Civil rights activist to share the life of Concord’s “Rebel Girl” on Thursday 

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 07-11-2023 5:35 PM

Through the mouths of civil rights and labor activists like Arnie Alpert, the history of the “Rebel Girl” born in Concord lives on even if a state historical marker for her has come down. 

On Thursday at 7 p.m., Alpert will discuss the lifelong work of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn with the Concord Historical Society. 

Born in Concord in 1890 near Montgomery Street, Gurley Flynn became prominent as a labor leader, feminist organizer and founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. She later moved to Manchester where she saw the poverty of mill workers and was inspired to join more than 14,000 laborists on a strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which resulted in raised wages for more than 250,000 mill workers throughout New England. 

She was seen as a hero of the organized labor movements and for nearly 60 years, she spearheaded rebellions from Midwest mining towns to East Coast textile mills, according to “The New Hampshire Century,” a book published by the Monitor profiling 100 people who helped shape New Hampshire in the 20th century. 

In 1952, she was sent to prison under the Smith Act, formerly the Alien Registration Act of 1940, which made it a criminal offense to advocate for the violent overthrow of the government. After World War II, the statute was used against the leadership of the American Communist Party, which Gurley Flynn chaired later in life.

Alpert has worked with his counterpart, Mary Lee Sargent, to both petition the Department of Natural Resources for the installation of a historical marker honoring Gurley Flynn but because of her Communist affiliation, Governor Chris Sununu and two members of the Executive Council called for the marker’s removal within two weeks of its unveiling. 

Since its removal, Alpert, alongside Sargent, has petitioned the department and written letters to state officials to reinstall the marker with little effect. 

Residents are invited to attend Alpert’s talk on Thursday night at the Kimball Jenkins Carriage House on North Main Street in Concord to learn more about the history of the “Rebel Girl” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. 

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