On March 7, 1942, 89-year-old Lucy Gonzales Parsons died in a house fire in Chicago. On this anniversary of her death and in honor of Women’s History Month, we share this essay about her life by William Loren Katz, author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. As Katz explains, Parsons was such a renowned labor organizer and orator that one Chicago official called her “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”
While missing from most history textbooks today, Parsons played a major role in many of the historic events of the late 19th and early 20th century including the Haymarket affair, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the anti-lynching crusade, the campaign to save Sacco and Vanzetti, the Knights of Labor, and more. She called for the use of nonviolence and sit-ins decades before Gandhi, King, the sit-in movement, and the occupy movement.