Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

served usa world communist

Labour leader and social reformer, born in Concord, New Hampshire, USA. The daughter of Irish nationalists, she showed an early talent for public speaking on social issues. Dropping out of school by 1907, she became an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, and was involved in many famous strikes. She also worked for women's suffrage, peace, and other progressive causes, and was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (1920). She worked for such causes as the release of civilians imprisoned during World War 1 on war-related charges, and then to free Sacco and Vanzetti. A heart ailment kept her out of action for a decade, but in 1936 she joined the Communist Party and became one of its outspoken leaders in the USA; she served two years in prison (1955–7) under the Smith Act, charged with advocating the overthrow of the US government. She later served as chair of the Communist Party of America (1961–4), and died in Moscow, where she had gone to work on her autobiography.

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