Lucy Parson was one of the first leaders of women’s liberation and took up causes for women’s emancipation, gender and sexual equality, and oppression of working-class women. She has an African American, probably born to slave parents who married white Confederate soldiers and the couple was persecuted for this act. So powerful and moving were her writings and speech that she was regarded as “more powerful than a 1000 arsonists”. A brief commentary on her writings and speeches is given in this paper.
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In one of her speeches to the IWW in 1905, Lucy speaks of the enslavement of women and their oppression by a man who themselves are slaves to the capitalist forces. She has castigated men and says that women are not allowed to vote and if they are allowed to vote, they have to elect only men. She further speaks of the manner in which women’s wages are reduced and calls for a new approach when conducting strikes.
Calling for more cooperation among various labor groups, she says that land should be given to those who till it and tools to the worker and if there is a strike, the people should not start starving and abandon their place of work but rather take possession of the workplace and continue working. Her speeches were filled with simple, earthy, and pithy words that roused the workers into a frenzy. (Parsons, 1905).
In the lecture and article ‘The Principles of Anarchism’ she outlines her vision of Anarchy as the answer to the labor question and how powerful governments and companies worked for hand in hand to stifle the voices of the poor workers and make them work harder than ever. She calls the workers to a new order of defiance to the unjust laws and rules that governments make to exploit the poor. She speaks in a very organized and learned manner as she relates how politicians that are out of power would promise anything to be voted back into power and how once they come back to power, they continue the earlier policies of exploiting workers (Parsons, 1890).
Her collections of writings in various publications and newspapers have been published as a series of papers called ‘The Voice of the People will yet be Heard’ and in these works, the true extent of the misery that workers had to bear is strongly brought out. She refers to the Haymarket Affair in which her husband and other activists were wrongly implicated and hanged up on trumped-up charges. Lucy speaks of the totalitarian methods that the authorities used and narrates her sorrowful experiences as she went to meet her husband along with her two children just before he was to be hanged.
The police heavily guarded the jail and refused entry to them thus robbing them of the chance to meet the condemned father and husband before he was hanged. She calls this act as the evil intent of the government to repress the wage earners and push them back to wage slavery, rather than find the real bomb-throwers as the police felt that these activists were of more threat than anyone else. In other words, Lucy encourages the future generation of workers to speak more freely and act with courage, deriving strength from the sacrifices made by earlier workers (Parsons Lucy. 1907-1938).
In one of her most memorable writings ‘To Tramps’ written during the depression of the 1880s, Lucy speaks of the injustice that was given to the 35000 jobless people who roamed the streets since factories were closed. Highlighting the miseries of the unemployed she recalls that it was these very workers who toiled for more than 16 hours per day for slave wages so that the owners could come richer and the workers were paid barely enough to buy small amounts of food while their families suffered. She urged the workers to take to the streets and fight back and get the government to reopen the factories so that the hungry and starving workers could feed themselves again.
The paper has examined some of the works and lectures by Lucy Parson and concludes that she set the foundation for the modern-day labor movement of worker emancipation and gave them the means to ask for better working conditions, rational pay, and stop their exploitation.
Parsons Lucy. 1905. Speech to the IWW in 1905. Web.
Parsons Lucy. 1890. The Principles of Anarchism. Web.
Parsons Lucy. 1907-1938. The Voice of the People will yet be Heard. Web.
Parsons Lucy. 1884. TO TRAMPS, The Unemployed, the Disinherited, and Miserable. Web.