"The Most Dangerous Woman in the World"
The Amman Valley Connection

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all human beings, irrespective of race, color, or sex, are born with the equal right to share at the table of life." Emma Goldman, 'A New Declaration of Independence' (1909)

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman


Warren Beatty as John Reed in the Oscar winning film Reds.

The Hollywood movie Reds won three Oscars in 1981 – for best film, best cinematography and best supporting actress. Although the starring actor Warren Beatty, who also wrote, produced and directed the film, missed out on the best actor award himself, the best supporting actress oscar went to character actress Maureen Stapleton for her portrayal of American feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman.

Emma Goldman, who died in 1940, would have been amazed at such respectability bestowed upon her, albeit posthumously. In her lifetime she was labelled the most dangerous woman in the world, called the 'high-priestess of anarchy', imprisoned numerous times in the USA, accused of taking part in the assassination of the American president in 1901, stripped of her American citizenship in 1919, deported to her native Russia and then hounded from country to country, never being allowed back into the USA. 'Reds' depicted Russia at the time of the 1917 October revolution and the film was based on a biography of American journalist John Reed, 'Romantic Revolutionary', published in 1975 by Robert Rosenstone. Reed, played by Beatty in the film, had also written a celebrated book on the events surrounding the revolution, 'Ten Days that Shook the World'. Emma Goldman arrived there in January 1920 and like Reed, soon became disillusioned by the course the revolution was taking and her initial feelings of euphoria soon degenerated into dismay as revolution was followed by dictatorship, hope by despair.

What Warren Beatty neglected to mention in his film, admittedly because he didn't know, was that Emma Goldman married a coal miner from our very own Amman Valley called James Colton in order to obtain British citizenship. Still, perhaps Beatty and Hollywood can be forgiven if they saw the Russian revolution as rather a larger backdrop to their film than our obscure little valley, nestling shyly between the Betws and Black Mountains.

We'll provide the missing information ourselves, after a brief detour into the life of Emma Goldman, a figure for whom the well-worn phrase larger than life seems to have been especially invented. Afterwards, we'll publish some letters written by Emma Goldman to James Colton, letters which are quite moving in many ways, not least in their depiction of the life of an itinerant, poverty-stricken political activist wandering around Europe in that omen-laded period between two World Wars, and not missing out our own little valley en route, of course.

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman

The Queen of Anarchy:
The Carmarthenshire Connection
by Dr Huw Walters
First published in The Carmarthenshire Antiquary,
Volume XXXIX, 2003, pages 114 - 121

Emma Goldman about 1910

In December 1885 a small band of Lithuanian Jews emigrated to New York. At that time Lithuania formed part of the Russian Empire, and like so many emigrants from Eastern Europe in the last quarter of the nineteenth century these Jews were seeking refuge from oppression in America. Among the refugees were two young sisters, Helena and Emma Goldman, and scarcely could any of their fellow travellers have imagined how influential one of these girls would become in the political life of the United States.
......Emma Goldman was born in the Lithuanian city of Kovno on 27 June 1869, the daughter of an innkeeper, Abraham Goldman, and his wife Taube. She received four years of primary education in a Jewish school in Königsberg, but in 1882 she moved with the family to the Jewish ghetto in St Petersburg. These were troubled times in Russia's history, with Tsar Alexander II newly assassinated. Revolution was in the air, and like so many young people of her country, Emma started reading the radical literature of the period, – the works of Turgenev and Chernyshevsky, and women like Vera Zasulich and Sophia Pevovskaya became her heroines.
......According to the testimony of those who knew him, Abraham Goldman was a hard and cruel man and, according to Emma herself, the bane of her childhood. When he tried to force her to marry in 1885, she and her sister decided to seek a new home in the United States. There she found work in a clothing factory in the Jewish ghetto in Rochester, where she worked ten hours a day for a wage of two and a half dollars a week, and it was not long before she realized that the condition of ordinary workers in America was not much different from that of their counterparts in Russia.
......It was a time of industrial unrest in the United States, and the growth of trade unionism caused regular clashes between master and worker. In 1887 four workers were hanged for inciting a riot at Haymarket Square in Chicago. This event had a profound effect on Emma, and when she moved to New York in August 1889 she joined a group of anarchists led by Johann Most, editor of the anarchist newspaper Freiheit. She met Alexander Berkman, a young Russian who shared her ideals, the same month, and the two became lovers. A year later, she embarked on her first lecture tour to Rochester, Buffalo and Cleveland, thereby beginning her career as one of the most eloquent speakers of her day.

Newspaper article at the time of the President McKinley assassination and Emma Goldman's arrest. The headline reads: "Emma Goldman, high priestess of anarchy, whose speeches inspired Czolgosz to his crime." She was later released without any charges.

