Studs Terkel Recalls Lucy Parsons
Prize-winning author Studs Terkel heard the aged Lucy Parsons speak during the 1930s. Parsons, widow of Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons, was herself a lifelong political radical who participated in the founding of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World. Terkel heard Parsons at Bughouse Square, as Washington Square Park (opposite the Newberry Library on the city’s North Side) was called. As Terkel explains, by that time Bughouse Square was a well-established site of free and often colorful speech in Chicago. Terkel was interviewed on July 19, 1999.
Dr. Marie Diana Equi (April 7, 1872, New Bedford, Massachusetts – July 13, 1952, Portland, Oregon)
… Equi was one of several doctors in Portland who performed abortions, and did so without regard for social class or status. She was active in the movement to provide access and information about birth control. She also knew Margaret Sanger, and may have had a relationship with her—archivist Judith Schwartz described Equi’s letters to Sanger as “love letters”. Equi was active in the women’s suffrage movement in Oregon, which achieved success in 1912 when the state granted women the right to vote.
In 1913, she visited the site of a strike by women cherry sorters at the Oregon Packing Company, during a strike action supported by the Industrial Workers of the World among others. While attending to an injured worker, she was attacked by the police, whose brutality in attempting to end the strike led Equi to denounce capitalism and become an anarchist.
In 1916, Equi joined the American Union Against Militarism. During a war-preparedness rally in downtown Portland, she unfurled a banner reading “PREPARE TO DIE, WORKINGMEN, J.P. MORGAN & CO. WANT PREPAREDNESS FOR PROFIT”, which set off a minor riot and led to her arrest. On December 31, 1918, she was convicted of sedition under the newly revised Espionage Act for a speech made at the IWW hall opposing World War I. Her lawyers were unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn her conviction, and her daughter later recalled how she and her mother were spat upon in the streets during this period. For this reason, Speckart took Mary to Seaside, Oregon. Equi and Speckart never lived together again. In October 1920 Equi began her 3-year sentence at San Quentin State Prison, which was later reduced to a year and a half. In prison, she wrote letters to friends, one of which expressed anxiety and doubt about her “queerness,” to which her friend reassured her. Although Equi’s friends supported her they were unable to secure her pardon.
Some time after her release, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to live with Equi, and the two women lived together for ten years.
if you think a government shutdown that cuts pregnant women & children off nutritional aid [WIC], but leaves the police intact is a desirable step in the direction of anarchism or libertarian socialism or whatever, i think i’m done with you for good.
Various articles on Lucy Parsons from the bourgeois press between 15 October 1886 and 8 March 1942.
Well this is rather interesting. Though I have never seen it mentioned in any biography of Lucy Parsons anywhere, according to this article (see image and link below) from the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated 11 December 1888, Parsons had at least temporarily been engaged to marry Eduard Bernstein, the famous German socialist.
Though Parsons only mentions her “future husband’s” last name in the article (” … a gentleman named Bernstein … “), everything else checks out. Parsons had gone on a speaking tour in London in 1888 alongside Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, and William Morris, the British Marxist and friend of Frederick Engels. Bernstein had coincidentally also arrived in London that year, having been exiled from Germany, by way of Zurich, Switzerland. At this time, Bernstein was indeed editor of the Social Democrat — as indicated by Parsons in the article below — which was the leading newspaper of the German Social Democratic Party.
It seems quite likely that Parsons would have met Bernstein through William Morris, as the two men shared a common close friendship with Frederick Engels.
Among other things, I think this historical relationship is interesting because it would appear to buttress a theory of mine regarding Lucy Parsons. Namely, that her anarchism was more or less synonymous with socialism of the revolutionary, Marxist, variety. Or rather, at the very least, that she did not see a rigid bifurcation between her vision of anarchism and that of revolutionary socialism or Marxism.
In 1888, Bernstein was a leading figure within the German Social Democratic Party, a close friend of Engels, and was internationally recognized as an unambiguous advocate of orthodox Marxism. [It was not until the mid-to-late 1890s that Bernstein would advance a “revisionist” (essentially reformist) version of Marxism, which he called “evolutionary socialism.”]
