Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Modern American Revolutionary

Lara Vapnek

First Edition • February 3, 2015 • 160 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813348094 • $22.00 USD$28.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813348100 • $9.99 USD$12.99 CAN

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In 1906, fifteen-year old Elizabeth Gurley Flynn mounted a soapbox in Times Square to denounce capitalism and proclaim a new era for women’s freedom. Quickly recognized as an outstanding public speaker and formidable organizer, she devoted her life to creating a socialist America, “free from poverty, exploitation, greed and injustice.” Flynn became the most important female leader of the Industrial Workers of the World and of the American Communist Party, fighting tirelessly for workers’ rights to organize and to express dissenting ideas. Weaving together Flynn’s personal and political life, this biography reveals previously unrecognized connections between feminism, socialism, free love, and free speech. Flynn’s remarkable career casts new light on the long and varied history of radicalism in the United States.

About the Lives of American Women series:
Selected and edited by renowned women’s historian Carol Berkin, these brief biographies are designed for use in undergraduate courses. Rather than a comprehensive approach, each biography focuses instead on a particular aspect of a women’s life that is emblematic of her time, or which made her a pivotal figure in the era. The emphasis is on a “good read,” featuring accessible writing and compelling narratives, without sacrificing sound scholarship and academic integrity. Primary sources at the end of each biography reveal the subject’s perspective in her own words. Study questions and an annotated bibliography support the student reader.

Lara Vapnek teaches at St. John’s University, in New York City. She specializes in the history of gender, labor, and politics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century United States. Her previous publications include Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865-1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), as well as several articles on women’s labor history. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Series Editor Carol Berkin is a well-known women’s historian and the author of many popular and scholarly books, including Civil War Wives. She is Professor of History Emerita at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and she is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Series Editor Foreword

1 East Side Joan of Arc – Early life
2 Wobbly Agitator – Fights for Free Speech
3 Building Solidarity with the IWW – Landmark strikes
4 The Question of Violence
5 Defending Workers during the Red Scare
6 “No Present Prospects of Returning East” – Oregon interlude
7 My Second Life – the Communist Party
8 Flynn Fights Fascism – World War II
9 Liberty Denied – the Cold War
10 “Mortal Enemy of Capitalism” – Last years

Primary Sources
Study Questions
Annotated Bibliography

“Vapnek’s engrossing account of the life of America’s best known radical woman lucidly demonstrates how Flynn negotiated the contradiction between her loyalty to the Communist Party and her insistence on free speech and civil liberties for all Americans. This is a brilliantly evocative story of a life that continues to speak to the tension between dissent and democracy.”
—Alice Kessler-Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

“Vapnek beautifully weaves together the important political issues of the Twentieth Century. Whether it’s world war, labor, radicalism, feminism, race relations, socialism, or immigration, the story of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn makes these big intangible themes come to life.”
—Rosanne M. Barker, Sam Houston State University

“An engaging and accessible account of the life and career of a genuine American radical.”
—Mary Anne Trasciatti, Hofstra University

“Biography of an important early-20th-century labor and human rights activist known as the East Side Joan of Arc, now sadly neglected. . . A brief encapsulation of the fury and disillusionment that characterized the career of this significant American activist.” —Kirkus

“In a lucid, eloquent study, Vapnek makes Flynn’s long career the centerpiece of a compulsively readable narrative history of radicalism, socialism, and labor politics in the Unites States during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century…. Vapnek’s clear, effective biography has helped to make the ‘rebel girl’ relevant anew.” —Labor: Studies In Working Class History of the Americas

Praise for the Lives of American Women series

“Finally! The majority of students—by which I mean women—will have the opportunity to read biographies of women from our nation’s past. (Men can read them too, of course!) The ‘Lives of American Women’ series features an eclectic collection of books, readily accessible to students who will be able to see the contributions of women in many fields over the course of our history. Long overdue, these books will be a valuable resource for teachers, students, and the public at large.”
—Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty

“Just what any professor wants: books that will intrigue, inform, and fascinate students! These short, readable biographies of American women—specifically designed for classroom use—give instructors an appealing new option to assign to their history students.”
—Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History, Cornell University

“For educators keen to include women in the American story, but hampered by the lack of thoughtful, concise scholarship, here comes ‘Lives of American Women,’ embracing Abigail Adams’s counsel to John—‘remember the ladies.’ And high time, too!”
—Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

“These books are, above all, fascinating stories that will engage and inspire readers. They offer a glimpse into the lives of key women in history who either defied tradition or who successfully maneuvered in a man’s world to make an impact. The stories of these vital contributors to American history deliver just the right formula for instructors looking to provide a more complicated and nuanced view of history.”
—Rosanne Lichatin, 2005 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America History Teacher of the Year

“Students both in the general survey course and in specialized offerings like my course on U.S. women’s history can get a great understanding of an era from a short biography. Learning a lot about a single but complex character really helps to deepen appreciation of what women’s lives were like in the past.”
—Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Biographies are, indeed, back. Not only will students read them, biographies provide an easy way to demonstrate particularly important historical themes or ideas. . . . Undergraduate readers will be challenged to think more deeply about what it means to be a woman, citizen, and political actor. . . . I am eager to use this in my undergraduate survey and specialty course.”
—Jennifer Thigpen, Washington State University, Pullman

“The Lives of American Women authors raise all of the big issues I want my classes to confront—and deftly fold their arguments into riveting narratives that maintain students’ excitement.”
—Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams

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