90+ Best Emma Goldman Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Emma Goldman was an anarchist political activist and writer. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Profoundly inspirational Emma Goldman quotes will encourage you to think a little deeper than you usually would and broaden your perspective.

If you’re searching for empowerment quotes by prominent activists that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of profound Gloria Steinem quotes, amazing Fred Hampton quotes and top Frederick Douglass quotes.

Famous Emma Goldman Quotes

When in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

What would you do with the lazy ones, who would not work? No one is lazy. They grow hopeless from the misery of their present existence and give up. Under our order of things, every man would do the work he liked, and would have as much as his neighbor, so could not be unhappy and discouraged.

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

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.

There are, however, some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.

Patriotism is a menace to liberty.

Never can a new idea move within the law. It matters not whether that idea pertains to political and social changes or to any other domain of human thought and expression – to science, literature, music; in fact, everything that makes for freedom and joy and beauty must refuse to move within the law. How can it be otherwise? The law is stationary, fixed, mechanical, ‘a chariot wheel’ which grinds all alike without regard to time, place and condition, without ever taking into account cause and effect, without ever going into the complexity of the human soul.

If I were to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere, destroying quality. Our entire life–production, politics, and education–rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding to life’s comforts and peace, has merely increased man’s burden.

Peace or harmony between the sexes and individuals does not necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor does it call for the elimination of individual traits and peculiarities. The problem that confronts us today, and which the nearest future is to solve, is how to be one’s self and yet in oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain one’s own characteristic qualities.

Militarism consumes the strongest and most productive elements of each nation. Militarism swallows the largest part of the national revenue.

The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.

Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man’s lot since gods began.

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.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion.

I don’t care if a man’s theory for tomorrow is correct, I care if his spirit of today is correct.

I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.

The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime.

Anarchism aims to strip labor of its deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real harmony, so that the poorest sort of a man should find in work both recreation and hope.

Top Emma Goldman Quotes

Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. Thus, love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king.

The average mind is slow in grasping a truth, but when the most thoroughly organized, centralized institution, maintained at an excessive national expense, has proven a complete social failure, the dullest must begin to question its right to exist. The time is past when we can be content with our social fabric merely because it is ordained by divine right, or by the majesty of the law.

Christianity is most admirably adapted to the training of slaves, to the perpetuation of a slave society.

Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an artificial being. Now, woman is confronted with the necessity of emancipating herself from emancipation, if she really desires to be free.

The average mind is easily content with inherited and acquired things, or with the dicta of parents and teachers, because it is much easier to imitate than to create.

The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.

The State, every government whatever its form, character or color – be it absolute or constitutional, monarchy or republic, Fascist, Nazi or bolshevik – is by its very nature conservative, static, intolerant of change and opposed to it.

The triumph of the philosophy of Atheism is to free man from the nightmare of gods; it means the dissolution of the phantoms of the beyond.

The most vital right is the right to love and be loved.

Nowhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but rather as a sex. It is therefore almost inevitable that she should pay for her right to exist, to keep a position in whatever line, with sex favors. Thus it is merely a question of degree whether she sells herself to one man, in or out of marriage, or to many men!… The economic and social inferiority of woman is responsible for prostitution.

Heaven must be an awfully dull place if the poor in spirit live there.

Religion is a superstition that originated in man`s mental inability to solve natural phenomena. The Church is an organized institution that has always been stumbling to block progress.

The individual is the true reality of life. A cosmos in himself, he does not exist for the State, nor for that abstraction called society, or the nation, which is only a collection of individuals.

It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life.

I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made.

Those who sit in a glass house do wrong to throw stones about them; besides, the American glass house is rather thin, it will break easily, and the interior is anything but a gainly sight.

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.

Lack of fairness to an opponent is essentially a sign of weakness.

No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution – Revolution is but thought carried into action. Every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass.

Religion! How it dominates man’s mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began.

The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.

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.

What a strange development of patriotism that turns a thinking being into a loyal machine!

No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time.

