mother Earth ’s advertisement for the event promised members a good time. 124 The would-be gala event, however, was forcibly broken up by the police before it started. Police stopped members and guests of Mother Earth from entering Webster Hall and forced the owner to close the premises. Later, in Mother Earth , Goldman scoffed that the police invasion of the ball “made everyone feel the Tzar’s atmosphere”: “What poor diplomats we anarchists are! Had we treated the police to free drinks and free lunch, the zeal of the law and ‘order’ guardians would have certainly been tempered by imbibing tolerance, and MOTHER EARTH’s exchequer would not now be in such deplorable condition.” 125 Lampoons in Mother Earth became its core members’ main textual channel to vent their frustration over police interference.
The headquarters stance of Mother Earth detailed in this chapter represented a telling move away from the conventional (immigrant, working-class) distinction of anarcho-communist culture. This move arose from Goldman’s reflection on such failed lessons as the closure of Free Society (1897–1904) because of a shortage of funds and her fruitful experience working with middle-class liberals in 1903–4 at the moment of crisis in the anarchist movement. To be sure, her choices were not free from her dispositions. The comrades she housed and the locations she chose for Mother Earth ’s office were mostly of a (Jewish) immigrant and labor character. But the multiethnic and cross-class public that she directed Mother Earth to solicit set her magazine venture apart from other anarcho-communist papers. Her broadened social network and growing cultural status among bohemian intellectuals gained better recognition for Mother Earth than similar publications had received in the past.
Goldman operated Mother Earth as a conceptual triangle, which consisted of a universal symbol for free mankind, an unconventional commune to prefigure anarchist lifestyles, and a resourceful medium to promote anarchism. Rhetorically, she analogized her magazine as both the earthly mother and a loved child to visualize a borderless family founded on fraternal love for humanity. 126 Idiosyncratically, this group of multiethnic anarchists tried out nonfamilial kinship in the headquarters, subverting the conventional arrangement of family as a private, feminized, hierarchical, and reproductive space. The magazine members created “a terrain where the anarchist ideal could be lived presently,” as Goyens describes the community of German immigrant anarchists, but in a more open manner. 127 Goldman’s belief, not only in anarchism as an inclusive philosophy, but also in propagating anarchism as such, distinguished her from many other anarchists, who tended to focus on collective, socioeconomic issues as the mainstream of the anarchist movement. This belief, coupled with the aforesaid reflection and experience, led Goldman to promote anarchism among the culturally recognized, socially respectable intellectuals while pursuing support from them. As it turned out, the events of Mother Earth featured porous spatiality and diverse attendance, in distinction from the segregated space and exclusive membership of other anarcho-communist groups’ activities. 128
The porousness of Mother Earth ’s anarchist space went hand in hand with its performativity, both of which exerted a double-edged effect that furthered but also threatened its propaganda. The open and fraternal atmosphere of the headquarters, while attracting numerous young rebels, risked being infiltrated by government spies, as the case of Donald Vose had vividly shown. 129 The looming menace of infiltration by enemies or betrayal by apostates, in turn, strengthened the solidarity of its members against the authorities. Meanwhile, the magazine’s family events were subject to outsiders’ criticisms as they garnered support from new friends. For such nonmembers as Glenn Guernsey and Guido Bruno, the anarchists’ cherished moments of comradely bonding were no more than ordinary festivals lacking ideological import. Goldman’s powerful persuasion of Mother Earth ’s followers was further interpreted as despotic. Anarchists, as these outsiders observed at the balls of Mother Earth, were at best nonviolent and dedicated and at worst authoritarian and nonsensical. Goldman and other Mother Earth core members were unable to fully convey the antiauthoritarian, intrepid, and earnest image of anarchists to outsiders. Consequently, the outcome of opening the family events to outsiders was narrowly fruitful in destigmatizing anarchists but barely productive in spreading positive anarchist messages.
Even so, the headquarters commune and family events of Mother Earth had laid an important foundation for the expansion and growing recognition of its production in America and beyond. The choices that Goldman made and the opportunities that core members had to put their prefigured lifestyle and family events in practice had foregrounded Mother Earth ’s new propaganda stance, which would be carried forward nationwide as well as worldwide. Goldman further demonstrated her versatile ingenuity in setting different goals for the various forms of Mother Earth activities. Whereas its family events promoted comradely solidarity and multicultural sociality, its other activities—such as Goldman’s lectures and rallies—aimed at intellectual enlightenment, political radicalization, and public mobilization. These nonfamily activities, as chapter 2 shows, engendered a variously interactive propaganda of anarchism amid competitions with leftist groups and suppression by authorities.
