Moving in with her stepsister’s family, Emma got a job in a factory sewing coats and earning $2.50 a week. She paid her sister $1.50 for room and board and spent 60 cents a week on carfare to get to and from her job, leaving her only with 40 cents for all her other needs. But when she asked her employer for more money he simply told her to “look for work elsewhere.” This she did, finding a job at another factory that paid $4.00 a week.
In 1887 she married Jacob Kirshnern, another Russian Immigrant, but they did not get along and soon divorced. She moved to new Haven, Connecticut, where she worked in a corset factory. In 1889 she moved to NYC. There she took up with a group of radicals most of them either socialists or anarchists. She herself was by this time an ardent anarchist, convinced by her experiences with all with the darker aspects of American Capitalism that all governments repressed individual freedom and should simply be abolished.
In New York, Emma fell in love with another Russia-Born radical, Alexander Berkman. They started a kind of commune with another couple, sharing everything equally. Emma worked at home sewing shirts. Alexander found a job making cigars. They never married.
Next, the couple moved back to New Haven, where Emma started a cooperative dressmaking shop. Then they moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where, with Berkman’s Cousin an artist, they opened a photography studio. When this business failed, they borrowed $150. And opened an ice-cream parlor.
Nearly all immigrants of that period retained their faith in the promise of America life even after they discovered that the streets were not paved with gold and that the people and the government were not as perfect as they had expected. But Emma was so disappointed that she became even more radical. The harsh punishment meted out the anarchists who were accused of Haymarket bombing of 1886 shocked her deeply.
In 1892, when she and Berkman learned of the bloody battle of Pinkertons and striker during the Homestead steel strikes, they closed the ice-cream parlor and went back to New York. They formed a plan to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the arch villain of the Homestead Drama. First they tried to manufacture a bomb, but that proved to be beyond their powers. Berkman then went to Pittsburg, where, posing as a representative of an agency that provided strikebreakers, he got into Frick’s office. Pulling a pistol, Berkman aimed for Frick in the shoulder. Berkman then stabbed Frick, but still homestead boss survived. Convicted of the attempt on Frick’s life, Berkman was imprisoned for fourteen years.
The next year Goldman was herself arrested and sentenced to a year in jail for making an “incendiary” speech urging unemployed workers to distrust politicians and demand government relief. Upon her release, she was taken up by leading native-born radicals. She got to know Lillian Wald and other New York settlement workers, but while she respected their motives, she disparaged their methods. It did little good to teach good table manners to people who had no food, she believed. Leaving the US, Goldman...