...,.She came to realize that addressing meetings and distributing leaflets were not enough, and in 1892 an opportunity arose for her and Berkman to act directly against the establishment. On 6 July that year, nine striking steel workers from the Carnegie Steel Company were killed, and hundreds were injured in a riot in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Emma and Berkman, angered by the incident, immediately left for Homestead, where Berkman shot the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, Henry Clay Frick. Although Frick recovered from his injuries and succeeded in breaking the workers' union, Berkman was sentenced to twenty two years imprisonment. A year later, Emma herself was imprisoned on Blackwell Island for declaring, in a speech to a crowd in Union Square, New York, that the unemployed had a perfect right to steal bread if the state failed to support them.
......During the year she spent in prison Emma had the opportunity to carry out some practical work as a nurse, and in 1895 she left New York to follow a nursing course in Vienna. She also visited London, where she spoke in Hyde Park and met Peter Kropotkin. She then completed a lecture tour of the north of England and Scotland. On returning to America in 1896 she resumed her mission with zeal. She was ever critical of the institution of marriage, no doubt because of the complete failure of her own marriage to the Russian, Jacob Kersner, which lasted barely a year. During this period Emma became well known for advocating the latest methods of birth control, but all this activity came to a sudden end in 1901, when Leon Czosolgosz, a young man who professed to be an anarchist, assassinated William McKinley, President of the United States, in Buffalo, New York. In his confession Czolgosz declared: 'I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. Her words set me on fire. What started the craze to kill was a lecture I heard her deliver some time ago in Cleveland. I and other anarchists went to hear her'. As a result Goldman was also arrested and accused of being involved in the assassination plot, but she was later released for lack of evidence.
......Goldman devoted herself during the next few years to writing, and in 1906 she founded a radical monthly magazine entitled Mother Earth. Berkman assisted her with the magazine when he was released from prison. Her Anarchism and Other Essays appeared in 1910, and in the years that followed she proceeded to publish the classic works of Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, Bakunin and Kropotkin. In her fortieth year she met the twenty nine year old Benjamin Lewis Reitman, a hobo-doctor, bisexual, with whom she fell so completely in love that she was consumed with a kind of erotomania. The language she used in her correspondence with him would be considered extreme even today, and her letters to Reitman have been described as 'pages of pornographic ravings.' (see note 1 below)
......Despite Emma's low profile during the first decade of the twentieth century, some government officials were busy trying to unearth incriminating evidence which they might be able to use at some future date to deprive her of her citizenship. That opportunity came in 1917 when she and Berkman were arrested for leading the opposition to the Great War and holding public meetings against military conscription. Both were jailed for two years, and during this period J. Edgar Hoover worked on preparing a case against them. On their release from prison in 1919, they were deported to the Soviet Union along with other people of dubious character.
......It might be imagined that Emma would have felt quite at home in the Soviet Union after the Revolution in 1917, but this was not the case. Completely disillusioned, she was vehemently opposed to the new order, chronicling her experiences in 1923 in the volume My Disillusionment in Russia. Consequently Emma and Berkman left for Europe in 1921, and spent some periods in England, Sweden and Germany, writing and addressing political meetings. But she longed to return to America, and she could only realize this dream by becoming a British citizen.

Police 'mugshot' of Emma Goldman (taken Sept 10, 1901) when she was arrested for her alleged part in the assassination of President McKinley. (United States Library of Congress)

.....In October 1926 she arrived in Canada, hoping to return to the United States. By then she claimed British citizenship through her marriage on June 27 1925 to James Colton, a collier from the Amman Valley in Carmarthenshire. News of this wedding caused a considerable stir among senior government officials in America, second only to the stir it caused in the Amman Valley. Journalists from the New York Times and reporters from the London newspapers were regular visitors to the Amman Valley in the following months, eager to scoop the story of the courtship. But James Colton was a taciturn man. According to a report published in The New York Times on 21 November 1926:

Glanamman, Carmarthenshire, South Wales: Cupid was armed with a coal pick when he dug his way into the heart of Emma Goldman. James Colton, a miner living here, is the man whom the Anarchist leader chose after spurning marriage for forty years. Colton won't say much at present about the romance, which he considers 'the personal affair of the two of us', but told the Associated Press: 'I have just completed writing the first true story of our association which extends over twenty years. It is a story that many have sought since the news of our romance was broadcast throughout the world, but as yet I have the manuscript in my desk, and perhaps it may remain there always. I am at liberty, however, to make public these interesting details when I see fit'
......Recent Canadian dispatchers told of the arrival here of the former Miss Goldman under the name of Mrs E. G. Colton. Colton, who is of Scotch birth calls the little home which he has long lived as a bachelor – 'Station Cottage'. There are several photographs of Mrs Colton on the walls, and a small likeness in a silver frame on his desk near the window, where he writes in his hours of freedom from the mines.
......Neighbors say the couple met twenty odd years ago. Then came a long period during which they did not see each other. Miss Goldman spent most of her time in the U.S.A. until she was deported in 1919. When the Bolsheviki forced her out of Russia, Cupid got busy again and brought them together, and the romance of the Anarchist and the miner ripened. The neighbor's won't say much about the romance because they all like Colton and agree with him that if he has married it is 'his affair and hers', and that Jim will tell all about it when the time arrives (see note 2 below).

