Tongue of Fire

Emma Goldman, Public Womanhood, and the Sex Question

By Donna M. Kowal

Subjects: Women's Studies, Communication, History, Jewish Studies, American History
Paperback : 9781438459745, 222 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438459738, 222 pages, April 2016

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Anarchist Women and the "Sex Question"

2. Bodies That Love: Emma Goldman's Sexual Revolution

3. Sex, Labor, and the Public Sphere

4. "Tongue of Fire": A Radical Subjectivity

5. Framing "The High Priestess of Anarchy"

Selected Bibliography

Examines the influence of the notorious American anarchist “Red Emma” on the shifting social geography of sex and gender at the turn of the twentieth century.


Finalist for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Women's Studies category
Winner of the 2017 Everett Lee Hunt Award presented by the Eastern Communication Association
In this book, Donna M. Kowal examines the speeches and writings of the "Most Dangerous Woman in the World" within the context of shifting gender roles in early twentieth-century America. As the notorious leader of the American anarchist movement, Emma Goldman captured newspaper headlines across the country as she urged audiences to reject authority and aspire for individual autonomy. A public woman in a time when to be public and a woman was a paradox, Goldman spoke and wrote openly about distinctly private matters, including sexuality, free love, and birth control. Recognizing women's bodies as a site of struggle for autonomy, she created a discursive space for women to engage in the public sphere and act as sexual agents. In turn, her ideas contributed to the rise of a feminist consciousness that recognized the personal as political and rejected dualistic notions of gender and sex.

Donna M. Kowal is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at The College at Brockport, State University of New York.


"Kowal's portrayal of Goldman is complex and nuanced, yet easily accessible to both scholarly and public audiences. " — Rhetoric & Public Affairs

"By pointing to the long historical trajectory of women's bodies as political tools, Kowal offers an important addition to our understanding of Emma Goldman as a feminist icon and her role in bringing sex into the public sphere. " — H-Net (H-Histsex)

"…impressively researched and exceptionally well written … highly recommended. " — Midwest Book Review