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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Quotes

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964)


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, radical activist for worker's and women's rights, was a IWW (Wobblie) organizer and, later, an American Communist Party activist and leader. She helped found the ACLU and was later thrown out for her communist party membership.

Selected Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Quotations

• The IWW has been accused of pushing women to the front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so they have naturally moved to the front.

• History has a long-range perspective. It ultimately passes stern judgment on tyrants and vindicates those who fought, suffered, were imprisoned, and died for human freedom, against political oppression and economic slavery.

• It is my hope that the workers will not only "sabotage" the supply of products, but also the over-supply of producers.

• What is a labor victory? I maintain that it is a twofold thing. Workers must gain economic advantage, but they must also gain revolutionary spirit, in order to achieve a complete victory. For workers to gain a few cents more a day, a few minutes less a day, and go back to work with the same psychology, the same attitude toward society is to achieve a temporary gain and not a lasting victory.

• We believe that the class struggle existing in society is expressed in the economic power of the master on the one side and the growing economic power of the workers on the other side meeting in open battle now and again, but meeting in continual daily conflict over which shall have the larger share of labor's product and the ultimate ownership of the means of life.

• I hated poverty. I was determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and all around us suffered. I have stuck to that purpose for 46 years. I consider in so doing I have been a good American. I have spent my life among the American workers all over this country, slept in their homes, eaten at their tables. They are the majority of the people who have the inalienable right in our view to govern the country.

• They did not believe in making any contracts. They believed that as long as you were organized, you could hold the office to what it said it was going to do. But a contract, a piece of paper held you and so they didn't make any contracts. - about the IWW

• Why did good hard-working people suffer so? Why were men who were willing, able, and anxious to work, denied jobs? Why was there so much unemployment? Why were there rich people who apparently did little but enjoyed life?

• We never heard of vacations, let alone vacations with pay. We never heard of seniority as it is understood today. There were no pensions for retirement of workers.

• The silk worker for instance may make beautiful things, fine shimmering silk. When it is hung up in the window of Altman's or Macy's or Wanamaker's it looks beautiful. But the silk worker never gets a chance to use a single yard of it. And the producing of the beautiful thing instead of being a pleasure is instead a constant aggravation to the silk worker. They make a beautiful thing in the shop and then they come home to poverty, misery, and hardship. They wear a cotton dress while they are weaving the beautiful silk for some demi monde in New York to wear.

• What precipitated the big strike in 1912, which is one of the great historical struggles in our country, was a political act on the part of the State. The hours of labor were reduced to 54 hours. You can imagine what they were before. That was only for women and children, but it affected something like 75% of the workers in the mills. On the first pay after the law went into effect, the employers cut the wages proportionately to the cut in hours and the wages were on the average of $7 and $8 a week at that time, and the highest pay to loom fixers and more highly skilled were getting possibly, $15 and $20. It was a margin between mere subsistence and starvation and so there was a spontaneous strike. - about the 1912 Lawrence Textile strike

• There has been labor protection by law but there has also been labor repression by law.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2005. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/e_g_flynn.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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