What Do You Think About Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s Marker Being Removed?

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Wikipedia photo

Historical marker in Concord was taken down Monday.

David Ecklein heard Elizabeth Gurley Flynn speak in Boston years ago and was kind enough to share his opinion with us. And many of you shared your opinion, which were almost all against taking Flynn’s historical marker near her birthplace down in Concord. Flynn was a feminist and labor leader, but it was her work with the Communist Party that angered some Republicans on the Executive Council that stirred the controversy. Please email me at nancywestnews.com with your opinion and I will update this story with more voices. – Thanks Nancy West

David Ecklein, Rumney
 I am appalled at the small-mindedness behind the above captioned historical vandalism, and hope the marker will be saved and replaced by grown-ups someday soon. Earlier I sent a letter to Jamie Costa of the Concord Monitor, and copied the essence to the “two Arnies” (Alpert and Arnesen).  I am not alone in regretting this childishness. I remember, as an MIT student (BSEE 1963), hearing Flynn speak in a Boston church.  Pictured as a beauty when young, she was a gentle grandmotherly figure in the 1960s – with a sparkle in her eye to show the fire had not gone out.  She died shortly afterwards.  I bought her book “I Speak My Own Piece”, reminiscences of life in the labor movement before her involvement with the ACLU and CP – with her autograph.  Highly recommended – my wife (a Filipina) particularly enjoyed it.  Flynn’s spunk would perk up any reader today. I hope the marker does return- and Sununu decides not to obscure this bit of history; it would be to his credit to reverse any attempt at removal.  Some will remember her in any case.
By the way, my wife and I register as Democrats.  Although often disappointed in the party (especially these days), we have belonged to no other so far.  Hope springs eternal.

Dick Hesse
This sad episode is the first step toward the kind of censorship on display in Florida and elsewhere. I suppose that those in power enjoy the control they can exercise without much regard for the ramifications. As a result of the government’s efforts to suppress history, more people now know about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn than ever before.

Nancy Campbell, Deerfield

I believe that the historic marker should have been removed. It should never have gone up. White supremacists are on the uprise and have become emboldened. We have seen many politicians promoting the interests of our nation’s enemies. While Gurley Flynn had the right to her own opinions, our state shouldn’t “honor” any philosophy that is in opposition to our Democracy. I would very much like to learn the identity of the individuals or organization who thought that this was a good idea.

Doug McIlroy

Councilor Kenney and Governor Sununu are full of faux indignation about that sign. Kenney is way off base in claiming the US–and in particular he–fought the Soviets. Containment certainly involved huge military outlays and some tense confrontations, but as far as I know Gary Powers is the only American who saw hot action in the Cold War. That the war remained cold is a triumph of diplomacy, not of fighting.
I think it’s good that the sign told both laudable and unseemly
aspects of Flynn. It’s not unlikely that had the sign not mentioned her Communist party membership, Mr. Kenney would not have bristled over it. To write her out of history for that is to ape Communist ways. Sadly, though, it is in keeping with the recently passed “divisive concepts” law, which threatens teaching about uncomfortable historic truths, such as the Trail of Tears or the Wilmington riot. Thank you for showing us the whole sign. The only possible point of objection that I see in it is the opinionated word “notorious,” which
can be understood as squaring off in the culture-war mosh pit that Kenney and Sununu are playing in.

Chuck Weed

We need to end the extreme ideological party, the Republicans. The idiotic attempt to hide legitimate and important history is dangerous and prefascist. The current controversy is very similar to the issue buried by the same hysteria over the Lincoln Brigade plaque approved and commissioned by the General Court and sponsored by Sen Cohen in 1999/2000. R party extremists mobilized a mob with help from the Union Leader, and, following a large and angry hearing in 2021, approval was reversed. There were 13 NH citizens who were being honored for their role in the Spanish Civil War which hysterics labeled as “premature antifascism.” Many of us were proud of these heroic citizens. I guess the extremists still think it is better to ignore such heroics because of the association with “communism” than to understand real history. As a member of the General Court at the time, I was unable to see the plaque, and therefore unable to propose a more welcoming venue to honor the brigadistas. I wonder if there is a shelf deep under the statehouse for storing the residue of hysterical extremism?

Bruce Berk

The plaque should stay.  Shall we count the Americans with complicated pasts who are still honored? She was a leader of her time, and likely joined the communist party as it supported her vision of worker’s rights.  We know those rights were limited during this period.

