Author Archive

Postal Workers Fight for a Good Contract

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below is from the August 1st, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing these.

By the Revolutionary Student Brigade

Postal workers across the U.S. are gathering fury which may lead to a strike over the new contract announced last week by union leaders and the U.S. Postal Service.

The new contract contains no changes in the layoff clause; no changes in the cost of living allowance or health benefits; and no changes in the productivity requirement, or age of retirement.

“The contract is no good and we’re going to start a campaign to strike,” announced a representative of the National Committee for a Good Postal Contract. Read more…


Anarchism: Practical De-centralization

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below is from the February 6th, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing these articles.

By Central Iowa Anarchists

People often have the notion that anarchists seek to do away with any organization of society.  This, however, is a mistaken notion.  Anarchism doesn’t stand for no organization, merely a different type of organization.  It would have society organized on an equalitarian, de-centralized, and self-managed basis.

In previous historical periods when even the most technologically advanced nations were still grappling with the problems of material scarcity, the anarchist ideal of an equalitarian society often merely reduced itself to equality of poverty.  This would almost invariably bring about the deep-seated tendencies to restore a new system of privilege.  However, with the continual improvement and refinement of technology, the immense productive forces of modern capitalism have brought us to the brink of a post-scarcity world, and laid the material basis for an equalitarian society. Read more…

Categories: Anarchism

Endless War

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below was originally published in the February 6, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing it.

Ames Teach-In

  Phoenix Party held a teach-in Sunday, January 26, at the Collegiate Methodist Church.  The teach-in was held in conjuction with a national demonstration against the United States’ imperialistic Indo-China policies. The purpose of the each-in was to inform the people of the corruption and fascism of the Thieu regime.

Moderator, Nancy Baumgardner, welcomed an estimated crowd of fifty people and introduced the first speaker, Jim Newcomer, a member of the political science faculty. Read more…

Categories: Anti-War, Student

Notes on the Muscatine Button Workers’ Strike

June 17, 2011 1 comment

From a letter Pearl McGill wrote home from Chicago on April 25th, 1911:

“They had all the hardest Union workers on the black list. The factory where I worked had the most. They had eight men, and me. I was the only girl in the factory they wouldn’t take back. So because there were so many discriminated against the rest of them that could have gone back wouldn’t go until the [manufacturers] will take us all back and deal fair with us. They don’t want to recognize the Union at all but they will have to before they ever start those factories up again.”

The whole factory stuck by a number of blacklisted organizers who you could count on your fingers. My how times change…

And it seems like the other “girls” in the Muscatine button factories weren’t as involved in the union as McGill was. But:

“The militia got out in the streets at Muscatine the other day to break the crowd away from one of the factories and some of the girls caught a solider boy up on fourth street and took his gun and cap and coat away from him and beat it. Ha! Ha!” (from the same letter)

It definitely wasn’t because they weren’t militant enough. I wonder what (or who) stopped them from joining?

McGill Family papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City

Many thanks to Jean Burns for donating her family’s letters, and assistant curator Janet Weaver for telling me how to not break the rules.

Pearl McGill

June 15, 2011 4 comments

Pearl McGill was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s. She was born in Grandview, Iowa, and as a teenager she moved to Muscatine, IA to work in the pearl button factory there.  She wanted to save enough money to go to school to become a teacher.  After a lockout in response to unionization, she ended up being a leader in a strike in 1911, at the age of sixteen.  After the strike, she was swept up by the Women’s Trade Union League, who brought her to Chicago, trained her in public speaking, and introduced her to political theory.  She spoke at a lot of fundraisers, then ended up in the middle of the Lawrence textile workers’ strike in 1912.  She worked closely with the IWW there, and split with the WTUL and the AFL.  She was involved in a number of IWW campaigns, then left the union for the Socialist Party of America, and moved home.

She met Helen Keller in Cedar Falls, IA (herself an SPA and IWW member).  Keller encouraged Pearl McGill followed her original dream of becoming a teacher.  Pearl moved to Buffalo, IA, taught elementary school, and married for 6 years, then divorced.  In 1924, her mentally ill ex-husband killed her, and then himself.

Pearl McGill’s life has a lot of lessons for radicals.  I’m especially interested in her political development.  She moved from young worker, to strike leader, to public activist, to revolutionary organizer, to burnout, for reasons that are still relevant today.  Her time as a wife, teacher, and ex-wife has its own lessons.  I’m looking forward to learning more.

Rousmaniere, Kate. “The Short, Radical Life of Pearl McGill.” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas Volume 6 Issue 3 (2009) 9-19.

Kate Rousmaniere also deserves part of the credit for getting Pearl McGill’s letters to the Iowa Women’s Archives.  The letters, and the rest of the archives, are available to anyone, non-students, non-Iowa residents, whatever.  I’ll be digging into those starting tomorrow.

End of Hiatus

June 14, 2011 3 comments

Hi everyone,

Juan Conatz just added me as a contributor on this blog.  I’m a history nerd and anarchist living in Iowa.  I’m currently reading Solidarity & Survival, and I’m going to try to get access to Pearl McGill’s letters in the near future.  I’ll be posting excerpts from both of those in the coming weeks.

Categories: Miscellaneous