50 Emma Goldman Quotes From the Activist and Anarchist

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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.

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

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

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

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

26. “The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.” ― Emma Goldman

27. “I discovered that those who want their property to be respected, have an interest in preaching the existence of paradise and hell, and in keeping the people in ignorance.” ― Emma Goldman

28. “The most violent element in society is ignorance.” ― Emma Goldman

29. “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.” ― Emma Goldman

30. “Every society has the criminals it deserves.” ― Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman quotes on women’s rights and more

31. “Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.” ― Emma Goldman

32. “Give us what belongs to us in peace, and if you don’t give it to us in peace, we will take it by force.” ― Emma Goldman

33. “No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness, and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” ― Emma Goldman

34. “It requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.” ― Emma Goldman

35. “It is essential that we realize once and for all that man is much more of a sex creature than a moral creature. The former is inherent, the other is grafted on.” ― Emma Goldman

36. “People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.” ― Emma Goldman

37. “Idealists foolish enough to throw caution to the winds have advanced mankind and have enriched the world.” ― Emma Goldman

38. “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.” ― Emma Goldman

39. “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.” ― Emma Goldman

40. “When we can’t dream any longer we die.” ― Emma Goldman

Other inspirational Emma Goldman quotes

41. “To the moralist prostitution does not consist so much in the fact that the woman sells her body, but rather that she sells it out of wedlock.” ― Emma Goldman

42. “The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.” ― Emma Goldman

43. “The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime.” ― Emma Goldman

44. “Let us not overlook vital things, because of the bulk of trifles confronting us.” ― Emma Goldman

45. “All claims of education notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind craves.” ― Emma Goldman

46. “Crime is naught but misdirected energy.” ― Emma Goldman

47. “So long as tyranny exists, in whatever form, man’s deepest aspiration must resist it as inevitably as man must breathe.” ― Emma Goldman

48. “Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.” ― Emma Goldman

49. “Industry is the ceaseless piracy of the rich against the poor.” ― Emma Goldman

50. “No other superstition is so detrimental to growth, so enervating and paralyzing to the minds and hearts of the people, as the superstition of Morality.” ― 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.

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