Emma Goldman and James Colton papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 217 SWCC:MND/71
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 files, 1 volume and 1 item

Scope and Content

Contains letters written by Emma Goldman to James Colton and various miscellaneous items belonging to James Colton.

Administrative / Biographical History

Emma Goldman was born on the 27th June 1869 in Lithuania. She emigrated to the United States in 1885 and worked in a clothing factory in Rochester before moving to New York in 1889.

Emma Goldman was an anarchist. Influenced by the libertarian writings of Johann Most, and working closely with Alexander Berkman, she became active in the trade union movement. She was imprisoned when she was accused of urging the unemployed to steal the food they needed. After she was released from prison, Goldman became involved in the campaign for women's suffrage and birth control information. In 1901, when Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley, he claimed he had been influenced by the speeches of Goldman. As an opponent of America's involvement in the First World War, she was again imprisoned for two years for obstructing conscription.

In 1919, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were deported to Russia along with 236 other people, after Alexander M. Palmer, the attorney general and his special assistant, John Edgar Hoover, organized a plan to deport a large number of left-wing figures. They chose Emma Goldman, as they knew that a high profile case would help their campaign. Palmer particularly objected to her views on birth control, free love and religion and claimed that her speeches had inspired anarchists to commit acts of violence in the United States.

As an anarchist, Goldman was repelled by the Bolshevik dictatorship and so she came to Britain, where she married James Colton in 1925. James Colton was at the time in his mid-sixties and a widower. He was self educated and had thought his way to a libertarian position. Known in the collieries as 'no respecter of persons', he married Emma as both a defiance to the establishment and as a gesture of friendship to Emma (they had first met in the 1890s). Emma Goldman was now a legal British subject. Writing articles for newspapers and giving lectures all over Britain, she moved to France.

In September 1936, Emma Goldman visited Spain to observe the Spanish Civil War. She opened a FAI-CNT propaganda office in London after meeting leading figures in the National Confederation of Trabajo and Federacin Anarquista Ibrica, She also joined with Rebecca West, Sybil Thorndyke, Fenner Brockway and C. E. M. Joad to establish the Committee to Aid Homeless Spanish Women and Children. She visited Spain again in September 1937 and in the autumn in 1938, and died on 14th May 1940 in Toronto.

Along with Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman edited and published the journal, Mother Earth(1906-1917). She also wrote Anarchism and Other Essays (1910), The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (1914), Disillusionment in Russia(1923), and My Further Disillusionment in Russia(1924). The later two books are thought to have helped to turn a large number of socialists against the Bolshevik government. Her autobiography, Living My Life, was published in 1931.

For more information on Emma Goldman, see the Berkeley Library project  http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/The Emma Goldman Papers


Divided into 2 subfonds; letters from Emma Goldman to James Colton, and miscellaneous items belonging to James Colton.

Access Information

Access unrestricted unless stated otherwise.


Finding aid encoded by Julie Anderson April 2003 with reference to Rebel in paradise : a biography of Emma Goldman by Richard Drinnon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) and the Spartacus Educational website.

Other Finding Aids

A paper finding aid is available.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, contact repository for details. No publication without written permission from the Archivist.