cover image Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical

Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical

Jacqueline Jones. Basic, $32 (464p) ISBN 978-0-465-07899-8

In the first biography in more than 40 years of radical labor agitator Lucy Parsons, Jones (A Dreadful Deceit), Bancroft Prize–winning chair in history and ideas at the University of Texas at Austin, lucidly portrays a fiery, outspoken woman whose life holds significant lessons about the past and future of labor in America. Parsons wrote and spoke on issues that remain urgent in the 21st century: the punishing wealth disparity between workers and bosses, organizing amid police brutality, and the impotence of the two-party system. Both Parsons and her husband, Albert, called for armed struggle, believing it would act as the catalyst to destroy the capitalist machine. After a bomb exploded at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in 1886, Albert was hanged for his inciting rhetoric. Jones uncovers new aspects of Parsons’s story, such as her birth to an enslaved woman in Virginia, which she disguised with tales of Spanish-indigenous origins. Jones also casts a critical eye on the dissonant aspects of Parsons’s life and politics, such as her refusal to engage with black-working-class struggles and her distaste for doctrines of free love propagated by fellow anarchists (notwithstanding the widow Parsons’s own public affair with a married man). Despite some dry prose, Jones impresses with this richly detailed and empathic study of a complex figure. Illus. [em]Agent: Geri Thoma, Writers House. (Dec.) [/em]