......In the summer of 1974, I had the opportunity of visiting, at her home in Pontardawe, Mrs Fay Colton, Jim Colton's daughter-in-law, whose late husband (also named Jim) had worked with my grandfather at the Gelliceidrim colliery in Glanaman. Mrs Colton showed me a large scrap-book of press cuttings about Goldman, which her father-in-law had kept, together with a small collection of Goldman's letters to Jim Colton. However, there was no sign of the 'manuscript' mentioned in the report which was published in The New York Times. Mrs Colton was familiar with the Colton-Goldman story, and confirmed that her father-in-law was born in Scotland in 1860, and had moved to Penarth, near Cardiff, when he was a boy. He then found employment in a bakery at Upper Boat, near Pontypridd. However, he later moved to Glanaman where he became a miner at the Gelliceidrim colliery.
......There were in the Aman Valley at this time, a number of young men who held radical ideas in social doctrine. In 1913 the eccentric millionaire George Davison, managing director of the Kodak Company, had purchased the old vicarage in Ammanford for £1,500, and had presented it to a group of local radicals as a centre for the study and promotion of political ideas (see note 3 below). Soon, the 'White House', as it was called, became known as a meeting place for the young socialists of the district, and Noah Ablett, T. Rhondda Williams, T. E. Nicholas and the brothers Stet and Ben Wilson of Berkeley, California, addressed meetings there from time to time (see note 4 below). Jim Colton probably attended these meetings at the White House and came to know other early socialists in the Aman Valley, such as Jack Griffiths, Edgar Bassett, D. R. Owen, Harry Arthur and James Griffiths (see note 5 below). It is believed that he first met Emma Goldman when she was on a lecture tour in Edinburgh in the 1890s, and that their friendship was renewed when she returned to lecture in the south Wales valleys in the 1920s. Jim Colton was aware of her desire to return to the United States, and as he had buried his first wife, he suggested that they marry in order to secure British citizenship for her. The marriage took place in London on 27 June 1925.
......There are only two references to James Colton in Emma's autobiography, Living My Life, but the letters to her husband, show that she was not a woman to forget a kindness. On 22 June 1926, a few days before the first anniversary of their marriage, with the great miners' strike at its height, Emma wrote to him:
......Another five days and it will be a year that you have taken the anxiety from me as to where I might have some safety. I shall always remember that, dear friend. I want you to have a little holiday on the 27th ... for that I enclose a £1. I wish I could make it a hundred times as much. I'd love to be able to help the miners.
......However, Emma's wish to return to America was not realised until 1940 when she was buried in the Waldheim cemetery in Chicago in May of that year.
......The story of her stormy career became the theme of the Hollywood film Reds, starring Warren Beatty, – a film which won a number of Oscar awards in 1981 for best film and best cinematography. Maureen Stapleton was also awarded an Oscar for her portrayal of the American feminist and anarchist. In 1999 the Teliesyn Co-operative under the directorship of Colin Thomas produced a Welsh language documentary on the anarchist's relationship with Jim Colton (note 6 below) . Goldman's life and work has also become a rich field of study for historians and feminists alike, but her relationship with James Colton, a miner from the Aman Valley still remains shrouded in mystery.

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman


Letters 1 – 4 and 6, of the following six letters were transcribed in 1974. Copies are deposited in the South Wales Coalfield Collection at the Library of the University of Wales, Swansea, and the Department of Manuscripts and Records at the National Library of Wales. Letter 5, by Jim Colton, is reproduced by kind permission of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, where the Emma Goldman papers are housed.


Redland, Bristol
Nov 4th 1925

Emma Goldman's fellow-anarchist husband, James Colton. This photo shows Colton in his sixties, around the time he married Emma Goldman in London on June 27th 1925.


