Sophie Glidden-Lyon Research Question

Anarchism and Radical Community Building in Greenwich Village

I would like to use the narrative told in Emma Goldman’s autobiography Living My Life to explore the lives of anarchists living in Greenwich Village at the turn of the century. Goldman and her comrades - people like Alexander Berkman, Clara Lemlich, Ben Reitman, Justus has and others - embodied the idea of the personal as political. Much of their activism revolved around community building, and that community often found its heart in the village. I would like to focus on the apartments or saloons Goldman and her friends used as gathering places, most notably Goldman’s apartment on 13th street, Schwab’s house and saloon on E. 1st street, and Webster Hall, the site of many rallies and events. Additionally, I’d like to use Goldman’s publication, Mother Earth, to demonstrate the kind of political work being done. Using Goldman’s apartment as its headquarters, Mother Earth published a periodical full of essays and social commentary, as well as printing a number of monographs by anarchist authors. My thought is to create an exhibit that will illustrate the strong sense of family and community within Greenwich village anarchists despite many differing politics, as well as suppression coming from the state. I want to explore the idea of the personal as political in anarchist politics, while grounding those ideas in the physical space of the village to emphasize the focus on community and solidarity.

  • Why did the village became such a center of activity for turn of the century anarchists - not just for their politics, but for building their homes?
  • how did they build this community, through rallies, speeches, publications and acts of civil disobedience, but also through the homes they created for themselves, taking all shapes and sizes?
  • I would like to ground this community in a larger tradition of the village as something of a sanctuary for political dissidents and targets of state suppression and terrorism.
  • I plan to have pages focused on individuals, including but not limited to Emma Goldman, Berkman, Schwab and Clara Lemlich, their friendships and romantic relationships, since the idea of free love was integral to many of them.
  • I plan to have pages devoted to the histories of particular locations, including, but not limited to Goldman’s apt. On E. 13th Street, Webster Hall, 50 e. 1st street.
  • a page devoted to anarchism as practiced by village anarchists, and the oppression they faced
  • a page for Mother Earth to explore the publication as a community builder, as a way village anarchists defined their politics and communicated with each other.

Sources:

  • Living My Life, Emma Goldman
  • Anarchy! An Anthology of Mother Earth, Peter Glassgold, ed.
  • The Emma Goldman Papers (both print and online) (UC Berkley)
  • Emma Goldman Collection at Tamiment
  • Greenwich Village Historical Preservation Society
  • The Blast Alexander Berkman’s anarchist publication
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