Her name was Lucy Parsons, and she was described by the Local Chicago authorities as “being more dangerous than a thousand rioters”.
That was how powerful her words and philosophy were.
She was no doubt one of the most influential people in the history of America. She was a socialist, a journalist, an anarchist, and a labor organizer.
Lucy was known to have fought for the rights of the poor and disenfranchised in society in the midst of an oppressive industrial economic system. And to cap it, she did this in an era where radicals placed a woman nowhere else but as a “housewife.”
She was active in her struggle for seventy years, and in those 70 years, she fought for equality of the various races in America. But she was not the type to beg for the subdued to be treated fairly. No. She believed that violence was the only way to transform the capitalist system and force the powers that be to respect and meet the demands of the workers.
She wrote down every of her thought, beliefs, and philosophy. Those who knew her said that the things she wrote down alarmed the government of the time. The fear for her philosophies was so strong that the police and FBI stopped and barred her from speaking in public. In some other cases, she was thrown into jail.
The fear for this woman’s philosophy was so severe that on the day she died; federal authorities seized her books, writings, and journals about socialism and anarchy. They did this to hide her ideals and solutions from her followers and from historians who would eventually study and spread her philosophies.
During her lifetime, she kept certain personal information away from the media and public. Top on the list was her background.
A reporter once asked her to reveal her background and she replied: “I am not a candidate for office, and the public has no right to my past. I amount to nothing to the world and people care nothing of me. I am battling for a principle.”
Not so much is known about her early life, except the fact that she had African, Mexican, and Native American ancestry.
When she was a teenager, she got married to Oliver Gathing, who was a formerly enslaved African man. They both had a child, who they later lost. She would remarry in 1869, to Albert Parsons, who was a printer and a former Confederate soldier.
Their marriage was not legal, as local laws didn’t permit the intermarriage of blacks and whites at the time. To be together and also continue their anti-segregation movement, they left Texas for Chicago.
While in Texas, her Husband, Albert was said to have extremely worked on registering Black voters, and was shot in the leg, and faced numerous threats of lynching. When they got to Texas, they continued their activism through labor and anarchist movements. Albert got a job at the Chicago Times and worked as a printer.
That era was when the United States fell into depression, which left millions of Americans unemployed. The authorities in Chicago reduced the wages drastically, and this led to the great strike of 1877.
Lucy’s husband was fired from the Chicago Times for rallying over 1,000 railroad workers to riot against the police.
Lucy at that point became very radical with her writings and publications. She was famous for The Socialist and The Alarm, which were weekly anarchist publications that she published on the IWPA (International Working People’s Association). It’s important to note that Lucy and her husband were instrumental in the founding of IWPA.
In a May 3, 1886 protest, in support of eight-hour workdays at the McCormick Harvest Works, violence broke out, and police officers were killed. The government arrested Lucy’s husband and charged him with conspiracy and murder. He was later executed in 1887.
After her husband was killed, Lucy did not stop her activism and the struggle for the rights of workers, women, and African-Americans in general. She also traveled extensively to give speeches.
As a result of her activities and relationship with the Communist Party, Socialist Party, and a good number of other radical newspapers, the FBI turned their eyes on her and made it a sport to always arrest and harass her. But this didn’t stop her, as she continued her activism till her death, on March 7, 1942, at the age of 89.
Although the government through the FBI did their best to steal and bury all her writings, books and publications, in an attempt to erase her ideals and philosophy, the world still remembers her as a fighter and hero.
Today, her image is being used as the logo of a Chicago anti-fascist group, which goes by the name Black Rose. The Lucy Parsons Center in Boston was named after her, while in 2004, a park in Chicago was named after her.