Emma Goldman’s beliefs have always been considered radical. It was daring, and often illegal, to lecture on homosexuality (“the intermediate sex” in the day’s parlance) and on love outside the institution of marriage. She evinced respect from prostitutes when legislation ostensibly aimed at preventing “white slave traffic” actually criminalized consensual sex, and, in 1916, she risked arrest under the Comstock “obscenity” laws in the US for advocating access to birth control.
Yet her bold public affirmation of the many faces of intimacy – whether between women or between unmarried partners – never secured for Emma a license for unfettered openness about her own personal life. Her hidden letters remain a valuable record of her own relationship to many of the subjects about which she impersonally – though passionately – lectured and wrote.