Propaganda Space
So long as I resist every convention and law imposed upon me I am a Revolutionist. As to method I employ, that depends too not on anarchism but on the time, place and condition.
—Emma Goldman to Ben Reitman, August 26, 1910
Beyond their family events revolving around the headquarters, Mother Earth ’s anarchists variously engaged in different fields and places to ignite fervor against the Establishment. For the sake of both sustaining the magazine and disseminating anarchism, core members participated in, held, or sponsored a spectrum of activities across New York City. These included indoor lectures, debates, and assemblies, as well as open-air protests, rallies, and demonstrations. Goldman’s ambition to bring anarchism to what she called the “American element” inspired her to speak in places beyond immigrant, labor, and ghetto circles. Her network with native leftists and liberals facilitated the expansion of Mother Earth ’s propaganda space from Jewish, Italian, and German immigrant neighborhoods to midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
This chapter situates the Mother Earth anarchists in New York’s culturally diversified, socially stratified milieu to illustrate their practices and propaganda in social space. The social space of Mother Earth as a medium of anarchist propaganda took shape from the sum of all occupiable social positions of its core members at any given time and place. 1 These anarchists’ different positions in such fields as radical culture, the labor movement, and progressive journalism jointly characterized the magazine’s position in social space. A Bourdieusian spatial analysis reveals both the materiality and the symbolism of Mother Earth ’s social space. 2 They engaged in diverse fields in accordance with their habitus (“what is called in sport a ‘feel’ for the game,” Bourdieu wrote) 3 and their resources (capital). Examining how Mother Earth ’s members distinguished themselves from and related to others while mobilizing transferable forms and amounts of capital in varied fields allows us not only to locate them (and their friends and foes) in physical space but also to evaluate their propaganda in social space.
Mother Earth ’s production, I argue, carved out a diversified propaganda space that pushed the boundary of previous anarchist propaganda and broadened its radical effect. In her book on Emma Goldman’s political thinking, the feminist political scientist Kathy Ferguson maps out the spaces of what she terms the “anarchist counterpublics,” which emerged from the interplay of political ideologies, social imaginaries, and embodied practices. 4 Ferguson characterizes Goldman’s “anarchist counterpublic” as those who in one way or another accepted or sympathized with anarchism. 5 Illustrating different forms of media—from face-to-face communities to mobile sites in order to develop networks—where topical and textual anarchist counterpublics took place, Ferguson details how Goldman and her comrades “create[d] and address[ed] a radical public space.” Building on Ferguson’s analysis of anarchist spaces, this chapter highlights these anarchists’ interactions with others rather than with comrades, as they staked out their ground by competing with or confronting opponents. Anarchism stood at one extreme of the spectrum of problem-solving political projects that were designed to address socioeconomic problems arising from accelerating immigration, industrialization, and urbanization in Progressive America. While the emergence of bohemian culture in prewar New York fostered ideological convergence among radicals of varied political leanings, anarchists had to compete with diverse groups of nonanarchists to build public support for radical social change. 6
Inspired by both Bourdieu and Ferguson, I locate Mother Earth ’s anarchists in a spectrum of ideological spaces that saw varying degrees of sociality as they interacted with diverse others in order to examine the magazine’s position in social space as well as to gauge its propaganda effect. I categorize these spaces as family, congenial, competitive, and hostile spaces, in which the Mother Earth members’ social affinity with others decreased successively. Through these spaces, the anarchists involved their practices in cultural production, labor politics, and social movements. This categorization allows me to make sense of the anarchists’ performance and the response of others across different fields and to reveal the heterogeneous nature of Mother Earth ’s propaganda space. In the anarchist-dominated family space of Mother Earth , as chapter 1 has shown, the anarchists were physically and socially close to each other while open to outsiders. In the congenial space, the Mother Earth anarchists’ propaganda practices were greeted by socially cordial, like-minded groups. Jointly, they tried to double the effect of spreading anarchist-compatible, libertarian messages. In the competitive space, the Mother Earth anarchists met with potential rivals or the general public who challenged—but were not unlikely to receive—their anarchism. These anarchists were socially distant from those who were physically near them in the competitive space; thus, they had to maneuver to outwit the contenders for their propaganda. When they appeared in the hostile space, Mother Earth ’s anarchists encountered explicit antagonism from such others as the police or an angry public. Here they were socially opposed, even physically attacked, by those who surrounded them ( map 4 ).
