The mothers of the American Labor Movement spoke wisdom to the masses and truth to the powerful, and Lucy Parsons was one of the best. Here are just a few things you should know about Sister Parsons:
- Little is known about Lucy Parsons’ early life. She was born in Texas in 1853, possibly as a slave. After the Civil War, she married Albert Parsons, a former confederate soldier. In 1873, fleeing from the intolerant reactions to their interracial marriage, the couple moved to Chicago.
- In May, 1886, both Lucy Parsons and Albert Parsons were leaders of a strike in Chicago for an eight-hour work day. The strike ended in violence and eight of the anarchists were arrested, including Albert Parsons. They were accused of responsibility for a bomb that killed four police officers, though witnesses testified that none of the eight threw the bomb. The strike came to be called the Haymarket Riot.
- Albert was executed with three others on November 11, 1887. While Albert was in Cook County Jail, Lucy sold publications to raise funds for his legal defense. She continued their work as activists despite his imprisonment and eventual death. Although she was not successful in freeing Albert from prison, he was pardoned posthumously by Governor John P. Altgeld.
- Regarded as a founder of the union, she was one of only two women delegates (the other was Mother Jones) among the 200 men at the founding convention of the militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the only woman to speak.
- Lucy Parsons was active in the fight against oppression until her death. Continuing to inspire crowds, she spoke at the International Harvester in February 1941, one of her last major appearances. An accidental fire killed her on March 7, 1942 at the age of 89. . . To add to this tragedy, Lucy’s library of 1,500 books on sex, socialism, and anarchy were mysteriously stolen, along with all of her personal papers. Neither the FBI nor the Chicago police told Irving Abrams, who had come to rescue the library, that the FBI had already confiscated all of her books.
- Chicago Police Department description of Lucy Parsons: “More dangerous than a thousand rioters…”