Emma Goldman has always been one of my heroes, and that’s despite the fact that she never quite said that famous quote attributed to her about dancing & revolution. Or rather, she didn’t say the t-shirt version. What she said was:
â€œAt the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause. I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world â€” prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.â€
Which doesn’t fit on a t-shirt as readily as “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” (If anyone can make a t-shirt out of what she actually said, I want one!)
It’s from her memoir Living My Life, Pt. 1, page 56. Definitely a book worth reading, and you can read it online, for free, at the Anarchist Archives.
She was, as many know, a pro-choice, family planning advocate (for which she was arrested several times) but what a lot of people don’t know is that she disagreed with the majority of leftist contemporaries in her outspoken support for LGBT people way back when.Â (She was also a free love advocate, which we might call poly these days.)