My Dear Jim,
I found your letter on my return from Birmingham Monday, but as I had to lecture here in the evening I could not possibly write to you.
......Yesterday I spent from 10 am to 6 pm preparing my notes for the last lecture here tomorrow night. I had planned to write you this morning and then your letter arrived with one from Swansea enclosed. Thank you my dear Jim.
......I have written to the Hon. Secretary of the Jewish Club in Swansea, here is a copy so you will know what I wrote. I simply have to charge a fee. I cannot keep up lecturing without some recompense to enable me to live. I am sure the Jewish Club must have some means and there is no reason why they should not pay. I take it that they are all shopkeepers so they are sure to be able to afford it. Anyway, I must insist on some remuneration.
......So Bassett wants to be present at our gathering of comrades? (see note 7 below) Well, as we are not going to discuss 'conspiracies' there is no reason why he should not be. I take it that the private discussion you and Edmunds have in mind will take place Saturday evening. Am I right?
......Now as to a meeting on Monday at Gwaun Cae Gurwen. Unless you can do so with a very small expense, I do not think it ought to be undertaken since you have been ill and out of work so long and the other comrades too have been under the difficulties and hardship of unemployment. I just can't bear the idea of comrades covering difficulties for my meetings. Of course there will be no expense connected with me except my stay. I have to insist that the trades council pay my fare and let me make my appeal for the R.P. And the Jewish Club will have to pay some fee. So if a meeting is arranged for Monday, the expense will be the hall and printing. Do you think they could be covered with a collection? Else it ought not be undertaken. It were difficult if you people had been at work. Though you earn little enough still I should have felt no regrets if you were to pitch together, we have all done that in the past when there was still some enthusiasm. But without work, comrades cannot be expected to stand losses. So you and the others better think it over about a meeting on Monday.
......I had a large attendance in Birmingham on the Russian theatre. There is a likelihood that I may go back for more lectures after the Christmas holidays. It is a slow grind, and so discouraging. In this city there will probably not be much more than ten pounds surplus for three weeks hard labour for I certainly worked here from morning until night. If I had to pay my upkeep I would not have a penny left from my ten pounds. But I am with Julie Gibson and Chris Lewis, dear comrades.
......But it does not make me very happy that I must burden them for they are by no means able to feed people for three weeks. Then there is the fare from London and return. So you can see that in a material sense I have gained precious little for my efforts in this city. The only consolation is that I now have my lectures for the London course prepared and that I have aroused some interest in this city which may develop into something more profitable in the future. I don't know, I cling to hope, that is all one can do.
......I am so glad you are better dear Jim. I hope you will keep fit from now on. The winter must be more trying in your work than the summer.
Take care of yourself dear friend.


3 Titchfield Terrace, St John's Wood, London
15 November 1925

My Dear Jim
Thank you so much for the fine spirit in which you took my suggestion. I knew you would understand the situation. I am glad that a few of the younger men are interested in our ideas. It is the highest time. I will be very happy to talk to them, but when is that to be? Do you people have in mind more than one meeting, or is it to be a private gathering where the boys are to meet me? I would like to know because I always like to come ready if I am to lecture.
......It will be quite impossible for me to come on an early train next Saturday. I lecture Thursday and Friday evening, so I shall be too tired to dash out early Saturday to arrive on the train as you suggested. It will be ample time if I get to Neath around five or six if I can get such a train. Since we are not to have an open meeting on Saturday evening, it does not matter if I am not rested. I prefer not to have to rush in the morning. Please tell me about another train, one that would arrive in the late afternoon, and what station do I go from in L[ondon]. Frankly I have forgotten. I think it is Paddington, is it not? Yes, that would be fine if I could get a cheap rate, the railroad fares swallow up everything. But in any event, the Neath people will have to pay for that (see note 8 below).
......I will bring along more Bulletins and I am having six copies of my Disillusionment British edition, sent to you, also two copies of the Memoirs, it is all I have now. I will also bring a few of my Essays. I think you have the other literature which was left last time? Some pamphlets, do you not? Please write full particulars about a fast train



Mm. E. Colton, Maison Mussier, Chemin St. Atoine, St. Tropez (Var), France
June 22nd. 1926

