Lucy Parsons: IWW Founder, Anarchist Activist, and Labor Organizer

1853 — March 7, 1942

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1853 — March 7, 1942


In addition to defending the rights of African-Americans, Lucy spoke out against the repressed status of women in nineteenth century America. Wanting to challenge the notion that women could not be revolutionary, she took a very active, and often militant, role in the labor movement...

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"...concentrated power can be always wielded in the interest of the few and at the expense of the many."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"I learned by close study that it made no difference what fair promises a political party, out of power might make to the people in order to secure their confidence, when once securely established in control of the affairs of society that they were after all but human with all the human attributes of the politician."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"...we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"...were not the land, the water, the light, all free before governments took shape and form?"

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"People have become so used to seeing the evidences of authority on every hand that most of them honestly believe that they would go utterly to the bad if it were not for the policeman's club or the soldier's bayonet. But the anarchist says, 'Remove these evidence of brute force, and let man feel the revivifying influences of self responsibility and self control, and see how we will respond to these better influences.'"

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"The land and all it contains, without which labor cannot be exerted, belong to no one man, but to all alike."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

" freedom to possess and utilize soil lie social happiness and progress and the death of rent."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"...order can only exist where liberty prevails..."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

"I say to the wage class: Think clearly and act quickly, or you are lost. Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less."

From : "The Principles of Anarchism," by Lucy E. Parsons

" assured that you have spoken to these robbers in the only language which they have ever been able to understand, for they have never yet deigned to notice any petition from their slaves that they were not compelled to read by the red glare bursting from the cannon's mouths, or that was not handed to them upon the point of the sword."

From : "To Tramps, The Unemployed, the Disinherited, and Miserable," Lucy E. Parsons, Alarm, October 4, 1884


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About Lucy Parsons

 Lucy Parsons 1

Lucy Parsons 1

Challenging the blatant sexism of her time, Lucy Parsons, the wife of Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons, was one of the most influential women involved in the American anarchist and labor movements. Born in Texas in approximately 1853, her childhood remains mysterious - she may have been born a slave in Texas though she claimed that she had Mexican and Native American origins and often called herself Lucy Gonzales. In the early 1870s she met and married Albert Parsons, and the couple was consequently forced to relocate from Texas to Chicago in 1873 due to their anti-segregation activism and restrictions on interracial marriage in Texas. Once in Chicago, the Parsons became deeply engrossed in the labor and anarchist movements. When Albert became involved in the enormous railroad strike of 1877 and was subsequently fired from his job at The Chicago Times and blacklisted, Lucy opened a dress shop and started working with the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. In 1883, she and Albert helped begin the International Working Peoples' Association (IWPA), and she regularly wrote for its periodical, The Alarm as well as The Socialist (another radical journal).

Alongside the IWPA the Parsons were deeply involved infamous strike in support of eight-hour workdays at the McCormick Harvest Works on May 3, 1886. Violence ensued when the police fired upon the strikers, and the next day the workers peacefully protested the police action in Haymarket Square. However, an unknown person threw a bomb into the crowd and a riot began. After the incident, eight anarchists, including her husband, were arrested and convicted though no evidence was ever found that they were connected to bombing. An outraged Lucy fought tirelessly for the release of the prisoners - she traveled around the United States raising money and speaking about the injustice of the trial. Her efforts were in vain. Four of the eight, including Albert, were executed on November 11, 1887.

Albert's death did not dissuade Lucy from continuing her activism. Despite living in poverty, she bravely continued her struggle for the rights of workers, African-Americans and women. In first years of the 20th century, broiling labor unrest sparked the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and Lucy Parsons was an active participant. She believed the IWW's techniques involving direct action would inspire a strong working class movement, which she felt was the only way to revolution. In addition to other work with the IWW, Lucy became the editor of its journal, The Liberator . She also published her own paper, Freedom.

In 1925 she began working with the Communist Party, both because she supported its efforts to raise class consciousness among workers and because she felt anarchism was no longer strong enough to bring about revolution. She officially joined in 1939. During her time with the Party, she devoted most of her energy to the Coalition for International Labor Defense. She continued her activism until her death at age eighty-nine in a fire on March 7, 1942. Because she was seen as threat, the FBI confiscated all of her books and publications after the fire. The legacy of her fight for workers' rights, African-Americans, women and free speech remained important throughout the 20th century and is still influential today.

Her Beliefs

Throughout her life, Lucy Parson was a staunch supporter of workers, free speech, African-Americans, and women. Her firm defense of labor began gaining momentum when she and her husband, Albert Parsons (one of the Haymarket martyrs), moved from Texas to Chicago in 1873, and the pair became deeply involved in the labor movement there. She stood steadfastly behind workers and the poor, forcefully advocating the general strike as well as the rights to an eight-hour workday, higher pay and better working conditions among other things. In order to fulfill the workers' demands, Lucy believed that propaganda of the deed (direct action which sometimes included violence) was necessary. She felt that attempting reform within the political system was futile, and thus fought hard against those labor organizers who wished to support the Democrats in the 1890 elections. Her view of an ideal system was a syndicalist one - she wanted free workers' associations instead of the hierarchical class system. Acting on her conviction that a strong working class movement was the only way to revolution, Lucy helped found the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. Furthermore, Lucy was prominent supporter of anarchism, especially after Albert was hung for holding those beliefs, but she became somewhat disillusioned in the 1920s and 30s when she began feeling that anarchism was not longer a potent revolutionary force. Because of this, she started working with the Communist Party (and eventually joined it in 1939), feeling that they still promoted class consciousness and revolution. In spite of the fact that her ideology changed somewhat over the years, Lucy remained constant her defense of the working class.

