Who Was Lucy Parsons?

Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons (c. 1853 – March 7, 1942) was an American labor organizer, radical socialist and anarchist communist. She is remembered as a powerful orator. Parsons entered the radical movement following her marriage to newspaper editor Albert Parsons and moved with him from Texas to Chicago, where she contributed to the newspaper he famously edited—The Alarm. Following her husband's 1887 execution in conjunction with the Haymarket Affair, Parsons remained a leading American radical activist, as a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World and member of other political organizations.

Described by the Chicago Police Department as "more dangerous than a thousand rioters" in the 1920s, Parsons and her husband had become highly effective anarchist organizers primarily involved in the labor movement in the late 19th century, but also participating in revolutionary activism on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, the homeless and women. She began writing for The Socialist and The Alarm, the journal of the International Working People's Association (IWPA) that she and Parsons, among others, founded in 1883. In 1886 her husband, who had been heavily involved in campaigning for the eight-hour day, was arrested, tried, and executed on November 11, 1887, by the state of Illinois on charges that he had conspired in the Haymarket Riot — an event which was widely regarded as a political frame-up and which marked the beginning of May Day labor rallies in protest.

In 1892 she briefly published a periodical, Freedom: A Revolutionary Anarchist-Communist Monthly. She was often arrested for giving public speeches or distributing anarchist literature. While she continued championing the anarchist cause, she came into ideological conflict with some of her contemporaries, including Emma Goldman, over her focus on class politics over gender and sexual struggles.

In 1905 she participated in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and began editing the Liberator, an anarchist newspaper that supported the IWW in Chicago. Lucy's focus shifted somewhat to class struggles around poverty and unemployment, and she organized the Chicago Hunger Demonstrations in January 1915, which pushed the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Party, and Jane Addams' Hull House to participate in a huge demonstration on February 12. Parsons was also quoted as saying: "My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in, and take possession of the necessary property of production."[8] Parsons anticipated the sit-down strikes in the US and, later, workers' factory takeovers in Argentina.

In 1925 she began working with the National Committee of the International Labor Defense in 1927, a communist-led organization that defended labor activists and unjustly-accused African Americans such as the Scottsboro Nine and Angelo Herndon. While it is commonly accepted by nearly all biographical accounts (including those of the Lucy Parsons Center, the IWW, and Joe Knowles) that Parsons joined the Communist Party in 1939, there is some dispute, notably in Gale Ahrens' essay "Lucy Parsons: Mystery Revolutionist, More Dangerous Than A Thousand Rioters", which can be found in the anthology Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality, Solidarity. Ahrens also points out, in "Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality and Solidarity: Writings and Speeches, 1878–1937", that the obituary the Communist Party had published on her death made no claim that she had been a member.

This site has two versions of Lucy Parsons' biography. There's the one written by Joe Knowles for Free Society in 1995 and the longer one that is used by the IWW.

The Principles Of Anarchism is a lecture that was given by Lucy Parsons.