My Dear Jim,
Forgive my slackness in replying to your dear letter. I have started on my Mss. on the Russian drama and as I am also keeping house it really takes all my time and leaves me little leisure for my correspondence. I have, as a matter of fact cut down on my correspondence. I have asked my friends to be satisfied with postcards for a while. But it is different with you my dear comrade. I don't want to keep you waiting too long. Another five days and it will be a year that you have taken the anxiety from me as to where I might have some safety (see note 9 below). I shall always remember that dear friend. I want you to have a little holiday on the 27th especially as it falls on a Sunday. For that I enclose a £1. I wish I could make it a hundred times as much, I'd love to be able to help the miners. But just now I can do nothing. I'm glad in the thought that much is being done. Some of the British comrades write me that a good deal of money is being raised for the miners. I am so glad. They are certainly making a brave fight. If only the leaders had not been such cowards and had stood by the miners the situation would be different by now. Leave it to the leaders of every political color to show the white feather.
......What was to be expected has happened. Baldwin is now speaking in the language of the mine owners, what a rotter. On the other hand the Churchills are even more rotten. The fuss they are making about the money contributed by Russia to the miners, as if they would not be willing to help with money, men and munitions if their class were in trouble. Such a farce.
......But the Soviet people are really not better, they go on pretending that the workers in Russia are sending the contributions when everybody knows that the Russian workers have not enough to keep their own body intact, let alone send help to others. Besides they have not even the right, if they had the means. At the same time it is contemptible on the parts of Joynson-Hicks and his gang to raise the cry at Soviet money (note 10 below). It is really only an excuse on their part.
......I can well imagine how terrible it must be in South Wales. It was appalling enough when the miners were working, how must it be now? I think everyday if I could help I'd give up my vacation without much ado and return to England to help with the struggle. But I know there is nothing I can do. I would be more unhappy than I am if I did not know that you and the other comrades have been doing some good work. Now certainly is a good opportunity and I feel sure you are doing your utmost to show our ideas. Good luck to you my dear!
......I wrote Geo. Davison a letter telling him I am not far from him (note 11 below). He replied saying he'd be glad to see Berkman and myself when he and his wife return from a trip they are now making. They have gone to England and will be back by the 20th of July. A.B. and I will then go over to Antibes and see the kind of man he is. How little people with money know what to do, yet there is so much, so very much that could be done. For instance I have a lot of material about the appalling condition about the destitute children in Russia. It is too ghastly to describe. I have been trying for a year to get some people interested in the matter and help me out with a book, but without success. I intend speaking to Davison about it when the opportunity will present itself. Perhaps he will help.
......Dear Jim, it is now certain that I will be able to sail for C[anada]. The comrades in America are raising the expense money. I shall sail on the 23rd of September and if everything goes alright, will be able to do some good in C[anada]. I hope I will not have trouble in landing. I leave our wonderful place here on the 1st of September and go to Paris where I will be until we sail. After, I will ask you to send me a letter saying you do not object to my going, I may need that at the border. There is no hurry for it.
......It is wonderful here and we enjoy every minute. We have been thinking that it is criminal on our part to have such a glorious place and some of our comrades to have nothing. So now that my family have sent me some money for my birthday, I am bringing three comrades here for a month to give them a holiday. One is a girl who has been dragged from prison under the Czar and the Bolsheviki, she is in very bad health, a month here will build her up. The other is also a girl, a wonderful comrade who was given 15 years prison in America, was then deported to Russia; there she was arrested and deported because she is an Anarchist. She too needs the country badly. Finally there is a comrade who used to work with us in Mother Earth. He went to Russia after the Revolution, has gone through tortures of the damned and was deported from Russia. He is without work and in bad health so we want to give him a vacation. I will feel better when I have our comrades here, so they can share with us. Wish I could give you a holiday, perhaps some day if I am successful in C[anada]!
......Give my fraternal greetings to Edmunds, Parry and the rest.
E. G.


Banfonds zur Erweiterung der Bakuninhütte
March 1st 1932

Dear Jim
I received your note saying you had been ill. I meant to write you – but I have been racing from town to town, speaking every night. I arrived here too ill to stand on my feet, but pulled through three meetings, then I was forced to take to my bed. I am up today, but still very weak. I must speak tonight.
E. G.


Tircoed, Glanamman , Cwm, South Wales
Friday [? July 1936] (see note 12 below)

My Dear Dear Emma,
I am writing this from a very sick bed where I have been confined for over 4 weeks. During that period I havent eaten a solid bit of food. This position is very bad but nothing like what yours is and I hasten to extend to you my Deepest Sympathy and Condolences in the sad position and harrassing state you find yourself in today. The Parrys called to see me yesterday when I told them about the whole affair they were very much grieved about the matter and extend their sincerest sympathies in your awful predicament. To loose such a Brave Comrade as Alexander Berkman is a Calamity and again Extend to you my Deepest Sympathy in your Terrible Predicament.
......Dear Emma, these few lines has taken me some trouble so you can realise how I feel. This is the worst illness I have ever had. Lye in bed Cant look at food I am Helpless. The family are caring for me most wonderfully.
......With my Deepest Sympathy and hope for the Best,
Yours in Deepest Sorrow


St Tropez
August 5th 1936 (see note 13 below)