Although she had fought for freedom of speech throughout her life, after traveling to England in 1888 to speak in front of the Socialist League of England, Lucy became even more deeply interested in the issue. In comparing the United States to England, she felt that the United States, despite its constitutional commitment to that freedom, was actually far more repressive of it. She celebrated the 1889 court ruling that anarchists also have a right to freedom of speech, but she believed this was still not sufficient - she continued the struggle until her death.

Similarly, her work in support of the rights of African-Americans began early in her life. While living in Texas - still a segregated and highly racist state at the time - she spoke out against the blatant inequalities caused by segregation. She felt that the problems facing blacks in the United States were caused in large part by the fact that the majority of them were poor and that consequently as capitalism dwindled, racism would do the same. She also challenged the racist atmosphere by marrying Albert, a white man. Their anti-segregation work eventually forced them to leave Texas, but Lucy did not stop struggling for racial equality. Once in Chicago, she published many articles denouncing racism and racial violence including her famous piece, "The Negro: Let Him Leave Politics to the Politician and Prayer to the Preacher." Her journal, Freedom , published in 1892, spoke out vehemently against the unequal and violent treatment of African-Americans.

In addition to defending the rights of African-Americans, Lucy spoke out against the repressed status of women in nineteenth century America. Wanting to challenge the notion that women could not be revolutionary, she took a very active, and often militant, role in the labor movement while passionately protesting the idea that a woman's only proper role was that of a homemaker. She was also a strong proponent of birth control and a woman's right to divorce and remarriage - unlike many anarchists she felt marriage and family were not wrong and oppressive. She believed that the struggle for the rights of African-Americans and women were crucial to the labor movement and the broader fight against the oppression of capitalism.


Lowndes, Joe. "Lucy Parsons (1853-1942): The Life of an Anarchist

Labor Organizer." Prominent Anarchists and Left-Libertarians. n.d. 1 April 2010. Web.
"Lucy Parsons: Woman of Will." Industrial Workers of the World.
n.d. 1 April 2010. Web.

From : Anarchy Archives


This person has authored 65 documents, with 51,983 words or 305,547 characters.

