Mar. 1906 – Aug. 1917
Place(s) of Publication:
New York, NY
Frequency of Publication:
10 cents per issue / $1.00 per year
Emma Goldman (Mar. 1906 – Oct. 1908; Apr. 1915 – Apr. 1918)
Alexander Berkman (Nov. 1908 – Mar. 1915)
Libraries with Complete Original Issues:
Cornell University; Columbia University; Ohio State University
New York: Greenwood Reprint Co., 1968
Full searchable PDF of April 1911 issue available online at Brown University’s Modernist Journals Project.
Full images of February 1915 issue available online at PBS’s American Experience.
Emma Goldman, a renowned anarchist and acclaimed orator, published the first issue of Mother Earth in March 1906. In Mother Earth Goldman advocated radical political causes, labor agitation, and even opposition to the U.S. government in a number of issues. Goldman envisioned a magazine of not only criticism but of verse. However, during its twelve-year run, Goldman drew upon her favorite realist writers such as Ibsen and Emerson to fulfill the literary component of the magazine. The magazine is not frequently associated with the up-and-coming radical and experimental poets of the time as much as it is considered a collection of Goldman’s anarchist writings. Friend and ally Alexander Berkman joined the project after his release from prison in May of 1908. Goldman’s lecture circuit, which at times led to her arrest, furnished the revenue to allow the dup to publish 136 consecutive issues of Mother Earth.
In June of 1917 Woodrow Wilson signed the Espionage Act, which set penalties for aiding the U.S.’s enemies, interfering with the draft, or encouraging disloyalty in the armed forces. Later that day officials raided the Mother Earth office and arrested Goldman and Berkman. The confiscated documents included letters, magazine subscription lists, and membership lists for the No-Conscription League. With Mother Earth barred from the postal system, Goldman and Berkman released their first issue of the Mother Earth Bulletin in September of 1917. Its opening number blasted the government, describing how “the Postmaster General has become the absolute dictator over the press” and explaining that because “MOTHER EARTH will not comply with these regulations and will not appear in an emasculated form, it prefers to take a long needed rest until the world has regained its sanity.” Goldman and Berkman continued to release the Mother Earth Bulletin in the magazine’s stead until April 1918.
The following manifesto outlines Emma Goldman and Max Baginski’s beliefs on the relationship between mankind and mother earth. The concluding paragraph details the goals the editors have for their magazine.
HERE was a time when men imagined the Earth as the center of the universe. The stars, large and small, they believed were created merely for their delectation. It was their vain conception that a supreme being, weary of solitude, had manufactured a giant toy and put them into possession of it.
“When, however, the human mind was illumined by the torch-light of science, it came to understand that the Earth was but one of a myriad of stars floating in infinite space, a mere speck of dust.
“Man issued from the womb of Mother Earth, but he knew it not, nor recognized her, to whom he owed his life. In his egotism he sought an explanation of himself in the infinite, and out of his efforts there arose the dreary doctrine that he was not related to the Earth, that she was but a temporary resting place for his scornful feet and that she held nothing for him but temptation to degrade himself. Interpreters and prophets of the infinite sprang into being, creating the “Great Beyond” and proclaiming Heaven and Hell, between which stood the poor, trembling human being, tormented by that priest-born monster, Conscience.
“In this frightful scheme, gods and devils waged eternal war against each other with wretched man as the prize of victory; and the priest, self-constituted interpreter of the will of the gods, stood in front of the only refuge from harm and demanded as the price of entrance that ignorance, that asceticism, that self-abnegation which could but end in the complete subjugation of man to superstition. He was taught that Heaven, the refuge, was the very antithesis of Earth, which was the source of sin. To gain for himself a seat in Heaven, man devastated the Earth. Yet she renewed herself, the good mother, and came again each Spring, radiant with youthful beauty, beckoning her children to come to her bosom and partake of her bounty. But ever the air grew thick with mephitic darkness, ever a hollow voice was heard calling: “Touch not the beautiful form of the sorceress; she leads to sin!”
“But if the priests decried the Earth, there were others who found in it a source of power and who took possession of it. Then it happened that the autocrats at the gates of Heaven joined forces with the powers that had taken possession of the Earth; and humanity began its aimless, monotonous march. But the good mother sees the bleeding feet of her children, she hears their moans, and she is ever calling to them that she is theirs!”
“To the contemporaries of George Washington, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, America appeared vast, boundless, full of promise. Mother Earth, with the sources of vast wealth hidden within the folds of her ample bosom, extended her inviting and hospitable arms to all those who came to her from arbitrary and despotic lands–Mother Earth ready to give herself alike to all her children. But soon she was seized by the few, stripped of her freedom, fenced in, a prey to those who were endowed with cunning and unscrupulous shrewdness. They, who had fought for independence from the British yoke, soon became dependent among themselves; dependent on possessions, on wealth, on power. Liberty escaped into the wilderness, and the old battle between the patrician and the plebeian broke out in the new world, with greater bitterness and vehemence. A period of but a hundred years had sufficed to turn a great republic, once gloriously established, into an arbitrary state which subdued a vast number of its people into material and intellectual slavery, while enabling the privileged few to monopolize every material and mental resource!”
