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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago today in Spokane: Wobbly organizer predicts labor fight in lumber camps

 (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
(Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, firebrand union organizer, told a crowd of hundreds at Spokane’s Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) hall that the region’s lumber camps would soon be labor’s biggest battleground.

“The logging camps of the Northwest will experience this spring the greatest drive the labor movement has ever known,” said Flynn.

She also spoke out in favor of a new domestic workers’ union, saying that “the only hope for servant girls lay in organization.”

She predicted – with considerable accuracy – that “the drudgery” of domestic work would eventually be alleviated by machinery, and that this would allow women the same opportunity as men to take part in public affairs.

Flynn first became famous for her role in the 1909 Free Speech Fight in Spokane, when she edited a Wobbly newspaper. She was convicted of conspiracy and spent time in jail, but was later acquitted on appeal.

The Spokesman-Review was generally unsympathetic, to say the least, toward Wobblies, but this is how a reporter described Flynn during this appearance: “Miss Flynn is still a young woman. She is more conservative in her speech, except when she wanted to stir up her audience, when some of the old fire is visible. Miss Flynn is called the Joan of Arc of the I.W.W. (Wobbly) movement. Since leaving Spokane, Miss Flynn has taken part in nearly all the labor disturbances conducted by the I.W.W. and has been arrested a number of times.”

Flynn was in the Northwest as part of a fundraising effort for a group of Wobblies on trial in Everett, following fatal riots.

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