G.M. Burns, March 18, 2021
Lucy Parsons (c. 1851-1942) was considered to be a dangerous and extreme anarchist — the kind of orator and writer that could move her audiences — who were the labor force of that era. The folks she spoke to were the working class who had to work long hours and suffer in poor working conditions. While some now believe Parsons to be a feminist and union organizer, it was a fact that she struck fear and dread into the police and the business class of the day.
The daring and intense anarchist was widely known during her time, even while she promoted the use of violence, but in the last few decades, Parsons seems to have been largely left behind to history. However, when someone passes, what they stood for does not disappear, nor are they really forgotten. The book by Dr. Jacqueline Jones of the University of Texas at Austin illustrates Parsons’ long life, from being active in the labor movement, being present at the Haymarket Riot, defending the Scottsboro Boys and being an advocate for free speech. In this email interview, Jones writes about Parsons in “The Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical.”
Ithaca Times: How did you come to write about Lucy Parsons, and what drew you to her story as feminist and labor organizer in your book “Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical?”
Jacqueline Jones: I had heard of her, but I also knew the first and only biography of her was written in 1976 (by Carolyn Ashbaugh), and that it was time to revisit Parsons using new online sources now available. Ashbaugh was not able to find out anything about Parsons’ pre-Waco life; in contrast, I located newspaper evidence that showed she had been born to an enslaved woman in Virginia in 1851, and forcibly removed with her mother and siblings to Texas during the war. Parsons was quite the celebrity (if a notorious one) in her lifetime, and I thought more people should know about her.