Lucy Gonzalez Parsons’ Story
“Let us sink such differences as nationality, religion, politics, and set our eyes eternally and forever toward the rising star of the industrial republic of labor.” – Lucy Gonzalez Parsons
Lucy Gonzalez Parsons was famously described as, “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.” Of Mexican American, African American, and Native American descent, she was born into slavery in Texas, and in 1871 married a white socialist named Albert Parsons. In Texas, the interracial couple lived under threat of violence, including lynching, for their radical politics and defiance of anti-miscegenation laws. They fled to Chicago where they became leaders in union organizing. In Chicago, Parsons became a popular orator at political rallies, where she spoke out against what she saw as the evils of capitalism and the oppression of workers. She and her husband participated in a May Day rally in Chicago in 1886, later known as the Haymarket Affair, which resulted in Albert being tried and sentenced to death for a bombing at the rally. After her husband’s death, Parsons continued her activism, including working as a writer and editor on a number of leftist publications including the Workingmen’s Party of the United States publication, the Socialist, and her own paper, Freedom. In 1905, she became one of only two women founding members of the International Workers of the World, an industrial union focused on organizing all workers, regardless of their craft, a stark contrast with traditional trade unionism. The IWW was founded by people like Parsons, with strong ties to militant unionism, socialism, and anarchism, with the goal of empowering workers in conflicts with the employer class. In addition to her activism, Parsons was a mother of two children and supported herself as a dressmaker. She died in a house fire in 1942.