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Humanities 2018, 7(3), 69; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030069

Sisters on the Soapbox: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Her Female Free Speech Allies’ Lessons for Contemporary Women Labor Activists

Department of Rhetoric and Public Advocacy, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA
Received: 29 May 2018 / Revised: 5 July 2018 / Accepted: 9 July 2018 / Published: 12 July 2018
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Abstract

At a moment when U.S. labor seems its most weak and vulnerable, a wave of teacher strikes and demonstrations led and carried out primarily by women shows promise of revitalizing the movement. Critics allege the strikes and demonstrations are “unseemly,” but popular support for them appears to be growing. Historically, militant strikes and demonstrations have met with significant and sometimes violent resistance from corporate and political entities hostile to labor, and contemporary women in the movement should prepare for pushback. In the past, anti-labor forces have used the law and physical aggression to squeeze labor activists out of public space. Labor has a history of fighting back, beginning with the free speech fights of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early twentieth century. These campaigns were the first in U.S. history to claim a First Amendment right to use public space. IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn led several of these free speech fights. She and other women free speech fighters played an essential if often overlooked role in popularizing the idea that ordinary people have right to public space. Their tactics and experiences can inform and inspire women at the forefront of a contemporary labor militancy. View Full-Text
Keywords: radical rhetoric; public space; teacher strikes; Industrial Workers of the World; unions; labor movement radical rhetoric; public space; teacher strikes; Industrial Workers of the World; unions; labor movement
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Trasciatti, M.A. Sisters on the Soapbox: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Her Female Free Speech Allies’ Lessons for Contemporary Women Labor Activists. Humanities 2018, 7, 69.

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