the most dramatic figure of all the dozens of actors involved in Haymarket
is Albert Parsons's wife, Lucy Parsons. They were full partners in all respects.
Lucy joined Albert at rallies, wrote for anarchist publications, and sewed
for the small tailoring business they conducted after Albert lost his job
as a typographer following the railroad strike of 1877. They had two children,
Albert Jr., and Lulu, born in 1879 and 1881, respectively.
After the Haymarket trial, Lucy left their children in a friend's care and went on a grueling series of speaking tours to raise money for Albert's defense, often drawing more ridicule than support. Lucy Parsons endured a life of conflict and heartbreak with astonishing fortitude and resolution, outliving her husband some fifty-five years, loyal to his memory and cause to the end.
Albert and Lucy's courtship and marriage (they may not have had a formal ceremony) reveal their willingness to embrace unpopular causes and their fearless disregard for conventional ideas. They met in 1869 when Albert, who had grown up in Texas and fought for the Confederacy, worked as a traveling correspondent for the Houston Daily Telegraph. As he explained in his autobiography, Albert had become a pro-Reconstruction Republican who supported the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Amendments to the Constitution, "securing the political rights of the colored people." This hardly made him a popular in post-Civil War Texas.
During a journey through Johnson County in the northwestern part of the state, Albert "first met the charming young Spanish Indian maiden who, three years later, became my wife." The veracity of this story is uncertain; Albert and Lucy may have had reason to alter some of the facts. For, as this photograph indicates, Lucy Parsons's ancestry was also part African American, a fact dwelled on by the newspapers, which described her, among other ways, as "Parsons's dusky bride."
Lucy's relationship with Albert reveals the importance of women in the notably egalitarian anarchist movement. The 1883 Pittsburgh Manifesto called for equal education regardless of gender and equal rights "without distinction to sex or race." Several other women, notably Lizzie Holmes, who was with Lucy Parsons the entire evening of Haymarket and at whose home Albert took refuge for several days after the bombing, were among the Parsons' friends and comrades in the movement.
Anarchists' critics sometimes expressed sympathy for their female relatives, but this sympathy was usually intended to make the point that women were forced to pay a terrible price for the radical activities of their husbands, sons, and brothers. Women who took an active role were another matter. Like the stereotypical male anarchist, they were sometimes described as physically repulsive (though usually because they were ugly rather than dirty), as if their radicalism could be explained by the fact that they were misfits rather than by a desire for social justice. But even Lucy Parsons's enemies remarked on her beauty, courage, and dignity, which are apparent in this photograph.