Iron in Her Soul: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left

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9780874221053: Iron in Her Soul: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left
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In 1906, speaking from a homemade soapbox near Times Square, 16-year-old Elizabeth Gurley Flynn stopped traffic on a Saturday night. Broadway producer David Belasco became so impressed he wanted to put her on stage. But she told him, "I'm in the labor movement and I speak my own piece."
And for more than 50 years this fiery American radical truly did speak her own piece, crossing and recrossing the United States, crusading for her brand of humane socialism. As the only woman leader of the Industrial Workers of the World she organized immigrant factory workers in the East, iron ore miners on Minnesota's Mesabi Range, and lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest.
When the Red Scare that accompanied World War I gutted the Wobblies, she became a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. By the late Thirties, afraid that the "revolution" would pass her by, she joined the American Communist Party and was instantly thrust into the top ranks of its leadership. In 1961 she became the first woman to chair the party. Arrested more than a dozen times for exercising her right to free speech, she was a natural victim of McCarthyism, serving a three-year prison sentence in the 1950s.
After more than a decade of research, Helen C. Camp has produced the first full-length biography of the most notable American radical of the twentieth century. Based on Flynn's personal papers and writings, memoirs of her friends and colleagues, personal interviews, FBI files and trial transcripts, and other important unpublished materials in a wide range of historical repositories, Iron in Her Soul is an exhaustively researched, yet dramatic and readable account of a remarkable life.

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About the Author:

Helen C. Camp is currently adjunct professor of American history at Pace University.

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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890^-1964) was an impassioned orator, a naive idealist, and a woman who deserves her prominent place in labor history. A leader in both the great syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the American Communist Party, she began speaking for workers' rights as a teenager in turn-of-the-century New York and concluded her life as an honored guest in the Soviet Union. Camp's thoroughly researched book is both a fascinating biography and an incisive chronicle of the rise and fall of the twentieth-century American Left. The Sacco-Vanzetti trial, the birth of the American Civil Liberties Union, the disillusioning Hitler-Stalin pact, and the rise of McCarthyism all figure in a saga that features such well-known names as Eugene Debs and Joe Hill; Camp also evenhandedly describes Flynn's often clouded judgments (e.g., she spoke out against the persecution of minorities in the U.S. but failed to realize the plight of Jews in the USSR). In an era of self-described outsiders, it's refreshing to read about a genuine rebel. Aaron Cohen

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