Carol Tuveson, Durham 

I’m disappointed that the sign for Elizabeth Flynn was removed. She wasn’t perfect and made a choice that was offensive to many in NH and the country at that time (and continues to be), but she also was amazing in so many ways.  As a retired educator, I can think of so many things students could learn from this, not only about her and that time in NH history, but the journey this plaque has had recently. That two grumpy old men could override the decision to recognize her is much more alarming to me.  We may not like everything in our history, but it is OUR history which has made us who we are.  When did it become acceptable for the many to be ruled by a few?  Book banning is a prime example.  I find this trend to be threatening on so many levels.

Elisabeth Villaume, Hancock

I hope this decision is questioned and challenged rigorously.  Thank you for the opportunity for me to rant. This is ridiculous. Believe me, I am not only not a Communist, I am, generally, anti-union. This woman effected important CHANGE, long overdue change in her era, and her life should be noted. NH should know of and be proud of this native daughter. It is important that her membership in the Communist Party be part of her story, in spite of many persons’ distaste of that aspect of her life, including mine. We are all multi-faceted individuals. Not all of those facets are “politically correct” in her/his time or in this time. The sign should stay.

Rick Crockford

History is everyone’s story, everyone’s business.  For Councilor Kenney to say, “It’s not my history,” is woefully ignorant.  The struggle for worker’s rights and unionization involved all parts of the Left, from union members to communists to socialists to feminists and we are better for it.  While some people, in desperation, had associations and commitments we might find questionable today, it is nevertheless a part of OUR history.  Ignoring history doesn’t work and this petty removal of the marker is another example of the last reflexive gasps of the right wing.  Governor Sununu has his finger in the political winds, yet again.  The 1st Amendment is on life-support.

Cher Barker

The marker should stay.  It is ‘marking’ a part of N.H. history.  You don’t have to agree with history – just acknowledge that it occurred.  That helps us put other events into context and adds to the meaning of our past.

Nancy Ancharski

What did Sununu’s  Commissioner of the  Division of Historical Resources object to – feminism, workers rights, ACLU, supporting voter’s rights, supporting birth control? Another Sununu minion doing his dirty work! Put the Historic Marker back up!

William Bryk, Antrim

No, the marker should not have been removed.

Chuck Phillips, Bethlehem

This is a travesty.  This woman was/is a heroine of the labor movement and suffrage and deserves recognition and acknowledgement of her (fiery) successes.  Overreacting to her Communist Party membership is pure Joseph McCarthy. A sign of the times – a bad one – drug queens, trans students/young people and sports, etc. No acceptance of differences and alternative values, views, lifestyles, political positions.

Marjorie Smith
Those who do not know history are condemned to relive it.  I do not believe that the sign should have been removed, just as I do not believe that schools should rewrite history, denying students to understand that democracy does not just happen.  As we work daily to build a more perfect union, we must acknowledge what we have done well, and what we have not done well. In Germany, the schools and cultural institutions speak very openly about the actions that led to Hitler, World War II, and the division of the country into east and west Germany.  They do not want to have to live through such devastation again.

Fredda Osman
marker definitely shouldn’t have been removed.  This KNEE-JERK reaction to a trigger word – communist – was abhorrent. The two executive councilors who objected are exactly the kind of representation NH does NOT need. Their inflammatory bigotry is illustrative of how NH’s LIVE FREE OR DIE motto has devolved.

Robin Gordon
I don’t understand why the marker was removed. It may be an uncomfortable acknowledgement, but she is part of our history. Watching Councilor Kenney’s response to this marker was embarrassing. Are the new guidelines reflective of the old white male interpretation of history?  What are these men so afraid of?

Carol DeLaurier
My name is Carol DeLaurier and I live in Brookfield, NH. I do not think the historical marker should have been removed because it is part of our history. There did not seem to be much debate on the matter.  Reading her story it shows that she did a lot of good for women back then and yes, she was a communist but later she realized there were problems with the party. It seems more than ever we must not give in to the conservatives in NH.  Learning about women’s history is so important for everyone in the state.

Thomas Meredith, Milan

I strongly disagree with removing this historical marker because Ms Flynn was a member of the communist party.  The Republicans are fine with fighting removal of Confederate monuments to racists and traitors, railing against “woke” elites who want to point out the history of racism and slavery in prominent historical figures, but apparently they can’t tolerate a small historical marker to a woman who fought for worker’s rights and civil liberties.  I for one would be willing to contribute to a fund to put up a similar plaque on private or city property.

