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Early life

Lucy (or Lucia) Eldine Gonzalez was born in 1853, probably in Texas, although she listed Virginia as her birthplace on her children’s birth certificates.[1] Parsons may have been born a slave, to parents of Native American, African American and Mexican ancestry.[2] In 1871 she married Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier. They were forced to flee north from Texas due to intolerant reactions to their interracial marriage. They settled in Chicago, Illinois.

Lucy Parsons’ origins are not documented, and she told different stories about her background so it is difficult to sort fact from myth. Lucy was probably born a slave, though she denied any African heritage, claiming only Native American and Mexican ancestry. Her name before marriage to Albert Parsons was Lucy Gonzalez. She may have been married before 1871 to Oliver Gathing.[3]

Career as activist

Described by the Chicago Police Department as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters” in the 1920s, Parsons and her husband had become highly effective anarchist organizers primarily involved in the labor movement in the late 19th century, but also participating in revolutionary activism on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, the homeless and women. She began writing for The Socialist and The Alarm, the journal of the International Working People’s Association (IWPA) that she and Parsons, among others, founded in 1883. In 1886 her husband, who had been heavily involved in campaigning for the eight-hour day, was arrested, tried, and executed on November 11, 1887, by the state of Illinois on charges that he had conspired in the Haymarket Riot — an event which was widely regarded as a political frame-up and which marked the beginning of May Day labor rallies in protest.[4][5]

Parsons was invited to write for the French anarchist journal Les Temps Nouveaux[6] and spoke alongside William Morris and Peter Kropotkin during a visit to Great Britain in 1888.[6]

In 1892 she briefly published a periodical, Freedom: A Revolutionary Anarchist-Communist Monthly. She was often arrested for giving public speeches or distributing anarchist literature. While she continued championing the anarchist cause, she came into ideological conflict with some of her contemporaries, including Emma Goldman, over her focus on class politics over gender and sexual struggles.[7]\

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