“During the last few years, American journalists have had much to say about the terrible conditions in Russia and the supremacy of the Russian censor. Have they forgotten the censor here? a censor far more powerful than him of Russia. Have they forgotten that every line they write is dictated by the political color of the paper they write for; by the advertising firms; by the money power; by the power of respectability; by Comstock? Have they forgotten that the literary taste and critical judgment of the mass of the people have been successfully moulded to suit the will of these dictators, and to serve as a go od business basis for shrewd literary speculators? The number of Rip Van Winkles in life, science, morality, art, and literature is very large. Innumerable ghosts, such as Ibsen saw when he analyzed the moral and social conditions of our life, still keep the majority of the human race in awe!”
“MOTHER EARTH will endeavor to attract and appeal to all those who oppose encroachment on public and individual life. It will appeal to those who strive for something higher, weary of the commonplace; to those who feel that stagnation is a deadweight on the firm and elastic step of progress; to those who breathe freely only in limitless space; to those who long for the tender shade of a new dawn for a humanity free from the dread of want, the dread of starvation in the face of mountains of riches. The Earth free for the free individual!”
“Mother Earth.” 1:1 (Mar. 1906): 1.
Emma Goldman (Jun. 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940)
Editor: Mar. 1906 – Oct. 1908; Apr. 1915 – Apr. 1918
“Red Emma” was a Russian-born sexual revolutionist and an outspoken anarchist. While working in New York factories she befriended Alexander Berkman, and together they founded Mother Earth magazine to dispense their anarchist philosophies. She flirted with jail time throughout the first two decades of the 20th century, as her lengthy lecture circuits regarded such taboos and illegalities as birth control, anarchism, refusal to join the draft, and riot-mongering. She was even arrested as an accessory to the assassination attempt of President McKinley, although the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Goldman’s No Conscription League finally doomed her anarchism career in the United States: the same day that Woodrow Wilson signed the Espionage Act, the Mother Earth offices were raided, Goldman and Berkman were sent to jail, and as soon as they had finished their two years in prison, they were deported to Soviet Russia. She expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the Bolsheviks and tried in vain to regain citizenship in the United States. She later lived in England and France and continued lecturing and writing memoirs and autobiographies, including Living My Life. She died in Canada at the age of 70.
Alexander Berkman (Nov. 21, 1870 – Jun. 28, 1936)
Editor: Nov. 1908 – Mar. 1915
Rebellious even as a child, Alexander Berkman emigrated to New York City in 1887 after being expelled from his Russian school for submitting an essay espousing atheism. There he became active in anarchism, speaking out on behalf of the perpetrators in the Haymarket Bombing. He found a kindred spirit in Emma Goldman, with whom he became a lover and co-founder of Mother Earth. Later, he published his own magazine, The Blast. A wild attempt on the life of notorious industrialist Henry Clay Frick in 1892 conferred him a 22-year sentence in jail, of which he served 14 years. After his release, he published the celebrated Prison Memoirs, reflecting on his time in jail, but his hand in the No Conscription League returned him to prison until his deportation to Russia in 1919. Like Goldman, he was distraught by Russia’s state, and published The Bolshevik Myth to outline the problems with Communism. He moved to France in 1925 and spent the rest of his life there until the pain associated with a prostrate condition drove him to shoot himself in 1936.
Frances Wauls Bjorkman
“Vive le Roi”
“On the Road”
“An Immoral Writer”
“Socialism and Fatalism”
“The Cry of Toil”
“Brain Work and Manual Work”
“The Law of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’”
Wim C. Owen
“Marx v. Nietzsche”
Alvan F. Sanborn
“The Revolutionary Spirit in French Literature”
“The Power of the Plutocrat”
“Alexander Berkman – Biographical Material.” Anarchy Archives. 12 Feb. 2000. Pitzer College. 6 July 2009.
Brennan, Carol. “Emma Goldman.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit, Gale 2000. Literature Resource Center. Davidson College Lib., Davidson, NC. 1 July 2009.
“Emma Goldman.” American Experience. PBS. 13 July 2009.
Goldman, Emma and Max Baginski. “Mother Earth.” Mother Earth. 1 (1906): 1-3. 1 May 2007.
Goldman, Emma. “What I Believe.” Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader. Ed. Alix Kates Shulman. New York: Schocken Books, 1983.
Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1947.
Images, Feb. 1915 issue. “Mother Earth Magazine.” American Experience: Emma Goldman. 11 Mar. 2004. PBS. 21 July 2009.
Image, handbill. “Emma Goldman and Free Speech.” 2 July 2003. Berkley Digital Library SunSITE. 13 July 2009.
Images, June 1912 issue. “Mother Earth.” Modernist Journals Project: 1910 Collection. Brown University. 21 July 2009.
Image, police photograph. “Index of /bleed/Encyclopedia/GoldmanEmma.” Recollection Books. 13 July 2009.
Monk, Craig. “Emma Goldman, Mother Earth, & The Little Magazine Impulse in Modern America.” ‘The Only Efficient Instrument’ American Women Writers & the Periodical, 1837-1916. Eds. Aleta Feinsod Cane and Susan Alves. Iowa City: Iowa UP, 2001.
“People & Events: Henry Clay Frick (1849 – 1919).” American Experience: Emma Goldman. 11 Mar. 2004. PBS. 6 July 2009.
“Timeline: Anarchism and Emma Goldman.” American Experience: Emma Goldman. 11 Mar. 2004. PBS. 6 July 2009.
“Mother Earth” compiled by Kristen Psaki (Class of ’07, Davidson College)