The Margaret Sanger Papers


Berkman, Alexander (1870-1936)

Lithuanian anarchist. Never married. Emigrated to the U.S. in 1887. Berkman joined the Pioneers of Liberty, and was a compositor for the anarchist newspaper Die Freiheit. There he met another emigre anarchist, Emma Goldman, and the two began an long and intimate association. Committed to radical, militant action, Berkman was convicted of the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick in 1892 and was sentenced to thirteen years in prison. After his release from prison, he re-established his association with Goldman and other radicals. He renewed his commitment to radical politics and culture and helped form the Ferrer Association in 1911. Although he and Goldman did not remain lovers, Berkman did serve as editor of her radical journal Mother Earth from 1908 to 1915. By 1916, Berkman and his new companion, M. Eleanor Fitzgerald, had moved to San Francisco and started a new radical labor journal, The Blast. Active in the No-Conscription League, Berkman was often suspected of anarchist attacks. In 1917, he and Goldman were arrested for violating the Draft Act; the two were deported in 1919. Berkman emigrated to Russia, but became disillusioned with Soviet life and moved to Germany, then to France in 1930. In 1936, after a lengthy illness, he committed suicide. Berkman was the author of many articles and also published Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (1912), Bolshevik Myth (1925) and Now and After: the ABC's of Communist Anarchism (1929).
References: Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise: A Biography of Emma Goldman (1961); James J. Martin, "Alexander Berkman," Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 2; and Alice Wexler, Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life (1984)