Jon A. Hall, Amherst

I am writing to add my voice to the people who felt the marker should not have been removed. I did not know about her history or the fact she helped co-found the ACLU and the other work she did for women’s rights. I was very happy to learn that she was born in Concord, NH. Having lived through the entire 1950s decade, I will also point out there were a LOT of people who were part of the Communist Party, and Joseph McCarthy was a detriment to our democracy. Finally, the fact that she went to Russia is nothing new either, as Senator Bernie Sanders has also been. Put the historical marker in a place of honor.

Charles Townsend, Canaan

We should certainly remember Elizabeth Gurley Flynn for the work she did to improve the lives of workers and the rights of women, and those accomplishments should not be suppressed because she turned to communism out of frustration with the slow progress she could make in working for civil rights within our system. Historical markers cannot tell the whole story of important parts of our history, but they should be allowed to tell us the stories we need to learn more about.

Erika Rydberg-Hall, Concord 

As a resident of Concord, NH who appreciates historical information, I was disappointed to hear about the removal of the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn sign without due cause for removal. By denying history we’re denying the public important information that each and every one of us can glean our insights from. If we’re able to learn and access that information, we can learn from that history.  As civics and history proficiency of our youth plummets (https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-05-15/u-s-history-civics-national-assessment-of-educational-progress), and history and politics are defined as further partisan, now it’s more important than ever to share our history.  I find it abhorrent that this sign was removed so soon after its placement under presumably political circumstances.  There is a paucity of signs celebrating historic women in our state. Complexity and nuance is a part of so many of our own stories and of our historic figures. 

Meade Cadot
I don’t think the monument should be removed. I suggest –as likely many others have–you contact the ACLU…and I say Ken Burns too.

Janine Woodworth
I am saddened to learn that this marker was removed.  I love finding markers and learning.  Now I will remain ignorant of this woman because of a complaint?   Sununu, UGH.  Self-serving rich, white man.  Who is this woman a danger to now?  Good for her for standing up for what she believed in.  I had no idea she’s responsible for the ACLU, of which I sit on the fence.  Nevertheless, you go Elizabeth!    We need to be reminded of those that came before us and their contribution to this country.  No, I don’t agree with all of them, but we need to know about them.  Mistakes are continuing to be made by folks and we need to learn. Confederate generals/military who had their name on schools… George Washington was a slave owner, Thomas Jefferson, and other, yet I don’t hear any noise about taking their faces off our money or buildings or roads.  You get it.

Stilman D. Rogers, Richmond

The Gurley plaque should definitely NOT have been removed.  That she belonged to an organization that subsequently became outlawed should not prevent her actions in favor of less governmental repression be overlooked. Many millions were led to believe in the benefits of Communism and abandoned that movement when its falsity became apparent. The removal is reminiscent of the McCarthy era (which I lived through). Many Republicans of this day may well find in the future that their continued attachment to that party over the next few years will becomes onerous as the party continues its movement toward a one party, monotheistic, oligarchic centered, fascistic state.

RJ Pippin 

I concur with most everyone. In reading the bio on that marker, that woman was outstanding in her time and led many worthy causes. 

 Because we are displaying a historical marker does not have to imply that we support everything that that person stood for, it is simply and importantly telling a story (related to a geographical location pertinent to us)— that’s what ‘history’ is!

Leane Garland

It is so sad that our gerrymandered Executive Council can focus on a bit of trivia like this marker and can’t ensure reproductive care for New Hampshire women — or COVID health care for all of us.  Still fighting the “Communist threat” from the 1950’s instead of honoring a founding member of the ACLU? The Upper Valley is sorry for the gerrymandering, but SO glad to lose Joe Kenney to a star like Cinde Warmington!

Katharine Shank, Litchfield

To be honest, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was and still is a role model to me of what it means to fight for basic dignity and human rights. As a descendant of Franco-Americans who worked in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts during the Bread and Roses Strike of 1912, I respect and appreciate the part played by Flynn and her Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) colleagues in fighting for better pay and working conditions, hard-won victories that all Americans have benefited from ever since. That is a historical fact. So I am saddened but not at all surprised that the historical marker was removed. The “small government” clique is hypocritical to its core. As Coretta Scott King wisely observed, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” Here’s to the struggle.

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