Activist Spotlight: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, champion of labor and advocate for women’s rights, was born in August of 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire. She came from a family of activists and Irish nationalists.
From an early age, Flynn dedicated herself to the socialist movement. She saw the Irish suffer from discriminatory practices and felt the socialist views were more in line with creating fairness and equity toward the common man. Elizabeth's journey started when, at the age of fifteen, she gave a speech on socialism. That speech propelled her into a lifelong journey advocating for the average worker.
In 1920 Flynn took part in founding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). By being part of the Union, she was able to assist in the legal defense of immigrants. These immigrants were on trial because of their strong support for socialism and communism. This was during the Red Scare, where communist ideology was perceived as traitorous to this country.
Because of her support, she became the target of scrutiny and was later arrested and served two years in prison. The ACLU met and decided that Flynn’s views were controversial at best and treasonous at worst. In either case, they chose to expel her as a member; she was posthumously reinstated.
Flynn, like her mother, was a supporter of women’s rights. As World War II got in the way, Flynn sought wage equity and child care for working women. She believed in a woman’s right to use birth control and the right to vote and make changes to the laws.
Elizabeth married John Archibald Jones. He was an activist and part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a Chicago labor union. Their relationship was unsuccessful and subsequently ended in divorce. They had two children, but one died. Although things were difficult in her personal life, Flynn immersed herself into her causes to ultimately create a strong legacy.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn died in September of 1964. She was in Russia at the time of her death, and because of her notoriety around socialism and communism, they gave her a ceremonious burial. Flynn was a member of the ACLU, head of the Communist Party, and supporter of women’s suffrage.
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