It has not been so many years ago since it was an accepted fact that this was a middle-class Republic. Hence it was immune against those upheavals that have in times past disturbed the equanimity of the “better classes” of Europe. If there are any such persons at the present time hugging these delusions we would be pleased to have them peruse the following extracts, taken from an interview with James R. Keene, of Wall Street fame. He says: It is my firm conviction that the day is coming when the individual small merchant will cease to exist. In his place will be millions of persons working for wages and salaries whereas yesterday and today there were and are proprietors. In other words, I believe the time is coming wh... (From :
We are told that the word Anarchy needs constant explanation; that whenever used in its literal sense it must be defined. Is there any other word of which this is not true? The introduction of new ideas into a man’s mind is not accompanied by the use of a specially coined word, but by the adaptation of old words to broader uses. Even the word self-government would not convey our meaning in its broadest generalization. This word has been understood since its introduction into general use to mean a system of representative government—the delegation of personal rights to be represented by another person deemed to be the highest approach of liberty possible in a state. In seeking the establishment, not of a system of governme... (From :
If there is a country on the face of the Earth where the working classes need to be educated to understand their class interests, that country is America. The wage-earners are taught that in this country where every man’s son may aspire to become president of these United States, there can be no classes. Large masses accept this kind of “jollying” without question. Thousands of them do really believe we have no classes here. Because one man in thirteen or fourteen million men is elected, instead of being born to rule, they accept this as indisputable evidence of universal liberty. Another hard fact that is difficult to drive home to the American mind, is that he belongs to an entirely different class from that to wh... (From :
Believing that your paper is published in the interest of truth, I ask for space in its columns to state briefly the facts relating to my incarceration in the Columbus prison. The venal capitalistic press has heralded the information all over the country that I was arrested for insulting the Mayor of Columbus. I never insulted the Mayor. My arrest was simply the carrying out of a conspiracy to suppress free speech. The Mayor is reported in the press as saying “he did not propose to have me preach Anarchy in Columbus, which must inevitably lead to bloodshed,” and the Mayor said “the meeting is declared off.” In this connection, at this stage, it will be observed that there is no pretense that the hall had been ... (From :
Whatever we hear from all quarters we are very apt to believe, whether it requires some effort to believe, whether it is true or not, especially if it requires some effort to examine it. Of all the modern delusions, the ballot has certainly been the greatest. Yet most of the people believe in it. In the first place, it is founded on the principle that the majority shall lead and the minority must follow (no matter whether it will be any advantage to the majority to have the minority follow them or not). Let us take a body of legislators, absolutely honest, and see what they can do. A, B and C have each a distinct principle to carry out, and there is no good reason why each one should not carry out his principle to a certain extent wi... (From :
The American people, and especially the working class, do not seem to realize the importance of and the class interest involved in the arrest of Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone. If these, our brothers in labor’s cause, are to be saved from the gallows, there must be a tremendous amount of agitation carried on. Money must be raised, and lots of it, for their defense. The working class must be made aware of the long fight between the Mine Owners’ Association and the Western Federation of Miners, and shown the connection between this struggle and these arrests. Anarchists cannot afford to be backward in this matter. Many of us have passed through the awful ordeal and know what anguish it is to those men and their families. If t... (From :
Cincinnati, Ohio, October 11, 1886 Dear Comrade: I am meeting with success far beyond what the comrades here expected. I addressed a large and enthusiastic meeting here on Sunday the 10th and will address one tonight, and the prospects are good for a still larger one. The noticeable feature about that meeting was that it was composed almost entirely of conservative trade unionists who applauded my utterances to the echo, and accepted my definition of the red flag with rapture. Ah! I tell you the people are becoming hungry for the other side of the late judicial farce known as the Anarchist trial. I go from here to Louisville, thence to Cleveland, and to New York City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, etc. You know, comrade, that ... (From :
And here is my mail with a letter from Santa Claus who has not even forgotten me, although the halcyon days of childhood’s sweet delusion have long since vanished from me. And the precious missive which the venerable old sire in his rambles through foreign lands has found and brought to me, becomes so interesting as I peruse its contents that I have determined to let the readers of The Alarm have the benefit of it. The story is laid in a barbarous isle, and is the result of the very sudden advent of a ship-wrecked Christian, who in return for the many kindnesses which he has received at the hands of his new neighbors, proposes to carry a few of them back with him to his own country that he may show them the benefits of a Christ... (From :
Under the heading of “Crime and Violence in 1905,” a capitalist paper of this city gives some very interesting statistics: The record of homicides and of deaths occurring from various forms of violence during 1905 is not an encouraging one. . . . The approximate number of such deaths during the year now closing was 9,212, an increase of 730 over 1904. The most discouraging feature of the report is the continued increase of murders committed by burglars, thieves, and holdup men. The number in 1905 was 582, as compared with 464 in 1904. It will be seen that crimes committed in the attempt to get possession of other people’s property (illegally) are on the increase. Is this fact, sad as it is, wit... (From :
Our saintly Christians and other goody-goody people throw up their hands in horror, in contemplating the prevalence of crime among the “lower classes.” Crimes, or unsociable acts among the “lower classes,” are only a reflex of crimes or robberies of the upper or “better classes.” We rob our children before they are born. How many thousands, yea millions, of mothers among the working class are there who see a thousand and one articles while in a state of pregnancy which their appetite craves or their heart desires, and yet are unable to gratify it? They walk the streets, gazing at the gorgeous displays, everything to attract the eye and cause the heart to wish for, yet unable, owing to poverty, to gratify ... (From :
The Industrial Workers of the World is the last child born of the great surging struggle in the world’s arena between labor and capital. It is a child vigorous and aggressive, gaining in strength, expanding in power, and commanding attention and respect. This young child is the progeny of a long line of the Earth’s stalwarts who have engaged in the onward march towards a better world. The IWW is urging the workers to set aside the first of May, 1912 to demand of the master class an eight-hour working day. Of course if the working class are not sufficiently awake to their own interests to come out and stand like men for this very just and modest demand, the IWW will not abandon the agitation; on the contrary, it may agitat... (From :