Of course, I in no way want to advance the idea that any individual’s politics can be judged exclusively by that of their spouse, partner, lover, etc. Parsons I’m sure disagreed with Bernstein on many issues regarding the politics of working class revolution. Nonetheless, it is a significant historical fact that only one year after the execution of her former husband, Albert Parsons, the internationally famous anarchist/socialist, she became engaged to one of the then-leading lights of international Marxism.
Indeed, one can see even from the very same article in question that there is no contradiction in Parsons’ mind when she speaks of the revolutionary movement in England, in one breath, as advancing the “cause of Socialism”, and in the next breath, as advancing “Anarchistic questions.”
PDF of article available at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2Zdv5hwi_o6a2hJTWRvNnJaOEU
LUCY PARSONS, BLIND ANARCHIST, BURNED TO DEATH. (1942, Mar 08). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/176687215?accountid=11311
"In the flat the police and firemen found a … library of 2,500 to 3,000 volumes, all devoted to ANARCHISM, SOCIALISM, and SEX. Assistant Corporation Counsel Earl Downes took charge of the books."
All of these books were then turned over to the FBI, never again to see the light of the day. Over the years, numerous Freedom of Information requests have been made to the FBI for this material, but to no avail.
Oh lord, what I would do to get my hands on all of those books!!!
Lucy Parsons, addressing the Woman’s Assembly of the Knights of Labor, 6 May 1887.
"LUCY PARSONS BREAKS LOOSE." (1887, May 06). The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/495103306?accountid=11311
Lucy Parsons raised her voice last night in the chorus of sidewalk oratory which is heard in State street every night in the week. The burden of her song was directed toward the young man who contemplated joining the volunteer army for service in…
Lucy Parsons: Revolutionary anti-imperialist, through-and-through
for what it’s worth, i’ve recently been reading through early 1920s-era issues of the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the US Communist Party, and interestingly enough, they regularly featured advertisements for various vegetarian restaurants in their pages …
but yeah, there’s nothing particularly “revolutionary” or “proletarian” about eating meat …
certainly it’s problematic when people transform their eating habits into an unreconstructed POLITICAL strategy or program.
nonetheless, i do think the horrid way that humans treat other animals — especially under capitalism where the entire elimination of some species and the gut-wrenching mass torture of others, is taken to absolute extremes — is connected with the general problem of how humans under capitalism tend to systematically corrupt their natural environment, their own species’ existence, and indeed that of all other organic life.
If 'Bioshock: Infinite' only comprised the first 75% of the total game, it would be unconditionally awesome. It would end with a revolutionary workers’ uprising against a racist, capitalist United States colony in the clouds led by an anarchist woman of color who was a former slave. Instead, the game ends with a sort of ambiguous, existentialist 1984-style theme, that all but completely falls into the “damsel in distress” trope.
Oh well, it is still worth experiencing.
omg, i love this. both the NYTimes’ bombastic reporting, and lucy parsons’ equally bombastic (but in a good way) revolutionary flare.
"And now to all I say: Falter not. Lay bare the inequities of capitalism; expose the slavery of law; proclaim the tyranny of government; denounce the greed, cruelty, abominations of the privileged class who riot and revel on the labor of their wage-slaves." — Albert Parsons, in a letter written from a his cell shortly before his execution
Albert R. Parsons was born on this day in 1848 in Montgomery, Alabama. Parsons was a radical American editor, printer, and leader in the eight-hour-day movement. He was falsely accused & executed for the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in May of 1886.
For more on the life of Albert Parsons:
Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary: http://bit.ly/10fgYxl
Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States: http://bit.ly/15yy3yR
101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Change US History: http://bit.ly/SWp1W7
quick question, though. if the International Working People’s Association was so decidedly anarchist — i.e., decidedly not socialist — how come the IWPA put Albert Parsons on a speaking tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania mining regions between November 1885 - February 1886 to speak on the topic of “Socialism”?
unlike some, i don’t argue that Parsons, et al, were exclusively socialist. rather, they had a much more fluid understanding of the overlap between socialism and anarchism.
it is historically false for anyone to assert that the IWPA, the Parsons’, or their immediate comrades were EXCLUSIVELY either anarchist or socialist.