Moment in Women’s History: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

7 Aug

In the past two years, we seem to have lost the fight for the poor and the workers in the United States. Big Corporations and the super elite along with the Fecal Five seem to have quashed and silenced the disenfranchised. We need another Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to take up the torch for the marginalized.

Flynn was a worker’s activist and feminist.  She was kicked out of high school for giving too many speeches for Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).  Coming from activist/socialist parents, Flynn sought out opportunities to carry on the work of her parents and give voice to the laborers.  Prior to WWI, Flynn organized strikes for textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Not a big surprise, but she also became a very vocal proponent of birth control and reproductive rights, much like our Maggie Kuhn.

In 1920, Flynn was asked to join the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union for her proven dedication to civil liberties and civil rights for immigrants.  Although her poor health, heart disease, forced her out of the spotlight, she moved to Southwest Portland, Oregon, where she took up the torch for the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike.  She also joined the Communist Party and wrote a Feminist column for The Daily Worker. If you have not read her book, The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner, which documents her time in prison, I highly recommend you visit your library and check out a copy.

The silk worker for instance may make beautiful things, fine shimmering silk. When it is hung up in the window of Altman’s or Macy’s or Wanamaker’s it looks beautiful. But the silk worker never gets a chance to use a single yard of it. And the producing of the beautiful thing instead of being a pleasure is instead a constant aggravation to the silk worker. They make a beautiful thing in the shop and then they come home to poverty, misery, and hardship. They wear a cotton dress while they are weaving the beautiful silk for some demi monde in New York to wear. –Elizabeth Gurly Flynn

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. It is my distinct pleasure to share this clip of Flynn. I hope you enjoy the video.


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