Emma Goldman passed her time in the penitentiary in the capacity of nurse in the prison hospital. Here she found opportunity to shed some rays of kindness into the dark lives of the unfortunates whose sisters of the street did not disdain two years previously to share with her the same house. She also found in prison opportunity to study English and its literature, and to familiarize her self with the great American writers. In Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson she found great treasures.
Another word on the condemnation of convicts to tasks at which they cannot hope to make a living after release. Indiana, for example, is a State that has made a great splurge over being in the front rank of modern penological improvements. Yet, according to the report rendered in 1908 by the training school of its “reformatory,” 135 were engaged in the manufacture of chains, 207 in that of shirts, and 255 in the foundry — a total of 597 in three occupations. But at this so-called reformatory 59 occupations were represented by the inmates, 39 of which were connected with country pursuits. Indiana, like other States, professes to be training the inmates of her reformatory to occupations by which they will be able to make their living when released. She actually sets them to work making chains, shirts, and brooms, the latter for the benefit of the Louisville Fancy Grocery Co. Broom-making is a trade largely monopolized by the blind, shirt-making is done by women, and there is only one free chain-factory in the State, and at that a released convict can not hope to get employment. The whole thing is a cruel farce.
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Today, even, nine years after the tragedy, after it was proven a hundred times that Emma Goldman had nothing to do with the event, that no evidence whatsoever exists to indicate that Czolgosz ever called himself an Anarchist, we are confronted with the same lie, fabricated by the police and perpetuated by the press. No living soul ever heard Czolgosz make that statement, nor is there a single written word to prove that the boy ever breathed the accusation. Nothing but ignorance and insane hysteria, which have never yet been able to solve the simplest problem of cause and effect.
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At the age of seven little Emma was sent by her parents to her grandmother at Königsberg, the city of Immanuel Kant, in Eastern Prussia. Save for occasional interruptions, she remained there till her 13th birthday. The first years in these surroundings do not exactly belong to her happiest recollections. The grandmother, indeed, was very amiable, but the numerous aunts of the household were concerned more with the spirit of practical rather than pure reason, and the categoric imperative was applied all too frequently. The situation was changed when her parents migrated to Königsberg, and little Emma was relieved from her rôle of Cinderella. She now regularly attended public school and also enjoyed the advantages of private instruction, customary in middle class life; French and music lessons played an important part in the curriculum. The future interpreter of Ibsen and Shaw was then a little German Gretchen, quite at home in the German atmosphere. Her special predilections in literature were the sentimental romances of Marlitt; she was a great admirer of the good Queen Louise, whom the bad Napoleon Buonaparte treated with so marked a lack of knightly chivalry. What might have been her future development had she remained in this milieu? Fate — or was it economic necessity? — willed it otherwise. Her parents decided to settle in St. Petersburg, the capital of the Almighty Tsar, and there to embark in business. It was here that a great change took place in the life of the young dreamer.
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It was an eventful period — the year of 1882 — in which Emma Goldman, then in her 13th year, arrived in St. Petersburg. A struggle for life and death between the autocracy and the Russian intellectuals swept the country. Alexander II. had fallen the previous year. Sophia Perovskaia, Zheliabov, Grinevitzky, Rissakov, Kibalchitch, Michailov, the heroic executors of the death sentence upon the tyrant, had then entered the Walhalla of immortality. Jessie Helfman, the only regicide whose life the government had reluctantly spared because of pregnancy, followed the unnumbered Russian martyrs to the étapes of Siberia. It was the most heroic period in the great battle of emancipation, a battle for freedom such as the world had never witnessed before. The names of the Nihilist martyrs were on all lips, and thousands were enthusiastic to follow their example. The whole intelligensia of Russia was filled with theillegal spirit: revolutionary sentiments penetrated into every home, from mansion to hovel, impregnating the military, the chinovniks, factory workers, and peasants. The atmosphere pierced the very casemates of the royal palace. New ideas germinated in the youth. The difference of sex was forgotten. Shoulder to shoulder fought the men and the women. The Russian woman! Who shall ever do justice or adequately portray her heroism and self-sacrifice, her loyalty and devotion? Holy, Turgeniev calls her in his great prose poem, On the Threshold.