I wanted to go to Los Angeles, but I knew no one there capable of organizing my meetings. The few German anarchists I had corresponded with in that city had advised me not to come. Certain of my lectures, especially the one on the sex question, they wrote, would militate against their work. I had almost abandoned the idea of Los Angeles when encouragement came from an unexpected quarter. A young man whom I knew as Mr. V., from New Mexico, offered to act as my manager. He was to be in Los Angeles in business, he informed me, and he would be glad to help me arrange one meeting. Mr. V., who was a fine Jewish type, at first attracted my attention at my lectures: he attended every evening and always asked intelligent questions. … He was a likable person and I agreed to have him organize one lecture.
In due time my “manager” wired me that all was ready. When I arrived, he met me at the station with a bunch of roses and took me to a hotel. It was one of the best in Los Angeles and I felt it inconsistent for me to put up at such a fashionable place; but Mr. V. argued that it was mere prejudice, a thing he had not expected from Emma Goldman. “Don’t you want the meeting to be a success?” he asked. “Of course,” I replied, “but what has it to do with me staying in expensive hotels?” “Very much,” he assured me; “it will help advertise the lecture.” “Such matters are not considered from that viewpoint in anarchist ranks,” I protested. “The worse for your ranks,” he retorted; “that’s why you reach so few people. Wait till the meeting; then we will talk.” I consented to remain.
The luxurious room he had reserved for me, filled with flowers, was another surprise. Then I discovered a black velvet dress prepared for me. “Is this going to be a lecture or a wedding?” I demanded of Mr. V. “Both,” he replied promptly, “though the lecture is to come first.”
He had rented one of the best theatres in town, and surely, my manager expostulated, I must understand that I could not appear in the shabby dress I had worn in San Francisco. Moreover, if I did not like the gown he had chosen, I could change it. It was necessary that I make the best possible showing on my first visit to Los Angeles, “But what interest have you in doing all this? I persisted. “You told me you are not an anarchist.” “I’m on the road to being one,” he replied. “Now be sensible. You have agreed to have me as your manager, so let me manage this affair in my own way.” “Are all managers so solicitous?” I inquired. “Yes, if they know their business and they like their artists a little,” he said.
The following days the papers were full of Emma Goldman, “under the management of a wealthy man from New Mexico.” To avoid the reporters Mr. V. took me out for long walks and rides in the Mexican quarter of town, to restaurants and cafés. One day he induced me to accompany him to a Russian friend of his, who turned out to be the most fashionable tailor in town and who talked me into letting him take my measurements for a suit. On the afternoon of the lecture I found a simple but beautiful black chiffon dress in my room. Things appeared mysteriously, as in the fairy-tales my German nurse used to tell me. Almost every day brought new surprises, happening in a strange but unostentatious manner.
—from Emma Goldman, Living My Life*
*The events described in this passage took place in 1898.