This ideological categorization of physical space reveals the versatile tactics, the extensive coalitions, and the radical effect of the Mother Earth anarchists’ propaganda in social space. Goldman and above all her comrades expanded anarchism’s sphere of influence by finding common ground with potential allies while diversifying the channels for promoting anarchism. In seeking the endorsement of native middle-class intellectuals, whether bohemians, radicals, or liberals, she effectively sowed the intellectual seeds of civil disobedience if not social reorganization.
Seizing every opportunity, core members created guerrilla spaces in the city to promote alternative social ideals and express individual or collective resistance in the dominant space of capitalism. When entering the competitive space, Mother Earth ’s anarchists sought to gain the upper hand by such means as catching the media spotlight and attracting public attention. Even when they subjected themselves to the hostile space, Goldman, Berkman, and their comrades never ceased to voice their opinions. They proved to be loyal friends of nonanarchists fighting for liberty and justice, powerful competitors that other leftist groups could not ignore, and formidable insurgents whose intelligence even impressed judges. These anarchists might not win a favorable position for themselves in society, but their anarchism was more influential than their rivals or the government would admit. Thanks to their manifold propaganda, anarchism remained a relevant part of American radical culture.

No. Address Duration A 210 E. 13th St. Sept. 1906–Dec. 1906 B 308 E. 27th St. Jan. 1907–Feb. 1907 A 210 E. 13th St. Mar. 1907–Dec. 1910 C 55 W. 28th St. Jan. 1911–Sept. 1913 D 74 W. 119th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1913–Sept. 1914 E 20 E. 125th St. (Harlem) Oct. 1914–June 1917 F 226 Lafayette St. July 1917–Jan. 1918 G 4 Jones St. Feb. 1918–Apr. 1918
Family Events
Congenial Spaces
Competing Spaces
Map 4. Locations of Mother Earth ’s headquarters (A–F), “family events,” “congenial spaces,” and “competitive spaces,” New York City, 1906–1917. Based on Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, New York Public Library, “Map of the borough of Manhattan and part of the Bronx showing location and extent of racial colonies,” New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b64407eb-3d17-c912-e040-e00a1806617d . Some of the societies or institutions have moved over time, so the numbers of the locations are marked in chronological order. For example, the Ferrer Center had three addresses: 6 St. Mark’s Place; 104 East 12th St. (Oct. 1911–12); 62 East 107th St. (after 1912). These three locations are marked 2, 3, and 4, respectively.

The congenial space was where the Mother Earth anarchists were able to transcend certain boundaries to promote shared agendas with their ideological allies or others. Primarily at venues where social and labor organizations with libertarian tendencies met was where core members optimized their social capital to publicize their ideas. Groups headquartered in the congenial space—the Ferrer Center, the Liberal Club, the Harlem Liberal Alliance, the Sunrise Club, the Brooklyn Philosophical Society, and the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), among others—sold publications and took subscriptions for Mother Earth . Geographically, these places radiated from the Lower East Side and Harlem to incorporate Greenwich Village, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. These organizations greeted anarchism as an inspiring and inclusive philosophy for political change, social transformation, and personal expression. Their spaces made Mother Earth ’s anarchist ideas accessible and communicable. Goldman tried to turn the recognition of white, middle-class, college-educated members of these organizations into sources of cultural and symbolic capital for building anarchism’s influence. The nonanarchist members in the congenial space did not necessarily commit to Mother Earth ’s revolutionary cause. But their sociability with and intellectual appreciation of Goldman and her comrades had broadened the reach of anarchism.
Of all the congenial spaces, the Ferrer Center had the strongest tie with Mother Earth , providing core members with valuable resources in the literary, cultural, artistic, and labor movement fields. An organization commemorating Francisco Ferrer, the Spanish anarchist educator and martyr, the Ferrer Center owed its birth to such Mother Earth anarchists as Goldman, Berkman, Harry Kelly, and Leonard Abbott. 7 They made their resolve clear in the magazine to carry on Ferrer’s legacy of advocating experimental and coeducational modern schools. 8 These anarchists were central to the founding of the Francisco Ferrer Association on June 3, 1910, and, in January of 1911, the Ferrer School, to spread Ferrer’s teachings. Located at the headquarters of the Ferrer Association at 6 St. Marks Place (between East Village and Greenwich Village), the school was first an adult center, offering evening lectures on a daily basis and weekend lectures on social issues. 9 By 1912 the Ferrer Center/School relocated to 63 East 107th Street in Harlem, close to the Mother Earth office. 10 Several core members of Mother Earth acted as administrators, instructors, and guest lecturers at the Ferrer Center.
