Lucy Parsons

American communist anarchist labor organizer (1853-1942)

Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons (18517 March 1942) was a radical American labor organizer, anarchist, and orator. She was born in Virginia, likely as a slave, to parents of Native American, Black American and Mexican ancestry. She often went by the name of Lucy Gonzalez.

Most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.


Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.
  • Never since the days of the Spartan Helots has history recorded such brutality as has been ever since the war and as is now being perpetrated upon the Negro in the South. How easy for us to go to Russia and drop a tear of sympathy over the persecuted Jew. But a step across Mason’s and Dixon’s line will bring us upon a scene of horrors before which those of Russia, bad as they are, pale into insignificance! No irresponsible, blood-thirsty mobs prowl over Russian territory, lashing and lynching its citizens.
    • "Southern Lynching" (April 1892)
  • Women are stripped to the skin in the presence of leering, white-skinned, black-hearted brutes and lashed into insensibility and strangled to death from the limbs of trees. A girl child of fifteen years was lynched recently by these brutal bullies. Where has justice fled? The eloquence of Wendell Phillips is silent now. John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave. But will his spirit lie there moldering, too? Brutes, inhuman monsters—you heartless brutes—you whom nature forms by molding you in it, deceive not yourselves by thinking that another John Brown will not arise.
    • "Southern Lynching" (April 1892)
  • What has ever been granted to the countless millions of workers of Earth without a fight? Czar Nicholas has discovered that he is not all Russia. Will he "let the voice of the people be heard"? Was it argument or force that changed Czar Nicholas's mind? Well, the Russia people have gotten thin edge of the wedge in; let them keep striking hard, they will split the throne after a while.
    • "On Revolution in Russia and Chinese Use of the Boycott", (1905)
  • The trusts will not allow you to vote them out of power because they are the power, as is shown by the interview given above.
    • "Wage Slaves vs Corporations" (1905)
  • Remind them that the sword still hangs upon the wall and the heart still beats within the man, and that that sword will be unsheathed again, if necessary, in defense of your rights. Given them to understand that you will not stand patiently by and see your hard earnings squandered by a luxuriating class of idlers. If the American manhood will arouse itself and speak to those fellows in plain language, not to be misunderstood, they can save themselves, their country and their children, from the fate of poverty which awaits them. Will you do it?
    • "Wage Slaves vs Corporations" (1905)
  • Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.
    • Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality & Solidarity - Writings & Speeches, 1878-1937
  • Oh, working man! Oh, starved, outraged, and robbed laborer, how long will you lend attentive ear to the authors of your misery? When will you become tired of your slavery and show the same by stepping boldly into the arena with those who declare that "Not to be a slave is to dare and DO?" When will you tire of such a civilization and declare in words, the bitterness of which shall not be mistaken, "Away with a civilization that thus degrades me; it is not worth the saving?"
    • "Our Civilization: Is It Worth Saving?" (1885)
  • Who, pray, are benefiting by all this waste and confusion? The dew, a mere small percentage of the population of the world. All the remainder submit, because they think "it always has been so and it must always be so." The work of those who have a conception of a true society of the future, must devote all their efforts towards disabusing the people's minds of the ancient false hoods. It can be done. Many other hoary lies have passed away, so will this one, too.
    • "Property Rights vs. Human Rights" (Nov. 1905)
  • If our social arrangements were so adjusted that each person could follow that calling in life which they are by nature adapted for, what a great gainer society as a whole would be. These few who are so fortunate as to be able to follow the calling of their heart’s desire make a success of life. Florence Nightingale was one of the fortunate few, who could engage in that occupation for which she was best adapted. Florence Nightingale was a born nurse. In her was found that rare combination of heart, brain and sympathy which makes the ideal nurse. It is when one is laid low by the ravages of disease that they can appreciate to its utmost depth the value of human kindness...In the future, when the war drum will be heard no more, and the only reveille to be sounded will be that which shall call men to the peaceful walks of life, the name of Florence Nightingale will be revered, as a woman who, though delicate and far removed from want, nevertheless was willing to risk her own life, that she might bring relief to that most stupid victim of our present system, the soldier.
  • How many are there of the countless millions who have entered this life, passed through its changing scenes and at last have laid down to rest, of whom it can be truly said, “Here rest they who have labored for the uplifting of the oppressed, who have devoted their energies unstintingly in the interest of the ‘common people?’” We fear there are few indeed. A life devoted to the interest of the working class; a life of self-abnegation, a life full of love, kindness, gentleness, tragedy, activity, sadness and kind-ness, are some of the characteristics which went to make up the varied life of our comrade, Louise Michel. In the elderly woman, clad in simple black garments, with gray hair curling upon rounded shoulders and kindest of blue eyes glancing from the strongly marked face, none but those who knew her personally would in the last few years have recognized Louise Michel…So it is in the baffling ocean of humanity. A strong character like Louise Michel looms up like a pillar of light or a star of hope, and the weary reformer sees it and takes fresh courage to struggle on in the surging ocean of humanity, and endeavors to calm its troubled waves and point the way to the harbor of plenty.
  • The Industrial Workers of the World, an organization launched in Chicago last June, is making wonderful progress in all parts of the country, and in practically every industry. This is as it should be, because the IWW is organized along the lines of the evolution of capitalism, which is so organized, that under one head or one management, whole lines of industry are conducted, reaching from ocean to ocean or from Maine to Mexico. So that the freight-handler working in the freight yards in San Francisco is affected when the longshoreman in New York City asks for better conditions from the employer, and he must be prepared to back his brother up in his just demand…It is the mission of the IWW to teach the laboring classes their solidarity of interest as a mass and, how they in future must act as a class, in order to win in their contests with capital. The line of action of the IWW is in direct contrast to that of the AFL, whose members are compelled to “scab” on each other when a strike of any dimension is declared
  • Grand Old Rebel! I am writing you these few lines to express my admiration and appreciation of the grand stand that you have taken, regarding your restoration to citizenship. Why should you ask for that which you, in justice and fairness, have never forfeited? It is [thanks] to such characters as you that reaction is halted and this stupid old world moves on a little, until the time for change is reached...Hoping that your useful life may be spared for many years, I am
  • They call us Reds. I don't know that that is very bad. I do not believe that is a very bad name. We are pretty red. I tell you I am a real Red.
    • "May Day Speech" (1930)
  • The worker is a mere appendage to the capitalist factory. Machinery has eliminated him. Robert Burns said: “O God, that men should be so cheap, and bread should be so dear!”

