Exhibitions and Interpretive Programs

The Emma Goldman Exhibit: A Tribute to Feminist Women's History

AHA Staff, March 1990

J. Edgar Hoover once described Emma Goldman as one of the "most dangerous anarchists in this country." Goldman's criticism of mandatory conscription and her advocacy of women's rights, free love, birth control, free speech, and worker's rights set the historical precedent for some of today's most important political debates, yet also earned her the nickname "Red Emma" and resulted in her deportation to Russia in 1919. Now the Emma Goldman Papers Project has created an exhibit that commemorates the life of this controversial and influential woman fifty years after her death. Highlights from the Goldman exhibit were seen by many at the AHA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, and the exhibit is currently touring locations across the United States and internationally (see below for upcoming places and dates). Historical photographs, personal letters, government documents, and other memorabilia trace Goldman's political and personal evolution with an emphasis on her life-long advocacy of free speech and reproductive rights. Included are correspondence from Goldman to birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, the government warrant for Goldman's deportation, and newspaper articles and editorial cartoons illustrating the controversy Goldman sparked wherever she lectured.

The exhibit distills ten years of research by the staff of the Emma Goldman Papers Project at the University of California, Berkeley led by editor and director Candace Falk.

Falk first encountered Goldman's letters in 1975 when a friend showed her a box of papers he had found in the back of his Chicago guitar shop. To her surprise, Falk discovered the box contained hundreds of passionate love letters Goldman wrote her lover and manager, Ben Reitman, between 1908 and 1916. The letters ignited Falk's interest in Goldman and led to the completion of Love, Anarchy, and Emma Goldman (Holt 1984), a study of the problematic relationship between Goldman's public advocacy of free love and total independence and her personal passion for Reitman.

Since 1980, Falk has pursued her interest in Goldman at the Emma Goldman Papers Project. She and her staff have collected, organized, and edited tens of thousands of documents by and about Emma Goldman from around the world.

For the exhibit, they selected thirty-seven pieces that celebrate Goldman's role in establishing free speech and reproductive rights. More than sixty thousand additional documents from the collection will be published in microfilm edition during 1990 with an index to follow.

Funding for the Emma Goldman Papers Project has come from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Endowment for the Humanities, a number of small foundations, and individual donations. The project is a formal extension of NHPRC's "Founding Fathers" publication program.

Emma Goldman Exhibit Schedule

March: Women's Center of San Joaquin County, Stockton, CA

Apr. 16–May 18: Stanford Universtity, Tressider Student Union, Stanford, CA

May: New York University, Tamiment Libary, New York, NY

June 8–10: Berkshire Conference on the History of Women Annual Meeting, Woodlawn House, Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

June 20–24: National Women's Studies Association Annual Meeting, E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Center, University of Akron, Akron, OH

The exhibit may be reserved for display at universities, libraries, museums, women's centers, and conferences. For more information contact: Sally Thomas or Susan Wengraf at (415) 643-8518.