The Eleventh of November has become a day of international importance, cherished in the hearts of all true lovers of liberty as a day of martyrdom. On this day were offered upon the cruel gallows-tree, martyrs as true to their high ideals as were ever sacrificed in any age. The writer will assume that the present generation is but superficially informed regarding the details that led up to the eleventh of November, for in this busy age, twenty-five years is a long time to remember the details of any event, however important. In 1886 the working class of America, for the first time, struck for the reduction of the hours of daily toil to eight per day. It was a great strike. Chicago was the storm-center of that strike, because o... (From :
After reading a recent census report showing that children (white children) are toiling in the cotton factories of the South for $1.75 per week, one is constrained to inquire: Where do the burdens of capitalism press heaviest? When we see the father who has kissed his loving wife and helpless little ones an affectionate “God bless you” and turn heavily upon his heel to seek employment, he knows not where, that he may furnish them bread, he knows not how much, we are tempted to say of this man that pleasure has become to him a mockery, and misery a part of his being. When we witness day by day the tired maiden wearing away her young life amid the dismal din of the factory wheels, we may say, here, indeed, the system of wag... (From :
If our social arrangements were so adjusted that each person could follow that calling in life which they are by nature adapted for, what a great gainer society as a whole would be. These few who are so fortunate as to be able to follow the calling of their heart’s desire make a success of life. Florence Nightingale was one of the fortunate few, who could engage in that occupation for which she was best adapted. Florence Nightingale was a born nurse. In her was found that rare combination of heart, brain and sympathy which makes the ideal nurse. It is when one is laid low by the ravages of disease that they can appreciate to its utmost depth the value of human kindness. Many charming stories are told of Florence’s sympath... (From :
How many are there of the countless millions who have entered this life, passed through its changing scenes and at last have laid down to rest, of whom it can be truly said, “Here rest they who have labored for the uplifting of the oppressed, who have devoted their energies unstintingly in the interest of the ‘common people?’” We fear there are few indeed. A life devoted to the interest of the working class; a life of self-abnegation, a life full of love, kindness, gentleness, tragedy, activity, sadness and kind-ness, are some of the characteristics which went to make up the varied life of our comrade, Louise Michel. In the elderly woman, clad in simple black garments, with gray hair curling upon rounded shoulders an... (From :
Under the above head will be continued for a few weeks brief sketches of the lives of women who have contributed their share in building the world’s history. While the editor will contribute a number of these sketches we also invite others, especially women, to send in brief sketches of famous women, if any such occur to their minds. Let these sketches be well stated, short and to the point. We hope if any are sent in that they will be far superior to those which we write ourselves. (From :
In preparing the Life of Albert R. Parsons for publication I have been actuated by one desire alone, viz.: that I might demonstrate to every one, the most prejudiced as well as the most liberal minds: first, that my husband was no aider, nor abettor, nor counselor of crime in any sense. Second, that he knew nothing of nor had anything to do with the preparation for the Haymarket meeting, and that the Haymarket meeting was intended to be peaceable, and was peaceable until interfered with by the police. Third, that Mr Parsons’ connection with the labor movement was purely and simply for the purpose of bettering the condition of his fellow men; that he gave his time, talents, and at last his life, to this cause. In order to make t... (From :
Does this rising generation know that those who inaugurated the eight-hour day were put to death at the command of capital? Until forty years ago men, women and children toiled ten and often twelve hours a day in factories for a mere pittance, and children from six to nine years of age had to work to help keep up the family. The Knights of Labor, a powerful organization claiming 500,000 members, had never agitated for a reduction of the hours of labor. Then who were the pioneers of the eight-hour movement? Those martyrs who were strung from the gallows in Chicago on November 11, 1887, the much-lied-about and abused Anarchists. I will verify this statement. Until 1885 there had never been a concerted action for the reduc... (From :
The following letter was written when all the events of that terrible night were fresh in my memory—in fact were burning in my soul, when the awful detonation was still ringing in my ears and police outrages were occurring all around me—in fact in my own home. The readers of the Enquirer have read with bated breath the startling news flashed from this city on Tuesday last of the ushering in and demonstration of the new method of scientific warfare. What was it, and what the occasion of the bringing forth of the fell destroyer from his lurking-place in the realms of science with such direful results? The cause may be given in a future letter, the results may be given here. The minions of the oppressing class ... (From :
There has been no event in recent years which has shown the advance made in class-conscious labor organizations more distinctly than the class trial just ended in Boise, Idaho, and its comparison with the trial of the Anarchists at Chicago in 1886. The Anarchist trial was a class trial—relentless, vindictive, savage and bloody. By that prosecution the capitalists sought to break the great strike for the eight-hour day which was being successfully inaugurated in Chicago, this city being the storm-center of that great movement; and they also intended, by the savage manner in which they conducted the trial of these men, to frighten the working class back to their long hours of toil and low wages from which they were attempting to ... (From :
There is no way of building up a movement, strengthening it and keeping it intact, except by a press, at least weeklies, if dailies are impossible. The press is the medium through which we exchange ideas, keep abreast of the times, take the gauge of battle and see how far the class conflict has progressed. It is by the press we educate the public mind and link the people of most distant parts together in bonds of fraternity and comradeship. We can keep track of the work and accomplishments of our comrades in no other way, except by the medium of paper. The Liberator is the only English-language anarchist propaganda paper in America; for this reason, comrades and sympathizers in all parts of the country should feel in duty bound to support t... (From :
