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Emma Goldman Quotes From the Activist and Anarchist

These Emma Goldman quotes express her thoughts on anarchism, religion, and other political issues.

Emma Goldman was an intriguing political figure in the 1900s.

She was an anarchist, political activist, and writer who dealt with predominantly women’s rights and other social issues.

She was sentenced to and spent, many years in jail.

The Russian-born anarchist advocated for free speech, free love, and sexual independence.

She thought women should have the right to use and access birth control.

She also fought for women’s equality in the workplace, and labor unions to organize.

She rallied against other political issues like the military draft, and American intervention in the Russian Revolution.

All of these causes are worthwhile and important, but Emma Goldman often found herself on the other side of the law.

This was because she participated in angry speeches, picketing, and even assassination attempts.

In 1892, she and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, who was her lover and lifelong friend, concocted a plan to assassinate industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick.

However, Frick survived the attempt on his life and Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The pair would get arrested together again in 1917.

To learn what crime they committed this time, keep reading through these Emma Goldman quotes.

Don’t forget to also check out these Barbara Jordan quotes from the woman and politician of many firsts.

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Emma Goldman quotes on anarchism and religion

1. “Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals.” ― Emma Goldman

2. “Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.” ― Emma Goldman

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3. “Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony.” ― Emma Goldman

4. “Anarchism alone stresses the importance of the individual, his possibilities and needs in a free society. Instead of telling him that he must fall down and worship before institutions, live and die for abstractions, break his heart and stunt his life for taboos, Anarchism insists that the center of gravity in society is the individual–that he must think for himself, act freely, and live fully.” ― Emma Goldman

5. “Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void since they can be fulfilled only through man’s subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in man.” ― Emma Goldman

6. “Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man’s needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct.” ― Emma Goldman

7. “Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails.” ― Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman quotes on love

8. “If love does not know how to give and take without restrictions, it is not love, but a transaction that never fails to lay stress on a plus and a minus.” ― Emma Goldman

9. “Whether love lasts but one brief span of time or for eternity, it is the only creative, inspiring, elevating basis for a new race, a new world.” ― Emma Goldman

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10. “The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.” ― Emma Goldman

11. “Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?” ― Emma Goldman

12. “Love is its own protection.” ― Emma Goldman

13. “All unnatural unions which are not hallowed by love are prostitution.” ― Emma Goldman

Political Emma Goldman quotes

14. “Politicians promise you heaven before election and give you hell after.” ― Emma Goldman

15. “The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.” ― Emma Goldman

16. “In modern capitalism economic exploitation rather than political oppression is the real enemy of the people.” ― Emma Goldman

17. “Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world, the mottos of which are: “To take is more blessed than to give”; “buy cheap and sell dear”; “one soiled hand washes the other.” ― Emma Goldman

18. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” ― Emma Goldman

19. “The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.” ― Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman quotes on society, civilization, and patriotism

20. “The most unpardonable sin in society is the independence of thought.” ― Emma Goldman

21. “Civilization has been a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of individuals against the State and even against “society,” that is, against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State worship.” ― Emma Goldman

22. “Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.” ― Emma Goldman

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23. “Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labeled Utopian.” ― Emma Goldman

24. “What a strange development of patriotism that turns a thinking being into a loyal machine!” ― Emma Goldman

25. “The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed.” ― Emma Goldman

What did you learn from these Emma Goldman quotes?

In 1917 Goldman and Berkman tried to convince people to avoid registering for the draft that America had just instated.

This act of defiance landed the pair a sentence of two years in jail.

After their release, it didn’t take them long to get arrested again, only this time, instead of jail time they, and 248 other people were deported to Russia.

She initially supported the October Revolution, but withdrew her support after the Kronstadt rebellion and left the Soviet Union and wrote a book titled, My Disillusionment in Russia.

The book chronicled the two years she spent there, before living in France, England, and Canada.

She then wrote another book, which was published in two volumes, called Living My Life.

The first volume was published in 1931 and the second in 1935.

Emma Goldman died at the age of 70, and everyone has a different opinion on her work and life.

Some believe her to be a free thinker who helped usher in a new way of looking at women and igniting the feminist movement.

Others see her as a rebel and a criminal.

What are your thoughts on Emma Goldman?

Do you have any other favorite Emma Goldman quotes and sayings to add?

You can share them with us in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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1 Comment
  1. Mike Starkey

    August 6, 2022 at 9:13 PM

    IEmma Goldman through these quotes wanted people to be individuals and not the property of the state. Ms Dahl did a fantastic job of showing how readers could come away with opposite opinions of EG. In fact thanks to Ms Dahl I changed my mind about EG. I have more sympathy for her. She was anti capitalist. Most Americans are anti capitalists even today. Most presidents are the same. This is where Emma Goldman failed. She failed to see that capitalism is individualism. EG saw capitalists as rich greedy special interests. And there are plenty of that breed. But without capitalism we would have no wealth. No property no property rights. That she didn’t get. It would be better to term the collusion and criminal activity that goes on in DC as crony fascism. Capitalism is voluntary cooperation among private individuals. What she hated was the Government industrial complex. That is fascism. It is unfortunate EG could not persuade Americans of the importance of individualism. Because what played out under Woody Wilson is playing out under FjB. Co incidentally both were brain damaged zombie presidents at the end of their lives.

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