Woman, essentially a purist, is naturally bigoted and relentless in her effort to make others as good as she thinks they ought to be.

If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man.

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.

Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty.

The powers know that the people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and tears can be turned into joy with a little toy. … An army and navy represent the people’s toys.

Amazing Emma Goldman Quotes

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty…

Democracy must first be safe for America before it can be safe for the world.

I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.

The State is a term for the legislative and administrative machinery whereby certain business of the people is transacted, and badly so.

You cannot build up a standing army and then throw it back into a box like tin soldiers. Armies equipped to the teeth with weapons, with highly developed instruments of murder and backed by their military interests, have their own dynamic functions.

The Fathers of the Church can well afford to preach the gospel of Christ. It contains nothing dangerous to the regime of authority and wealth; it stands for self-denial and self-abnegation, for penance and regret, and is absolutely inert in the face of every [in]dignity, every outrage imposed upon mankind.

Thus Dante’s motto over Inferno applies with equal force to marriage: Ye who enter here leave all hope behind.

Idealists foolish enough to throw caution to the winds have advanced mankind and have enriched the world.

Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time.

Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world.

wealth means power: the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade.

Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness? Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race. Confucius cares not for the poverty, squalor and misery of the people of China. Buddha remains undisturbed in his philosophical indifference to the famine and starvation of outraged Hindoos; Jahve continues deaf to the bitter cry of Israel; while Jesus refuses to rise from the dead against his Christians who are butchering each other.

The soldier’s business is to take life. For that he is paid by the State, eulogized by political charlatans and upheld by public hysteria. But woman’s function is to give life, yet neither the State nor politicians nor public opinion have ever made the slightest provision in return for the life woman has given.

The most violent element in society is ignorance.

Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future.

Few countries have produced such arrogance and snobbishness as America. Particularly is this true of the American woman of the middle class. She not only considers herself the equal of man, but his superior, especially in her purity, goodness, and morality. Small wonder that the American suffragist claims for her vote the most miraculous powers. In her exalted conceit she does not see how truly enslaved she is, not so much by man, as by her own silly notions and traditions. Suffrage cannot ameliorate that sad fact; it can only accentuate it, as indeed it does.

What I believe is a process rather than a finality.

We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America.

A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.

Life without an ideal is spiritual death.

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.

Out of the chaos, the future emerges in harmony and beauty.

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.

All government in essence, says Emerson, is tyranny. It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.

Perhaps even more than constituted authority, it is social uniformity and sameness that harass the individual most.

Public school where the human mind is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation and oppression.

The higher mental development of woman, the less possible it is for her to meet a congenial male who will see in her, not only sex, but also the human being, the friend, the comrade and strong individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her character.

The experience of every-day life fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength. The same is historically true of governments. Really peaceful countries do not waste life and energy in war preparations, with the result that peace is maintained.

Atheism in its negation of gods is at the same time the strongest affirmation of man, and through man, the eternal yea to life, purpose, and beauty.

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.

It is the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power.

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.

I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.

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.

The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.

One cannot be too extreme in dealing with social ills; the extreme thing is generally the true thing.

No, it is not because woman is lacking in responsibility, but because she has too much of the latter that she demands to know how to prevent conception.

Morality and its victim, the mother – what a terrible picture! Is there indeed anything more terrible, more criminal, than our glorified sacred function of motherhood?

Some people never seem to learn from experience. No matter how often they had seen the lion devour the lamb, they continued to cling to the hope that the nature of the beast might change. If only the lion could get to know the lamb better, they argued, or talk matters over.

In taking out an insurance policy one pays for it in dollars and cents, always at liberty to discontinue payments. If, however, woman’s premium is a husband, she pays for it with her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life, until death doth part.

The American suffrage movement has been, until very recently, altogether a parlor affair, absolutely detached from the economic needs of the people.

It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom. It is the accumulated indignation against organized wrong, organized crime, organized injustice, which drives the political offender to act.

Every society has the criminals it deserves.

Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism.

When we can’t dream any longer we die.

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