As the Knights of Labor went down, the American Federation of Labor commenced to rise. This latter organization, after about twenty-three years’ existence, claims over a million members. It was the AFL that inaugurated “Labor Day,” the first Monday in September. This Labor Day was originally intended to be the one day in the year on which labor could devote to its own interests, for the purpose of cultivating a spirit of solidarity and fraternity among the working class. But “Labor Day” has lost this feature—instead, it has degenerated into a day when politicians, fakers and grafters have full swing, and a free platform to lie, and to gull the masses. All the evidences of disintegration are ... (From :
The Industrial Workers of the World, an organization launched in Chicago last June, is making wonderful progress in all parts of the country, and in practically every industry. This is as it should be, because the IWW is organized along the lines of the evolution of capitalism, which is so organized, that under one head or one management, whole lines of industry are conducted, reaching from ocean to ocean or from Maine to Mexico. So that the freight-handler working in the freight yards in San Francisco is affected when the longshoreman in New York City asks for better conditions from the employer, and he must be prepared to back his brother up in his just demand. It is the mission of the IWW to teach the laboring classes their solida... (From :
The utter irreconcilability of the interest of labor and capital based upon the present system of buying and selling: the utter hopelessness of arbitrating and harmonizing the interests of the two parties to any lasting agreement, one of whom gains where the other loses, should be transparent to any one who gives the matter serious thought. We see this fact exemplified now in the long wrangle going on between the miners and the mine owners. Capital is invested in a “plant” by its owner for the purpose of deriving profit therefrom. Labor is employed to reproduce or create more wealth, and the mutual interests of wealth-producer and the profit-taker is ended. The one is employed by the other; the laborer wishes to sell his ... (From :
I am greatly afraid, Comrades, that my voice will not reach to all of you, but believe me that my spirit will reach to the farthest corners of the room. I have spoken in this hall before, and in other halls, and one wish I have always wished, that the architect who built a hall like this—with the acoustics that this hall has—would never build another one like it. Now, I am going to bring you a message, that forty-four years ago today we had our first introduction on American soil of what was known as a great strike. It was the introduction of the eight-hour day in America. From twelve hours to eight hours was a great step, and I have the honor to be one of those who was so instrumental in my small and humble way in... (From :
Scientific socialism (so-called) has been taught in Germany for more than fifty years. The State scientists abjured the tenet “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” but took, in its stead the text: “Workers of all countries, unite!” This beautiful bit of phraseology “was glimmering” when the political representatives of “science” (backed by more than four million voters) helped their imperial master lay a war levy of a billion marks or more for the prosecution of a war on workers of other countries. And each of the scientists was honored by a clasp of the imperial hand to the tune of “Deutschland Uber Alles!” German scientific Socialism has stifled the revolutionary tendency, once so ... (From :
March 12, 1926 Grand Old Rebel! I am writing you these few lines to express my admiration and appreciation of the grand stand that you have taken, regarding your restoration to citizenship. Why should you ask for that which you, in justice and fairness, have never forfeited? It is [thanks] to such characters as you that reaction is halted and this stupid old world moves on a little, until the time for change is reached. I am sending you a copy of the Life of my late husband, Albert R. Parsons, also a copy of the Famous Speeches. You will observe in reading his Life that he too refused to ask for a “pardon,” stating that he would not ask for pardon for that which he had not forfeited—his life. If you menti... (From :
June 11, 1936 Dear Comrade Tom Mooney: I received your most welcome letter some days ago and would have replied sooner but was not well. Regarding the data of the trial, I sent about all I had on hand to universities. I mailed you a copy of The Life of Albert R. Parsons. It contains much valuable information which you wished. I am sending under another cover copies of the Alarm that Parsons published. In your lonely prison cell, it will take you back to other days of our movement. Well, dear Comrade, I have been very active in your cause, to liberate you; have spoken in many meetings both here and in the east. I am not discouraged in the belief that justice will be done you, and that I can clasp your hand a free ... (From :
February 27, 1922 Editor, Federated Press: I read Mr Stone’s article on the Chicago anarchists published in Collier’s Weekly of February 5, 1922, and consider it so defective in so many ways that it’s absolutely unreliable as a historical document. He not only lies about Mr Schilling, whom he accuses of being a part of the revolutionary anarchist groups, but he also lies about Mr Parsons and myself when he says that it was understood that he (Stone) was to have the privilege of surrendering my husband to the court when he voluntarily returned to be tried. It is true that Mr Stone sent for us and offered me a substantial monetary consideration, if such a privilege were granted him. I reported his request to Capt. Wil... (From :
Our comrades [the Haymarket Martyrs] sleep the sleep which knows no awakening, but the grand cause for which they died is not asleep nor dead: It is the live, inspiring issue of every land and clime where the ray of civilization has penetrated. It is the moving inspiration of our age, the only question worth struggling for: the question of how to lift humanity from poverty and despair. This question is the swelling tide of our age. It is useless for the ruling class to stand on the shore of discontent and attempt to force this tide back to its depths of poverty, for it swells up from the hearts of the people. And though they should erect gallows along all the highways and byways, build prisons and increase armies, the tide will conti... (From :
Who has stood upon the seashore and watched the weird dash of the ceaseless waves and has not become tired of their monotonous sameness? Still there was occasionally a wave which could attract and fix our attention for the time being by rearing its cap above the rest and thus become conspicuous. Who but a devoted soul in this labor movement does not at times become tired—a weary tiredness, verging on a disgust at the apparent sameness and dreary monotony of the wage system as depicted by those engaged in the noble work of exposing the hideous inequalities of the present economic system? Yet, like the waves, there arises amid all this monotony a wrong sometimes as much or more glaring in all its details that not only is our atte... (From :
After a long run from Chicago, one arrives in Jersey City. You take a ferry boat for New York City. The Hudson River is fairly swarming with crafts of every description, from the small tug to the great trans-Atlantic steamer, the wonder of maritime achievements. After a few minutes we touch the New York shore; then we are ushered into the most intense center of commercialism on this continent—the most intense poverty and the most luxuriating wealth. Here we have our Murray Hill, Fifth Avenue, Riverside Drive and Madison Avenue, etc., with their magnificent palaces, equipages, fine women and fancy dogs, the latter much in evidence. The people who dwell along these avenues lack nothing so much as human kindness and a realization ... (From :