The Principles of AnarchismEdit

A lecture printed without date of publication sometime in the 1890s
  • Governments never lead; they follow progress. When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then.
  • My mind is appalled at the thought of a political party having control of all the details that go to make up the sum total of our lives. Think of it for an instant, that the party in power shall have all authority to dictate the kind of books that shall be used in our schools and universities, government officials editing, printing, and circulating our literature, histories, magazines and press, to say nothing of the thousand and one activities of life that a people engage in, in a civilized society.
  • The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word "Liberty"; yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, "Freedom." Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas — principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. In all other "issues" there is always a limit; some imaginary boundary line beyond which the searching mind dare not penetrate, lest some pet idea melt into a myth. But anarchism is the usher of science — the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth. It would remove all barriers between the human being and natural development.
  • Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.
    We look away from government for relief, because we know that force (legalized) invades the personal liberty of man, seizes upon the natural elements and intervenes between man and natural laws; from this exercise of force through governments flows nearly all the misery, poverty, crime and confusion existing in society.
  • Most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.
  • It is becoming more and more apparent that in every way we are "governed best where we are governed least."
  • So many able writers have shown that the unjust institutions which work so much misery and suffering to the masses have their root in governments, and owe their whole existence to the power derived from government. We cannot help but believe that were every law, every title deed, every court, and every police officer or soldier abolished tomorrow with one sweep, we would be better off than now.
  • We have laws, jails, courts, armies, guns and armories enough to make saints of us all, if they were the true preventives of crime; but we know they do not prevent crime; that wickedness and depravity exist in spite of them, nay, increase as the struggle between classes grows fiercer, wealth greater and more powerful and poverty more gaunt and desperate.
  • Who can measure the worth of a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo or Beethoven in dollars and cents?

Quotes about Lucy ParsonsEdit

  • In the 1880's socialist and labor organizer Lucy Gonzales Parsons was actively organizing women workers in Chicago. Her very presence and activity as a leader in the labor movement for thirty years propelled both the feminist and labor causes.
  • One of the first Chicanas to come into contact with the suffragist movements in the 1880s was Lucy Gonzalez Parsons, a Chicana socialist labor organizer...Although many social workers like Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and Sophonisba P. Breckenridge, and socialists like Emma Goldman advocated the rights of immigrants and working women, in most instances during the 1890 to 1910 period their advocacy had little or no effect on the suffragist movement's attitude toward minority or working-class women
    • Martha P. Cotera, "Feminism: The Chicano and Anglo Versions-A Historical Analysis" (1980)
  • At this (IWW) convention I was thrilled to meet Mrs. Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert Parsons, who had been executed 20 years before in the yard of the Cook County Jail in the heart of Chicago. While he was hanged she was held a prisoner in the Clark Street Station House, not far from where we were then meeting... I remember Mrs. Parsons speaking warmly to the young people, warning us of the seriousness of the struggles ahead that could lead to jail and death before victory was won. For years she traveled from city to city, knocking on the doors of local unions and telling the story of the Chicago trial. Her husband had said: "Clear our names!" and she made this her lifelong mission.
  • Lucy Parsons never stopped working for the revolution to end the oppressive capitalist system. It could come only through a well-organized workers' movement, she said, which would take over the factories, all the means of production. Repeatedly imprisoned for her work, she saw free speech as crucial…Lucy was a warrior woman of unlimited courage and commitment.
    • Elizabeth Martinez, 500 Years of Chicana Women's History/500 Años de la Mujer Chicana (2008)

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