Hellraisers Journal: IWW Convention Begins in Chicago; Young Delegate, Miss Flynn, Talks Socialism on Street Corner

I studied carefully the New York East Side,
the slums, the dives, and the sweatshops
and the terrible conditions of the people there
drove me into socialism.
-Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


Hellraisers Journal, Wednesday September 18, 1907
Chicago, Illinois – Girl Socialist Is I. W. W. Delegate

Miss Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, age 17, of New York City, is a delegate to the Convention of Industrial Workers of the World which opened its first session on Monday morning, September 16th.

From The Chicago Daily Tribune of September 17, 1907:

…Industrial Workers of the World Open
Annual Convention…..

IWW Universal Label, IWWC 1906 Proceedings

With a gavel valued at $100 in the chairman’s hands, the annual convention of the Industrial Workers of the World opened in the morning at Brand’s hall. The gavel was presented by the unions of Alaska. It is made of walrus tusks. It is expected a tangle over the credentials will be straightened out today, and the unionists will take up business matters…


[Photograph added.]

Miss Flynn, “Platform Wonder”

“Platform Wonder” Tells Her Hearers
the General Strike Is to Be the
Watchword of Future.

EGF Girl Socialist w Hat, NYW, Aug 24, 1906

Standing on a soapbox at Halsted and O’Brien streets last night, Miss Elizabeth Gurley Glynn [Flynn], the 17 year old union “platform wonder,” addressed a crowd of 200 workingmen and exhorted them to prepare for the “general strike” in Chicago in the near future. Other unions “revival” meetings were held at Clark and Erie streets and elsewhere about the city. The soapbox campaign will be conducted while the convention of the Industrial Workers of the World is in session this week at Brand’s hall.

[Declared Miss Flynn:]

Not until every workingman quits his labor and refuses to go back until he is given a fair share of the profits will the labor question be settled. The general strike is the watchword of the future. It is certain to come soon.

Meetings will be held tonight in the Milwaukee avenue district and at several places on the west side.


[Photograph added.]

From The Inter Ocean of September 17, 1907:

17-Year-Old Miss From New York,
Delegate to Labor Convention,
Tells Ghetto Audience of
Industrial Trade Unions.

EGF NY Aug 22, Union Leader W-B PA, Sep 7, 1906

A girlish voice last night attracted hundreds to the corner of Halsted and O’Brien streets, where Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, aged 17 years, student at Morris high school of New York city, socialist-labor orator and in Chicago to attend the annual convention of the Industrial Workers of the World stood declaiming from a soap box.

Out of Place in Ghetto.

The girl seemed strangely out of place in the midst of the hard, sullen faces of the famous West Side Ghetto district. For more than an hour the girlish tones, now mingling a little tremor, now ringing with enthusiasm, continued, and always there was the attentive Ghetto crowd leaning forward with eagerness. It was a message they had heard a hundred times from a hundred soap box street speakers, but this was different

Pretty, slight of build, of medium height, her great blue eyes afire, her hat a petite sombrero, a bit of the “New York” in the accent, which paid no heed to her “r’s,” and a great red badge of the Industrial Workers pinned to her waist, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, aged 17, will not be soon forgotten by her last night’s audience.

When interviewed after her speech, she declared:

I stand for industrial trade unionism as opposed to craft unionism. Because of their craft unionism, I believe that the telegraphers have no chance to win their strike. They are so split up that there is no semblance of unity. The commercial telegraphers are out, and the O. R. T. [Oder of Railroad Telegraphers] at work. There are so few operators out, compared with all the country’s operators, that they cannot win

Loses Money Becomes Socialist.

[Said the girl orator in answer to a question:]

I joined the Socialist [Socialist Labor Party] party a year ago last January. My father belongs to that party. I became a socialist originally after severe financial reverses in our family. I studied carefully the New York East Side, the slums, the dives, and the sweatshops and the terrible conditions of the people there drove me into socialism.


[Photograph added.]



The Chicago Daily Tribune
(Chicago, Illinois)
-Sept 17, 1907

The Inter Ocean
(Chicago, Illinois)
-Sept 17, 1907

IWW Universal Label, IWWC 1906 Proceedings
EGF Girl Socialist w Hat, NYW, Aug 24, 1906
EGF NY Aug 22, Union Leader W-B PA, Sep 7, 1906

See also:

Proceedings of Third Annual Convention
Industrial Workers of the World
Chicago, Illinois
-Sept 16-Sept 24, 1907

Commercial Telegraphers Union of America

Order of Railroad Telegraphers

The Rebel Girl:
An Autobiography, My First Life (1906-1926)

-by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
(Pages 78-79.)
International Publishers, 1973

Can be read online:

The first IWW convention I attended was in Chicago in 1907-I had just passed 17 years, and was still in high school. My family and friends were hesitant about letting me go, but I was determined. Local 179 elected me as its delegate. They had no funds, but sufficient was collected among the members of the Unity Club. I paid $18 fare and sat up all the way in a daycoach. Arriving in Chicago at the Wabash Avenue Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, I was quite appalled to be all alone, so far from home. I had the address of a friend, Mrs. Josephine Conger Kanako, who had invited me to stay with her while there. She was the editor of a magazine, The Socialist Woman. She was a tall, thin, plain-looking woman, whose husband was Japanese, and quite short. They were an incongruous but apparently happy pair. He subsequently returned to Japan and died there of tuberculosis.

I made my way to where she lived and found her a charming woman. But it was way out on the South Side, on Cottage Avenue, and the convention was on North Clark Street at the old Brandt Hall. After a few days I moved to the home of William E. Trautman, who was then Secretary of the IWW…

[Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Meets Lucy Parsons]

At this 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 met Oscar Neebe, one of Parson’s co-defendants and the imprisoned martyr of the eight-hour day struggle who was pardoned by Governor Altgeld. 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.

I can recall nothing particularly exciting happening at this IWW convention. It was a great adventure in itself for me to make this trip all alone.