The Margaret Sanger Papers


Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley (1890-1964)

Labor organizer, radical political activist and lecturer. Married John Archibald Jones (1908-divorced 1920), one son surviving; companion to Carlo Tresca (1913-1925). Spokesperson for the Socialist Party and Socialist Labor Party and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (1906-1916) in the Northeast, Flynn worked with Margaret Sanger to evacuate the children of striking workers at the Lawrence (MA) textile strike of 1912. The two also participated in the Paterson (NJ) Silk Strike of 1913. After demise of IWW, Flynn turned to defending workers' civil rights, establishing a Worker's Defense Union (1918-1926) to provide relief and legal representation for those accused. Flynn was an advocate of free speech, helping to found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. In 1926 the Worker's Defense Union merged with the International Labor Defense, and Flynn became its chairman (1926-1930). In 1936 she joined the American Communist Party, becoming a national organizer; elected to National Committee in 1938; selected to the prestigious Political Bureau in 1941. The ACLU expelled Flynn from its ranks in 1940 for her Communist ties (she was reinstated posthumously in 1976) . From 1955-1957 served a three year sentence for violation of the Smith Act (advocating the violent overthrow of the United States). In 1961 Flynn was selected as National Chairman of the Communist Party.
References: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography of My First Life, 1903-1926 (1973); Charlotte Hoffman, Rebel Girl, Radical Woman: A Biography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1980); Rosalyn Baxandall, ed., Words on Fire: The Life and Writings of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1987).