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1909 Missoula Free Speech Fight

Page history last edited by mkohl@mt.gov 3 years, 9 months ago

The Industrial Workers of the World (a labor organization) sought a worker’s revolution—or at least labor reform that would help end the exploitation of working people. When they preached their ideas on the streets of Missoula, the city government reacted by arresting the speakers. In response, IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn brought in more street speakers.  The IWW's use of street speakers to defend the organization's stand resulted in lively exchanges with Missoula citizens and ultimately changed the city’s policies on free speech.  Similar labor and  free speech movements occurred around the nation. This episode in Montana history affords students not only the opportunity to consider the stand that IWW took--and its origins--but to analyze the tactics that they used and their effectiveness.  


Secondary Sources:


"Chapter 15: Progressive Montana" Montana: Stories of the Land (Helena, MT, 2008). View Chapter Online  (brief overview)


George Venn, “Wobblies and Montana’s Garden City,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 21(4) August 1971, 18-30.


Kim Briggeman, “Missoula witness to history of Industrial Workers of the World,” Missoulian. September 2, 2009. View article


Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall, "Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: The Early Years," in Radical America (January-February 1975) 97-115.  View article  (Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader activist and prominent speaker during the Missoula Free Speech Fight).


Clemens P. Work, Darkest before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005): 1-30.


Primary Sources:


All Montana newspapers are available at the Montana Historical Society:


The Daily Missoulian, September October 1909


The Butte Miner (Daily), September-October 1909


Anaconda Standard, September-October 1909


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography: My First Life (1906-1926) (1973)


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of the 'Rebel Girl' (1955)


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Internet


Photographs:  Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamiment/877640919/in/faves-53380011@N05/ and



IWW Song Book: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tapiolahusky/3407191816/in/faves-53380011@N05/


Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society:


Industrial Workers of the World (2 folders)

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Freedom of speech—Montana

Missoula Lumber Company




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