A biographical folk song about 20th-century U.S. labor movement organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the response of middle-class liberals and the ACLU to her imprisonment by U.S. government at Alderson federal prison in 1950s.
When she was sixteen she spoke on a street by Broadway
And urged workers to fight for their freedom
Female equality in the early 20th-century
Could be won, she said, with socialism.
She joined the Wobblies and fought to speak freely
And for "bread and roses" in Lawrence
Her Irish rebel spirit and words charismatic
Inspired Paterson strikers to risk arrests.
And where were the middle class women'
When they jailed Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?
They joined with anti-communist liberals
To lock her up in Alderson.
Out West she visited Joe Hill's cell
And her inner and outer beauty sparked a song
And after Joe Hill's death she organized Workers Defense
Of thousands whose imprisonment was wrong.
In her 40's and 50's she continued to speak out
Against capitalism, fascism and Cold War
And her newspaper column demanded working women rights
And that Jim Crow in the South not be ignored. (chorus)
Yes, in her 60's she was jailed for "conspiracy"
And deprived of her civil liberties
Yet the ACLU she helped start as a youth
Failed to demand that she be freed. (chorus)