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The Rebel Girl: Still Causing Problems


Republicans are at a war with historical memory. And look, they are right about what is going on. Historians are pushing narratives that fit the modern United States. Dissent, race, gender, sexuality, class–these are things we think are worth studying. Republicans despise all of this. So they are engaging in total war against the universities, against historical commissions in Texas, against anyone who tells a different story.

Now including the people who put up an Elizabeth Gurley Flynn historical marker in Concord, New Hampshire.

In life, the 19th-century-born feminist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn made headlines for her defiant activism, earning the nickname “the rebel girl.” She gave her first public speech at age 15. She was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. She was a suffragist. She was also a proud communist, receiving a state funeral in the Soviet Union, where she died in 1964.

In death, Flynn is stirring more controversy. Her home state of New Hampshire removed a marker placed close to her birthplace in Concord on Monday, two weeks after it was put up.

The marker was removed after two Republican members of Concord’s executive council, Joseph Kenney and David Wheeler, denounced it. Kenney said in an emailed statement Tuesday that “a devout communist” doesn’t deserve a marker: “If our citizens want to read about her, go to the state library or online.”

The office of Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said the “controversial marker” was removed because it was placed on state property, not city property, as had been previously believed, and the city had not advocated for it to stay up.

Wheeler did not reply to a request for comment, but he has said that he had been “totally offended” by the marker, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

The marker was erected after state officials approved a petition by residents, who say all rules were followed. Petitioners must provide documentation backing up the facts noted on the marker, and the subject must have had historical significance, state guidelines say. Petitioners must also receive signatures from 20 New Hampshire citizens.

The markers are not aimed at honoring or commemorating a person or event but to educate the public, according to state guidelines.

To some, Flynn was a leftist extremist whose Cold War-era communist leanings posed risks to U.S. security and whose aggressive activism worsened labor strife. To others, she was a pioneering feminist and labor activist ahead of her time.

I mean, Flynn didn’t have communist leanings. She was head of CPUSA. So Republicans aren’t lying. Me, I think that the fact that she was CPUSA head is something worth celebrating. I want that marker out there because I want our people to learn that there are alternatives to the evil hell that is capitalism. I want them to learn about a teenager who stood on platforms in front of thousands of people and denounced capitalism and promoted revolution. I want them to learn about women that long ago who got pregnant outside of marriage and wasn’t ashamed of it. I want them to learn about people standing up for female bodily autonomy. I think all of these things are outright good things. Republicans do not.

And now I await the liberal commenters who typically will respond to this by taking quasi-Republican positions saying “oh well, taking historical markers down is bad but Flynn was also bad.”

At the very least, Flynn would have loved this whole thing.

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