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Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Interpretive exhibit examining the historical and cultural context of the the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

Her Story

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964)  joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1907 and became a full time organizer soon after. Nicknamed the IWW's “Rebel Girl”, Flynn was a strong activist who participated in the 1909 Free Speech Fight in Spokane, Washington where she chained herself to a lamp post to delay her arrest. Throughout her career she was arrested 10 times but was never given a criminal charge. Not only did she advocate for labor rights and organization but she also was for women’s rights, women’s suffrage, and birth control. Later in life, she was a member and later chairwoman of the American Communist Party.

Some of her notable writings are:

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley. 1916. Sabotage: the conscious withdrawal of the workers' industrial efficiency. Cleveland, Ohio: I.W.W. Pub. Bureau.

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley. 1963. The Alderson story: my life as a political prisoner. New York: International Publishers.

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley. 1977. Memories of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). New York: American Institute for Marxist Studies].

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


These images are part of the University of Washington Special Collections Portrait Collection

Joe Hill's "Rebel Girl"

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and imprisoned IWW songwriter Joe Hill became friends after Hill's "frame-up" became a labor cause célèbre.  Flynn and Hill corresponded and she visited him in jail on several occasions, advocating for his justice. Hill wrote the song "Rebel Girl" in her honor. When Flynn came to Spokane, Joe Hill had asked a youn IWW musician---Katie Phar--to help Flynn sing the song. Phar, who was nicknamed the "IWW songbird", shared a love of music with Hill and they corresponded from his prison cell.

Related Sources


The Rebel Girl : an autobiography, my first life (1906-1926)  

Autobiography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

The Letters of Joe Hill  

Letters of IWW songwriter Joe Hill. The book includes correspondence between Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Hill from his prison cell.

Preliminary Guide to the Freda La Mar Pamphlet Collection 1907-1922  

Finding aid to a pamphlet collection in UW Special Collections, containing "Sabotage" (1916), by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

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

Biography on Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Flynn was a labor organizer, member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a founding member of ACLU, and a leader of the American Communist Party.