You may read of an ocean voyage, you may peruse the best books on travel, you may lay the book down and congratulate yourself that you know as much about an ocean trip as though you had crossed it in person. This was what I once thought, but one must have experienced the sensation of being on a great oceanliner, you must feel the roll of the mighty billows beneath you, you must count the stars at night in mid-ocean, with only the firmament above and the vast expanse of water below, and hear the throb of the hearts of the mighty engines, and dream of the continent which you are leaving and the one that you are nearing, or see the sun rise and cast its rays upon the broad expanse of an ocean waste. You must feel that calmness of spirit and re... (From :
Once again on November 11, a memorial meeting will be held to commemorate the death of the Chicago Haymarket martyrs—1937 is the fiftieth anniversary and this meeting bids fair to be more widely observed than any of the forty-nine previous ones. It has taken fifty years to dig the facts of this case out from under the mountains of lies that were heaped upon our martyrs by the exploiters in their attempt to cover up their crime of sending five labor leaders to the gallows. You will hear people say today, as one said to me recently, “What! Calling those Haymarket bomb-throwers martyrs? Do you think I believe that? You will have to show me.” Now I am writing this article to “show” all such doubting Thomases... (From :
There are some ominous disturbances of special moment in the Labor world. At New Orleans the street-car men are engaged in a desperate struggle, and, according to the capitalistic press, some “rioting” has occurred, the strikers, it is said, having fired on the police. The Granite Cutter’s union has been locked out by the bosses’ union, who are engaged in an effort to compel the cutters to change the time of signing the yearly contract from January to January instead of, as heretofore, from May to May. The men claim that this would give the bosses an increased advantage over them, because in January most of the members are idle and would be compelled to make terms that they would not in May. In several mining ... (From :
September 24, 1937 I have read the manuscript of your forthcoming book on Albert R. Parsons and the early labor movement in Chicago. The manuscript shows painstaking care, and elucidation so much needed for the enlightenment of this generation. Of course the part that interested me most was your description of the Haymarket meeting, the trial so-called, and the death of the martyrs, November 11, 1887. You have dug beneath the mountain of lies that has been heaped upon my husband and his comrades these fifty fleeting years, and without any attempt at “over” writing, have given the bare, cold facts, taken from the record, and proving that they were innocent of any bomb-throwing, and were simply lynched!—... (From :
What has ever been granted to the countless millions of workers of Earth without a fight? Czar Nicholas has discovered that he is not all Russia. Will he “let the voice of the people be heard”? Was it argument or force that changed Czar Nicholas’s mind? Well, the Russian people have gotten the thin edge of the wedge in; let them keep striking hard, they will split the throne after a while. How do you like the land grab of 2,000,000 men fighting in Manchuria for their bosses? How many of these 2,000,000 will profit by it? How many inventors to your knowledge have profited by their inventions? But how many inventors have helped to enrich the capitalist? If all genius and ability were diverted toward the ... (From :
Sir: Please allow a constant reader of your highly appreciated paper to call the attention of those everlasting croakers about the “harmony of Capital and Labor” to an item clipped from last Sunday’s Times, as follows: After a week of opportunity for the glass-pressers to reconsider their action inaugurating a strike because the manufacturers wished to manage their factories according to their own notion [in other words, to break up their Union] eleven of their flint-glass houses finally, today, extinguished fires, and the lockout will be a long one. Does it need, to the thoughtful-minded, any more convincing proof or stronger argument than the above against the possibility of harmony existing between... (From :
Is our civilization of today worth saving? might well be asked by the disinherited of the earth. In one respect ’tis a great civilization. History fails to record any other age like ours. When we wish to travel we fly, as it were, on the wings of space, and with a wantonness that would have sunk the wildest imagination of the gods of the ancients into insignificance. We annihilate time. We stand upon the verge of one continent, and converse with ease and composure with friends in the midst of the next. The awe-inspiring phenomena of nature concern us in this age but little. We have stolen the lightning from the gods and made it an obedient servant to the will of man; have pierced the clouds and read the starry page of time. We ... (From :
The Liberator is issued under the label of the Industrial Workers of the World. We considered for some time whether or not we should put on the label of the Allied Printing Trades Council or the Industrial Workers of the World. We finally thought [that] to be consistent, we must use the latter, because the editor of The Liberator was a delegate to the [IWW’s founding] convention and gave what assistance we were capable of rendering to the formation of the IWW. Besides, we feel confident that the trades union movement has arrived at the parting of the ways. The old will fall back, the new will go forward. (From :
Comrades and Friends: I think I cannot open my address more appropriately than by stating my experience in my long connection with the reform movement. It was during the great railroad strike of 1877 that I first became interested in what is known as the "Labor Question." I then thought as many thousands of earnest, sincere people think, that the aggregate power, operating in human society, known as government, could be made an instrument in the hands of the oppressed to alleviate their sufferings. But a closer study of the origin, history and tendency of governments, convinced me that this was a mistake; I came to understand how organized governments used their concentrated power to retard progress by their ever-ready means of ... (From :
Every person who is rendering no good to humanity is useless, no matter how hard he works. Head work and hand work are equally hard and equally useful if rightly applied. All men, rich and poor, are working at something; perhaps one at useful labor, the other at useless labor. Nevertheless they are each and all using their energies at some occupation. Men work because they cannot hold their physical and mental energies in check without causing themselves pain. But we have made work disagreeable because we have allowed conditions to obtain which force us to continue to work after we are tired, or at something for which we have no taste, take no interest in and have no adaptability for. For this reason we lose pleasure in work a... (From :
Is it to be another slaughter of innocent working men like the one which took place in Chicago twenty years ago, at the behest of the capitalistic class, who wished to put men out of the way whom they regarded as dangerous to their reign of robbery? The conspiracy entered into by the Mine Owners’ Association of the states of Colorado and Idaho, acting through their tools—the governors of the above-named states—in kidnapping Charles H. Moyer, William D. Haywood and George Pettibone, and spiriting them out of the state of Colorado when the shadows of night had fallen, when no one might witness the conspiracy save the armed conspirators, savors so much of deeds of “dark ages”, long, long gone by, that one i... (From :