Unlike the Rand School of Social Science (on 15th Street), whose explicit mission was to train socialists, the Ferrer School did not set out to tutor anarchists. 11 Some of those who attended both schools found the Ferrer School freer, more open, and more intellectually stimulating than the Rand School. 12 Though anarchism was not an orthodox doctrine at the Ferrer Center/School, its spirit of free thinking, mutual aid, and respect for others permeated the environment. For Berkman, modern school education should be aimed at nurturing a free individuality and self-reliant humanity as preparation for anarchy. 13 To a certain extent, the Ferrer Center realized Berkman’s ideal education. It offered an exciting mix of lectures on social, political, and literary topics, along with plays, art displays, concerts, and poetry recitals. Joining the galaxy of prominent speakers at the Ferrer Center, core members of Mother Earth were acknowledged as no less intelligent or inspiring than such white, middle-class, nonanarchist speakers as the muckraker Lincoln Steffens, the writer Upton Sinclair, the attorney Theodore Schroeder, the novelist Jack London, and the birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger. 14 Anarchism—in as many various forms as one could imagine—was ever present and well recognized at the Ferrer Center.
The Mother Earth family established rapport with the Ferrer Center through their shared cosmopolitanism, educational values, and overlapping membership. Kelly described the center as “a live and vital place” filled with “most thoroughly cosmopolitan” associates. “Numerically the Jews predominated,” he recalled, “but there were Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Englishmen, Irishmen, Russians, Roumanians, Negroes, Asiatics, and visitors from various other ethnic groups, in addition to native-born Americans.” 15 The multiethnic, cross-class membership of the Ferrer Center resembled the family of Mother Earth . In the historian Paul Avrich’s oral history, Anarchist Voices , many (immigrant and native-born) veteran social rebels relished the memory of affiliating with the two groups in the exciting days of their youth. Frequenting Mother Earth ’s office to help, read, or socialize became a regular habit for many Ferrer School students. Some of them had learned about the Ferrer Center from Mother Earth ’s anarchists. 16 Mother Earth promoted events held by the Ferrer Center to such an extent that some in the mainstream press mixed up the two groups. 17
As the liberal atmosphere and iconoclastic attitude of the Ferrer Center facilitated its members’ association with Mother Earth ’s anarchists, its activities also brought them closer to anarchism. Robert Henri, the main figure of the Ashcan School, for example, developed his earlier encounter with Goldman into a friendship at the Ferrer Center. Henri first heard Goldman’s lecture on Tolstoy in 1911; impressed by her ideas and performance, he attended more of her talks in New York. He accepted Goldman’s invitation to teach an evening art class at the Ferrer Center, to which he invited his friends George Bellows and John Sloan. He read Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays (1911), subscribed to Mother Earth , heard her lectures, and even proposed to draw her; once he described her as a “very great woman.” 18 Goldman, for her part, had heard of Henri as “a man of advanced social views” and had seen his exhibitions. She enjoyed the “talks on art, literature, and libertarian education” with Henri and his wife as she sat for her portrait in his New York studio. 19 Seizing opportunities to invite numerous luminaries to join the teaching staff of the Ferrer Center, Goldman not only promoted its cultural reputation but also provided these eminent (wo)men of letters and arts with wider access to anarchism. The extensive manifestation of anarchism in the Ferrer Center allowed members to grasp its philosophy, not just in its socioeconomic and political sense, but via arts, literature, drama, and music—the way Goldman wanted it. In turn, she found an anarchistic spirit in many of her nonanarchist friends. Remembering Robert Henri fondly, she wrote, “He was in fact an anarchist in his conception of art and its relation to life.” 20
While Goldman boosted the reception of anarchism among the lecturers in the Ferrer Center, Berkman and other Mother Earth members were also engaged in labor activism there. The teachers at the Ferrer Center were largely native-born middle-class intellectuals, but the majority of the students came from working-class immigrant families. Under the libertarian influence of the center, students became defiant toward authorities and eager for justice and liberation, if not followers of anarchism. Their grievances against capitalist exploitation were deepened by the aggravating unemployment situation in early 1914. Labor struggles across New York City found active participation in the person of Berkman. In mid-1914, he and three young rebels, Arthur Caron, Carl Hanson, and Charles Berg, developed a plot to bomb the Tarrytown mansion of John D. Rockefeller Jr.

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