Jim, my Dear.
I would have replied to your letter sooner, but I was waiting for a bit of English currency from Paris. One cannot get it here, and I did want you to have at least £1. It is so little. It makes me most unhappy that I cannot do more for you in your present illness. But the long illness of my old pal and the expense of laying him to rest has completely sapped me out. My dear, my dear it is cruel to have worked for an ideal all one's life only to be ill and helpless in our old age, and so frightfully poor. My heart goes out to you my dear staunch comrade. But what is sympathy and solidarity when we can do nothing to make life easier for our comrades.
......I am so glad your family has remained devoted and willing to take care of you in your predicament. It is more than some of our comrades have and it should cheer you and help you back to health.
......There is nothing I can say about myself. The bottom has been knocked out from under me with the untimely end of our great and wonderful comrade (see note 14 below). It is no small battle to go on living without him. Everything seems empty and futile. But I will have to continue the struggle for Sasha and myself.
......I am very much discouraged about England. Yet I will have to go there once more. If only not to disappoint Edmunds and the group Tom has been holding together. It is all so vague and meaningless.
......Let me hear again from you soon how you are. I can be reached here until the end of Sept. The only light in this present European darkness is the heroic struggle of the workers in Spain. It will be frightful if their battle should be crushed by the European powers. But for my ignorance of the language I should go to join our comrades. I could not imagine a more heroic end to my life than to lose it for the Spanish revolution. But without the language I could not help but only hinder our people.
......Goodbye dear Jim, with heartfelt wishes for your recovery.
E. G

Notes to above
(1) Bernard Levin in a review of Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life, (Alice Wexler), The Observer, 10 March 1985.
(2) 'Goldman Romance Covered Twenty Years. Anarchist Leader Married to Colton, a Miner in Wales After a Long Separation', The New York Times, 21 November 1926. Cf the report by 'The Watchman' [Fred Thomas] editor of The Amman Valley Chronicle in the edition of 16 May 1940: 'I remember being sent to interview the late Mr Colton on the subject of his supposed marriage. Mr Colton preferred to keep a silent tongue. He would neither deny nor confirm the authenticity of the claim'.
(3) See T. Brennan, 'The White House', The Cambridge Journal, 7 (1953-1954), 243-8; T. Brennan, E. W. Cooney and H. Pollins, Social Change in South-West Wales, (London, 1954), 27-8, 149-50. On George Davison (1856-1930), see Brian Coe, 'George Davison: Impressionist and Anarchist', in Mike Weaver, ed., British Photography in the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge, 1989), 215-41; Idem, The Birth of Photography: The Story of the Formative Years 1800-1900, (London, 1989), 107.
(4) However, a number of local people were uneasy with the activities of some of the members of the White House. David Rees Griffith ('Amanwy'), the brother of James Griffiths who was later to become the Labour Member of Parliament for the Llanelli constituency, wrote in his gossip column in The Herald of Wales in November 1913, following a meeting which he had attended at the White House, that 'it will indeed be a sad day for the people of Wales if the ideals which were promulgated there that evening should ever come to pass'.
(5) James Griffiths, Pages From Memory, (London, 1969), 20-21; J. Beverley Smith, 'An Appreciation', in James Griffiths and His Times, (Llanelli, 1977), 72-4.
(6) 'Dilyn Ddoe: F'annwyl, Annwyl Emma', was broadcast on S4C on 8 May 1999. See Colin Thomas, 'Red Emma and Sweet Solidarity', Planet, 133 (February/March 1999), 58-63.
(7) A reference to Edgar Bassett (1893-1949). The son of the Revd David Bassett, a Baptist minister at Gadlys, Aberdare, Edgar Bassett, known to Ammanford residents as 'Bassett y Co-op', was the manager of the Ammanford and District Co-operative Movement for twenty five years. James Griffiths wrote of him in 1949: 'There were times when our unorthodox views made us something of a terror to our elders. But I think it can be claimed that we produced a generation of men and women who today play a full part in every phase of public activity in the neighbourhood, and every member owes something to Edgar Bassett'. See 'Mr Edgar Bassett: A Tribute', The Amman Valley Chronicle, 27 January 1949. Amanwy also paid him a warm tribute in his Welsh column 'Colofn Cymry'r Dyffryn', in the same edition of the Chronicle. See also 50 Years of Service and Progress, 1900-1950. Ammanford Co-operative Society Ltd., (Ammanford, 1950).
(8) For a brief account of Goldman's visits to the Neath area, see Len Williams, 'Emma Goldman – Associations With Neath', Neath Antiquarian Society Transactions, 1977, 32-3.
(9) Colton and Goldman were married on 27th June the previous year.
(10) William Joynson-Hicks (1865-1932). Born in Cannonbury, the son of a merchant he was elected Member of Parliament in 1902, and became a Baronet in 1919. Was Postmaster General, later Minister of Health and Home Secretary, 1924-29. First Viscount Brentford 1929. According to The Dictionary of National Biography, 1931-1940, (Oxford, 1949), 427-8,'he dealt successfully with the General Strike of 1926'.
(11) See note 3 above.
(12) Candace Falk, Ronald J. Zboray, Daniel Cornford, eds, The Emma Goldman Papers: A Microfilm Edition, (Alexandria, VA, 1990-1993), Reel 38. This undated letter of sympathy on the death of Alexander Berkman was probably written in July 1936.
(13) Jim Colton never read this last letter from Goldman. He died of cancer on 5 August 1936, the day the letter was written.
(14) A reference to the death of Alexander (Sasha) Berkman who shot himself on 28 June 1936.
Further reading:
The Collected Works of Emma Goldman can be found in online form on the website of American academic Professor Dana Ward on his Anarchy Archives website, an online research centre on the history and theory of Anarchism. The website also contains extensive biographical articles, bibliographies, commentaries and photographs of Emma Goldman.
Alexander Berkman, Prison Memories of an Anarchist, (New York, 1912).
John Chalberg, Emma Goldman: American Inidvidualist, (New York, 1991).
Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise; A Biography of Emma Goldman, (Chicago, 1961, 1982)
Candace Falk, Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman, (New York, 1984).
Gene Fellner, ed., Life of an Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader, (New York, 1992)
Martha Solomon, Emma Goldman, (Boston, 1987).
Alice Wexler, Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life, (New York, 1984).
Alice Wexler, Emma Goldman in Exile: From the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War, (Boston, 1989).

