Sunday, 6 March 2016

Lucy Parsons ( 1853? - 7/3/1942) - More dangerous than a thousand rioters.

Lucy Eldine Gonzales was born to parents of Native American, Black American and Mexican ancestry near Waco, Texas. It is possible her parents were slaves, but this remains unverified.
She married a white man man called Albert Parsons , who had become a radical republican after serving as a Confederate soldier. She would go on to become a leading figure in American Anarchism and the radical Labour Movement.
In 1875 she and her husband were forced to flee to Chicago, due to intolerant reactions to their interacial marriage. Together they would fight for African American voting rights, and against KKK terror, condemning racist attacks and killings. Getting involved also in  radical labour organising, they fought for the rights of political prisoners, women, people of color, and homeless people, advocating a syndicalist theory of society. She did all this while working as a dressmaker.
She began writing for the radical newspapers The Socialist and The Alarm. The Chicago Police Department describing her 'as more dangerous than a thousand rioters.' On the topic of the growth of homeless people  begging for food on the streets of Chicago, the Chicago  trubune said ' When a tramp asks you for bread , put strychnine or arsenic on it and he will trouble you no more, and trouble wuill keep out of your neighbourhood.' In response to this depravity, Lucy wrote one of her most famous articles  called - ' To Trams, the Unemplyed, the Disinherited, and Miserable.'  Parsons became deeply involved in support of an eight hour workday, and during a demonstration in support of this at Haymarket Square on Tuesday May 4th 1886, an unknown person threw a bomb, subsequent police violence enabled a riot to take place. After the incident  eight Anarchists were arrested on trumped up charges, including Albert. Lucy Parsons at the time did all she could to get justice for her husband and his fellow accused, since no evidence could be found to connect them to the bombing. Fighting tirelessly for them all, travelling across the United States, speaking out, rallying support, raising money. Alas in vain with  four out of the eight being  executed by hanging on November 11th 1887.
After her husbands death , Lucy came into her own as one of the leading radicals of the day. she continued to spread her anarchist message, and became known for her powerful oratory. In 1905 she participated in the founding of the International Workers of the World,  she believed in their committment  to direct action, which she believed  would inspire a strong working class movement. She continued to work with various Labour groups, while raising two children that she had had with Albert. Finding time to organise demonstrations, talking to crowds of workers, for the unemployed, homeless and hungry delivering power passionate speeches against police brutality, judicial murder. Getting involved in the International Labour Defence, fighting for Sacco and Vancetti, Tom Mooney, Scottbro Nine, 9 young African Americans who had become symbols of criminal injustice at the time, and for Women's emancipation,  for free birth control, advocating for organisation of sex workers,and the struggle and rights of the poor and disenfranchised. Preaching justice for the poor by way of revolution. Her radical beliefs prompted the police to arrest her many times but  believing in freedom of speech, she  would spend the rest of her life, fighting the forces that seeked to eliminate her voice.
Continuing to remain active into her eighties, she died in a suspicious house fire on  7/3/42, aged 89. It seems she was viewed as a threat to the political order in death, as well as in life,  it was revealed that her ashes barely being cold, the Chicago Police force seized  her entire personal library, in all it's 3,000 volumes,  on sex, socialism and anarchy and turned it over the F.B.I. Most of it would never be seen again, an attempt to whitewash and write her out of history as they tried to rob her of the work of her life.
 Fortunately some of her writings survived, as do her ideas,  fighting strongly for what she believed in, defying both racial and gender discrimination, at the forefronts of movements and battles for social justice, her entire life. She challenged the racist and sexist sentiment in a time when even Radical Americans, believed a woman's place was in the home.  The legacy of her fight for workers rights, freedom of speech, the African-American, is still a strong influential one. Her voice still resounding against all kinds  of oppression and the forces of capitalism long after her death. 
 She is buried  near her husband in Waldheim Cemetery (now Forest Home Cemetery), Forest Park, Illinois.

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