Militant Journalism

Anti-communist backlash removes Elizabeth Gurley Flynn historical marker in Concord, NH

New Hampshire lawmakers removed a historical marker honoring the communist, feminist and labor organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn just two weeks after its installation. 

The plaque honoring Flynn’s legacy was unveiled on International Workers’ Day — only the 12th historical marker in the state dedicated to a woman. Right-wing legislators, including Governor Chris Sununu, immediately attacked the marker and called for its removal because Flynn was a communist.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s legacy

Flynn was born in the state capitol, Concord, New Hampshire, in 1890, where the historical plaque was erected.

The now removed historical marker for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in Concord, New Hampshire. Liberation photo

She joined the Communist Party in 1936, and was later sentenced to 28 months in prison under the anti-communist Smith Act. She was the first woman to be elected as chairperson of the Communist Party of the United States, and was a cofounder of the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout her life, she organized workers as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and fought for women’s rights to birth control and equal pay. 

Flynn was a lifelong fighter for the working class, and chose to spend her final days in the USSR where over 25,000 people attended her state funeral. 

Right-wing backlash

The policy and guidelines for the state’s historical highway marker program were updated less than two weeks after Flynn’s was unveiled, granting the commissioner power to remove historical markers. The new policy was invoked immediately to remove Flynn’s plaque on May 15. 

Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation posing with the new historical marker, May 1 , 2023. Liberation photo

The removal of the marker has drawn national media attention to the state of New Hampshire at a time when Sununu is expected to announce his presidential campaign. Other right-wing politicians are celebrating the removal, including Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney, who claimed it as “a victory for everyone who served in the U.S. military to fight against communism.” 

Community response 

Progressives in the state are calling the removal undemocratic and an attempt to erase working-class history. Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent, who advocated for the creation of the marker honoring Flynn, are publicly calling for its reinstatement. 

Will Hopkins, Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent unveil the historical marker for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn on International Workers’ Day on May 1. Liberation photo

Some residents have placed signs on the former site of the marker reading “Herstory is history, too!” and ‘‘Learn Free or Die” — a twist on the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

“The local and mainstream media coverage criticized the marker’s removal, but they mostly claimed Flynn’s historical significance should be recognized in spite of her communist affiliation,” said Joy D.M.R., an organizer with the Southern New Hampshire branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “But we know Flynn’s dedication to working-class struggles is inseparable from her communist convictions.”

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