End of Article

The above article was first published in the Carmarthenshire Antiquary, Volume XXXIX, 2003, pages 114 - 121. It is reproduced here by the kind permission of the author, Dr Huw Walters.

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman


When Emma Goldman died in 1940 the event warranted an obituary in the valley's local newspaper, the 'Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News'. Normally, local newspapers confine themselves to the parish pump level of news – local births, marriages and deaths and the like (or hatching, matching and dispatching, as they are known). The marriage of James Colton to such a world famous, one might even say notorious, person as Emma Goldman must have tempted the editor to take a peek at the wider world beyond our little valley. The obituary however, casts doubt on whether the two were married at all:


Emma Goldman, the anarchist, who claimed to have married an Amman Valley miner, the late Mr James Colton, Glanamman, died in Toronto on Tuesday, after a long illness. She was 70 years of age.
.....She was known as "Red Emma" on both sides of the Atlantic because of her constant preaching of a social revolution.
.....Deported by the United States government in December 1919, she was sent to her native Russia. She soon fell out with the Soviet leaders, denouncing Bolshevism as tyrannical, and spent the following years wandering around Europe.
.....In September, 1924, she came to England as a lecturer "exposing the Bolshevist myth."
.... Two years later she was in Montreal where she claimed to have married Mr James Colton in England. By this, she said she said she was entitled to British citizenship and entry to the United States. She never got permission.
....."I remember," writes the "Watchman," being sent to interview the late Mr Colton on the subject of his supposed marriage. Mr Colton preferred to keep a silent tongue. He would neither deny nor confirm the authenticity of the claim."

The Watchman, Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News, Thursday May 16th, 1940. ('Watchman' was the name that the editor of the paper, Fred Thomas, used to express his personal opinions).

Researches for this web site can however confirm that Colton and Goldman did in fact get married. Records in the Public Records Office reveal that James Colton married one Emma Kershner in Marylebone Registry Office, London, on June 27th 1925 (Microfilm, volume 1a, page 1391). Kershner was in fact Emma Goldman's married name by her first husband, Jacob Kershner, whom she had married when she was 18 in the USA and who subsequently died. As Emma Goldman had been born in Lithuania she also received her American citizenship by this marriage. James Kershner was the posthumous participant in the particularly bizarre manner by which the USA stripped Emma Goldman of her American citizenship in 1919, and which gave them a pretext to deport her. As Goldman herself writes in her autobiography 'Living My Life':

"The attorney for the United States Government stated that Jacob Kershner had been dead for years; in fact, he was dead at the time his citizenship was revoked, in 1909. The official admission definitely stamped the action of the Federal authorities as a deliberate attempt to deprive me of citizenship by disfranchising the dead Jacob Kershner (Emma Goldman's autobiography 'Living My Life' Chapter 51).

The British marriage certificate describes James Colton as a widower, aged 65, resident at Station Cottage, Glanamman. His occupation is given as a colliery repairer and his father named as Arthur Colton (deceased), a stonemason. Emma Kershner of 3 Titchfield Terrace, Marylebone, is a widow aged 55 at the time of marriage whose father, Abraham Goldman, also deceased, was a furniture dealer.