I have been here in New York City for the last three months, selling the famous speeches of the Chicago martyrs. Here humanity is piled up in heaps, stored away in layers; forty families in a single tenement that should only suffice for a fourth that number. In these Eastern cities, tens of thousands of children are born annually who will never know the beauties of nature. From the tenement they will have for playing space the hard, dirty, unhealthy, stone sidewalks and pavements, then a few years in school, where the training will be as inadequate to the development of a strong, self-asserting individuality as were the previous conditions to the upbuilding of a strong, physical body; then comes the last step, the factory, the slave ... (From :
What were those rumblings which have been heard in the iron mills of Pennsylvania and mines of Idaho the last few weeks? They are the rumblings of the approaching Social Revolution which will deluge this world before the end of the present century. What is the world today but a vast hospital ward? The air is filled with groans and lamentations, and every form of suffering is to be seen twitching and turning on beds of poverty. What a spectacle in a world of plenty! Go through the world and ask each country you come to, “Do peace, plenty, and happiness dwell here?” and from each the same reply will be made: “Pass on; what you seek is not here.” Pause and listen at the borders of each, and the bree... (From :
In this age of quick transmission of thought, when all our energies are strained to learn more and more about the sayings and doings of our fellow beings, and especially those who are engaged in the same line of work with ourselves, it becomes absolutely necessary for us to have a medium of exchange if we are to keep in touch with each other, and if we are to do any effective work. I believe we have all felt this need most intensely since the suspension of Free Society. The Liberator comes to fill this want. Comrades, are you ready to support the paper? Are you ready to give your moral and financial assistance? If the paper is not what you wish it to be, then make it so, write articles, send in reports about meetings and reform movements ge... (From :
Never since the days of the Spartan Helots has history recorded such brutality as has been ever since the war and as is now being perpetrated upon the Negro in the South. How easy for us to go to Russia and drop a tear of sympathy over the persecuted Jew. But a step across Mason’s and Dixon’s line will bring us upon a scene of horrors before which those of Russia, bad as they are, pale into insignificance! No irresponsible, blood-thirsty mobs prowl over Russian territory, lashing and lynching its citizens. Even the sex which civilization and custom have shielded from rude assaults are treated as brutally as the men. Women are stripped to the skin in the presence of leering, white-skinned, black-hearted brutes and lashed i... (From :
Afternoon Session, June 28 A great deal has been said here about the number of votes that the different delegates carry around in their pockets. I am not here for the purpose of raising a note of inharmony or disunion among these delegates. I am simply here in the interest of truth as I see it. Now, this idea of mere force of numbers sounds too much to me like “Might makes Right.” Mere force of numbers never made a right on Earth, and, thanks to justice, never can. What is right, what is just and justice, is simply the result of the best minds of all the ages. Whatever right we have in society is simply a heritage handed down to us by those who had only disinterested motives. Now, I am one of those who entered my n... (From :
This article donated by William Loren Katz Lucy Parsons addressed the founding convention on two occasions and her speeches touched on issues close to her heart: the oppression of women and how to develop radical new tactics to win strikes. Her idea clearly were in advance of the time, presage the "sit-in" strikes of the 1930s, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and her words resonate today. Delegate applause interrupted her speech several times and at the end. We, the women of this country, have no ballot even if we wished to use it, and the only way that we can be represented is to take a man to represent us. You men have made such a mess of it in representing us that we have not much confidence in asking you . . . ... (From :
May 1st has marked a time in the long procession of the centuries. The beautiful month of May, when all nature emerges from her long, dreary, winter’s sleep. Beautiful month of springtime and flowers. Man, too, revives his hopes and renews his resolves, for he, also, feels the flood-tide of nature in his own being and responds as best he can to her charming voice. What more appropriate time could the workers choose to renew their efforts to inaugurate a better day, a better life for themselves? I noticed that this grand old International Day was more widely observed this year than has been the case in recent years. The papers tell us of its observance both in America and Europe on an extensive scale. I was in Cleveland o... (From :
To Tramps by Lucy E. ParsonsAlarm, October 4, 1884. Also printed and distributed as a leaflet by the International Working People's Association. TO TRAMPS, The Unemployed, the Disinherited, and Miserable. A word to the 35,000 now tramping the streets of this great city, with hands in pockets, gazing listlessly about you at the evidence of wealth and pleasure of which you own no part, not sufficient even to purchase yourself a bit of food with which to appease the pangs of hunger now knawing at your vitals. It is with you and the hundreds of thousands of others similarly situated in this great land of plenty, that I wish to have a word. Have you not worked hard all your life, since you were old enough for your labor to be of use in... (From :
To Comrades and Friends: It is my intention to go East on an agitation trip in a week or two. I will deliver lectures upon the following subjects: “Curse of Child Labor,” “The Commune,” “Anarchism Defined,” “The Industrial Workers of the World: Their Aims and Object.” Comrades will please arrange meetings and communicate with me as soon as possible. (From :
Chicago, February 27, 1934 Dear Carl: Your letter of February 13 was quite a surprise and illuminating, to learn that you had arrived at the same conclusions that I had some years ago: that is, that Anarchism has not produced any organized ability in the present generation, only a few little loose, struggling groups, scattered over this vast country, that come together in “conferences” occasionally, talk to each other, then go home. Then we never hear from them again until another conference is held. Do you call this a movement? You speak of “the movement” in your letter. Where is it? You say, “I just feel disgusted.” I have been for a long time. Anarchists are good at showing the shortcomin... (From :
The Voice of the People will yet be Heard Words and writings by Lucy Parsons The twentieth anniversary of the 11th of November, which has just been observed in Chicago, was a great success from many standpoints, notably among which was the increased number of young people who took part in it. . . . As these years speed by, our comrades' lives will be better understood; their great work for the uplifting of humanity understood and appreciated. This has been the case of the martyrs of all ages.... "The Voice of the People" will yet be heard. The Demonstrator November 20, 1907 It is now 18 months since I published the [Famous Speeches of the Haymarket Martyrs]. In that time I have traveled from Los Angeles, Wa Vancou... (From :
