Women’s Lives: Series 1: The Papers of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

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From the holdings of the Tamiment Library and the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) was an agitator and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World and a Communist party activist. In an era when street life and mass strikes were important in people’s lives, Flynn’s notoriety was like that given to media stars today. In major strikes in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Paterson and Passaic, New Jersey, "the Rebel Girl," as she was called, agitated among and led immigrant workers. Flynn was indicted and convicted with other party leaders under the Smith Act, which made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the government by force. With flair and eloquence she defended herself in a nine-month trial. While awaiting jail in 1955 she wrote Rebel Girl, an account of her early life. She was sentenced to three years in the Alderson Federal Penitentiary and served from January 1955 through May 1957. In 1961, Flynn became the first female national chair of the Communist party. She ran for the New York State Assembly, headed the Women’s Commission, and traveled abroad. She died in the Soviet Union where she had gone to write and rest and was given an elaborate state funeral. This collection will be a valuable resource for those researching the labor movement, Communist and Socialist movements in the United States, feminism and women’s activism.

The collection is organized into eight series: Family and early life, 1896-1907; The Rebel Girl and the Industrial Workers of the World, 1907-1917; Defense activities, 1917-1927; Sojourn in the West, 1927-1936; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s "second life," 1937-1952; Smith Act Defense, 1951-1955; Alderson, 1955-1957; Final years, 1957-1964.