Marriage Ceritificate of James Colton and Emma Kershner (nee Goldman, 27th June 1925)

When Jim Colton gave Emma Goldman a British passport by marrying her in June 1925, neither they nor anyone else could have forseen how events on mainland Europe would turn out, or that a passport would mean the difference between life and death for Jews such as Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman's death in Canada in 1940 meant she missed the worse of World War Two, especially the death camps where six million fellow Jews were to die, amongst whom were many who found themselves stranded with no country to call their own.


Speech of Harry Weinberger at the funeral
of Emma Goldman May 17, 1940

Emma Goldman's grave in Waldheim cemetery, Chicago

"For more than thirty years I have known Emma Goldman, as her lawyer and her friend. Never in all those thirty years have I known her except as a battler for freedom and justice. She was tireless; she was fearless; she never compromised. Liberty was always her theme; liberty was always her dream; liberty was always her goal.
.....In a machine age, Emma Goldman always seemed to me the glorification of individuality. She was symbolical of the greatness of mental freedom in an age of regimentation.
.....Fear is in the hearts of mankind, and some men and women, in a hurry to save the world, would dispense with all liberty to fight dictatorship. In a world of marching feet and tremendous battles, one marcher is missing, one warrior for freedom will struggle no more. The plea for liberty has been made a thousand times, aye, ten thousand times, but always needs repeating. There is one tongue less, to make that plea today.
.....Emma Goldman is gone, gone to a dreamless sleep, gone to join that army of men and women of the past to whom liberty was more important than life itself.
.....Emma Goldman in her lifetime had been ostracized, jailed, mobbed, and deported from these shores for advocating that which all the world now admits should be brought about – a world without war, a world without poverty, a world with hope and the brotherhood of man. Courage is the greatest force in individuals and nations. Courage in Emma Goldman was as natural to her as it was for her to breathe. She spoke out in this country against war and conscription, and went to jail.
..... She spoke out for political prisoners, and was deported from the United States on the very day we celebrated the sailing to America of the Mayflower in Colonial days. She spoke out in Russia against the despotism of Communism, and again became a fugitive on the face of the earth. She spoke out against Nazism and the combination of Nazism and Communism, and there was hardly a place where she could live. Emma Goldman, we welcome you back to America, where you wanted to end your days with friends and comrades. We had hoped to welcome you back in life but we welcome you back in death. You will live forever in the hearts of your friends and the story of your life will live as long as the stories are told of women and men of courage and idealism".

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman


Even the steadfastly pro-establishment New York Times could admire Emma Goldman on occasions, while still remaining puzzled most of the time and guarded all the while. This extract from an editorial occasioned by her death shows all these emotions jostling together in one brief item. Here we see the writer grudgingly admiring her one moment, loathing her the next, and never quite sure for any length of time just where his judgement should fall:

"Anarchist" has long been a deadly word to fling about, yet the Greek philosophers of more than one school were philosophical anarchists who preferred the ungoverned to the omnipotent state. Philosophical anarchism rejected violence. Emma Goldman was connected with advocates even practicers of assassination. These acts of violence she may have even regarded as reprisals.

Bitterly hated as she was in the United States, she loved it for its freedom. Esteemed an enemy of society, she was rather a searcher, however mistaken, of a society kinder to the common man. She had a quality rare among the devotees of economic dogma. She was honest. She who had such aureate visions of revolution saw in the Soviet Union only a new form of tyranny. But it is as a personage, a character who led a passionate, stormy and variegated life that Emma Goldman lays hold upon the memory. She has denoted herself truly in her memoirs. There you see her with her flaming temper and amours, her bigotries and brutalities, her fury and friendliness. (From an editorial in the New York Times, May 15th 1940.)

You'd have thought that once dead, Goldman would pose no threat nor arouse any indignation any more. But so powerful are ideas that they have a habit of coming back to haunt us, long after the authors of those ideas have departed their earthly life. People die; their ideas tarry awhile. Even some sixty years after her death Emma Goldman could still speak out from beyond the grave on matters such as free speech and Imperialism, as this extract from the same New York Times in 2003 only too clearly shows:

University of California officials at Berkeley say Emma Goldman's thoughts on suppression of free speech and her opposition to war are too political to be quoted in fund-raising appeal as country prepares for possible military action against Iraq; Berkeley houses the Emma Goldman Papers Project, which is launching appeal; university officials say Goldman's words could be construed as statement by university in opposition to US policy toward Iraq; Candace S. Falk, director of Emma Goldman Papers Project, accuses university of censorship ... In her own day, the Russian-born anarchist Emma Goldman roused emotions including considerable fear with her advocacy of radical causes like organized labor, atheism, sexual freedom and opposition to military conscription. (New York Times, Tuesday January 14, 2003).

The French, as ever, have a phrase to describe all this palaver: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

2.....Queen of Anarchy - by Dr Huw Walters
3. ...Letters of Emma Goldman

Date this page last updated: September 28, 2010