There is no picture so dark but has its bright side—no life so dreary but what at some time a ray of hope flits across its cheerless path. There is no movement so heinous (?) but to those engaged in it has its amusing side. But who can assume for one moment that the awful, horrible, anarchistic movement of “blood-drinking” anarchists can have any amusing side to it? How could such “fiends” ever smile? For after reading insinuations from the pulpit, assertions from the press, and “criticisms” from professional critics, to the average reader an avowed anarchistic society must be composed of beings somewhat resembling the human family, who hold orgies, which they designate as meetings; having been comp... (From :
The change from the present method of obtaining one’s living is inevitable, because it has become a necessity. We now live under the pay system, in which if you can’t pay you can’t have. Everything has a price set upon it; earth, air, light and water, all have their price. And he who hasn’t worked, let him starve. Love, honor, fame, ambition, all the noblest and holiest aspirations and sentiments of humanity are bought and sold. Everything is upon the market for sale; all is merchandise and commerce. Land, the prime necessity of existence, is held for a price, and the homeless millions perish because they cannot pay for it. Food, raiment and shelter exist in super-abundance, but are withheld for the price. The... (From :
Since the sudden stoppage of the big wheel in Wall Street, which is the center of the capitalistic universe, havoc has been played in the industrial ranks generally. The wheels in the factories have ceased to revolve, the fires have been drawn, and hundreds of thousands of the wage-earning class have been, and are being, thrown upon the highways in the country and the city streets. Reader, can you realize its effects? Maybe not, so let us take a stroll through the streets of this wonderful city of Chicago. It is two p.m. The afternoon papers are just out; a thousand or more people are buying them, perhaps paying out their last penny. They read the “ads” eagerly; off they dash pell mell in a mad race, trying to outs... (From :
Who were the Molly Maguires? So much is said and written about them at the present time, and so little seems to be known of their origin, aims and objects, even by the labor press, who, aping the capitalist press, speak of them as “bandits,” thus implying that they were marauders or terrorists of some kind, composed only of murderers who the Pinkerton thug, McParland, broke up, getting a number of them hung, thus doing a great service to society at large. Now, really, who were the Molly Maguires? Let us cross the ocean to the soil of Ireland to ascertain who they were. In the fifties and sixties, and into the seventies of the last century, everyone at all familiar with history is aware of the terrible conditions pr... (From :
The recent Congress of Anarchists, held at Amsterdam, Holland, seems to me to be a wise move and a step in the right direction. The Anarchistic cause (there has been no movement in recent years) has lacked a plan of procedure or organization. To be sure, there have somehow, here and there, drifted together a few persons who, in a loose way, formed a sort of group, calling themselves Anarchists, but these groups were composed, for the most part, of young, inexperienced people who had about as many conceptions of the real aims of Anarchism as there were members composing the group; consequently, the result has been as might reasonably have been expected. The anarchistic cause has lacked concentration of effort, and a vivifying force to... (From :
Kewanee, Ill., Oct. 2. The funeral of the victims of the tragedy of the Markham home Saturday, in which eight lives were taken by the mother’s insane act, was held today. Only two coffins were used, one for Mrs Markham and the other for the seven children she killed, whose charred bodies were taken from the ashes of the home. Who can tell the amount of pent-up woe the above brief telegram contains? Here was a young woman of thirty-five years who had given birth to seven children, the eldest one eleven years, the youngest four months old. There was no “race suicide” in that house. The father, we are informed, was a poor truck-farmer in summer and did odd jobs in winter for an existence. The father, on learning of the... (From :
In the earlier times of the world’s history when man was but little higher in the intellectual scale than the beast which he slew for food, and whose skins he used for raiment, muscular strength and physical endurance were the standards of excellence and the stamp of superiority which prevailed. As nature had not endowed woman with these requisites to the same extent she had man, he looked upon her as a being inferior to himself. Possibly this was the beginning of man’s domination and woman’s subjugation. But as man ascended in the social scale of development, he began to acquire property, which he wished to transmit along with his name to his offspring—then woman became his household drudge. She was regarded ... (From :
The anti-military spirit which is developing among the masses of Europe will tell the governments of the Earth that the workers have no trouble that needs to be settled by cruel war; and if the rulers have trouble, they can settle them by fighting it out among themselves. The working class wants to enjoy the fruits of their toil, the short time they journey this Earth. But we are told that kind of talk is unpatriotic, that every man ought to be willing to fight for his country. What country belongs to the wage class? (From :
To the Editor of The Socialist: Believing it to be a principle of human nature for people to want to know what others think of them, I would like, for the benefit of workingwomen especially, to lay before your many readers a few extracts from an article entitled “Hints to Young Housekeepers,” printed in Scribner’s Magazine for January, 1879, as follows: Choice of Servants Unless they (the servants) have grown old in your service, it is better that servants should not be over forty, for many reasons. Cooks, chambermaids, and laundresses should be strong and active, wholesome and honest-looking, with clean hands, and no long backs, and reject finery. The better educated are more likely to understand their r... (From :
The Government [building] rookery is daily overrun with a number of mendicants, claiming assistance under the representations that they are relics from the carnage of the late rebellion. These unfortunates, irrespective of the truth or falsity of their representations, are almost invariably referred to some private institution or to the County [poorhouse] authorities, where provision is made for their wants. (From the Chicago Times) The above item is from one of those slandering, venal sheets of this city, whose proprietor had managed to keep far in the rear of cannonballs and bombshells during the late struggle between slavery and freedom, Republican institutions and Slavocracy; who was too great a coward to respond to his count... (From :
Scab is a new word, and like the individual it represents, it is the result of, and is coined from, the conditions of today. We believe in organization among the wealth-producers because it, for a time at least, enables the wage-slave to withstand the encroachments of the capitalists; it disciplines the raw material of the factory; and besides, men and women who are too ignorant or indolent to organize in the unions of their trades are too ignorant to be amenable to the teachings of the science of economies. But the “scab” is here; he is a factor, and is becoming a more important factor with each day’s momentum of the capitalistic system. Analyzed, who is the scab? A poverty-stricken, disheartened wage-slave—n... (From :


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