Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Papers

Accession Number: 
.25 linear feet

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as a high school student in 1906, but left school a year later to dedicate herself to organizing full time. A gifted and popular speaker, over the next several years she participated in IWW free speech and legal defense fund-raising campaigns and helped organize the Lawrence and Paterson textile strikes. A tireless defender of labor and political agitators facing deportation, Ms. Flynn helped found the ACLU in 1920, only to be expelled in 1940 for having joined the Communist Party three years earlier. She also wrote and lectured extensively on women’s issues. In the mid-1950s she was imprisoned for violation of the Smith Act and in 1961, became the first woman to serve as chair of the U.S. Communist Party, a position she held until her death in Moscow on September 5, 1964.

The Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Collection consists primarily of family correspondence, mostly letters she wrote to her nephew, Peter Martin, while in prison and while traveling in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the western United States in the 1960s. While its content largely concerns family and personal matters, including her health, it also contains some political commentary as well as her impressions of prison life and the places she visited.

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