In 1906, speaking from a homemade soapbox near Times Square, 16-year-old Elizabeth Gurley Flynn stopped traffic on a Saturday night. Broadway producer David Belasco became so impressed he wanted to put her on stage. But she told him, 'I'm in the labor movement and I speak my own piece.' And for more than 50 years this fiery American radical truly did speak her own piece, crossing and recrossing the United States, crusading for her brand of humane socialism. As the only woman leader of the Industrial Workers of the World she organized immigrant factory workers in the East, iron ore miners on Minnesota's Mesabi Range, and lumberjacks in the Northwest. She became a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union; joined the American Communist Party and in 1961 became the first woman to chair the party. Arrested more than a dozen times for exercising her right to free speech, she was a natural victim of McCarthyism, serving a three-year prison sentence in the 1950s. After more than a decade of research, Helen C. Camp has produced the first full-length biography of the most notable American radical of the twentieth century.
Camp has written an informative study of one of the most important radicals to emerge out of the American labor movement. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) first made her mark as an organizer and speaker for the Industrial Workers of the World. She joined the Communist Party in the mid-1930s and was a leading member for many years. Also active in the area of free speech, Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. As a result of her Communist affiliation, she served a three-year prison sentence in the 1950s. She died in Moscow and received a state funeral from the Soviet authorities. Camp's book, which is based on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources, does a very good job of placing Flynn's activities in a wider historical context. The book's main failing is its credulous treatment of the American Communist Party and its relationship to the Soviet Union. Recommended for academic libraries.Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York