A tragedy of errors: Gurley-Flynn sign proposed, erected, removed

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who would become head of the Communist Party in the United States, was born in Concord in 1890. A sign commemorating her former home in Concord was placed – and then removed – in a span of about two weeks due to political backlash. Photo/Zoey Knox

CONCORD, NH – In September 2022, Amy Dixon, Mary Lee Sargent, and Arnie Albert went before the Concord City Council with a presentation. The NH Historical Commission to which these three individuals belonged wanted to erect a historical marker on Montgomery Street near where Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn had resided in memoriam of the life she lived.

The property on which the marker was to be erected belonged to the state of New Hampshire. The municipal government of Concord merely had to establish whether the sign in its proposed location would present an obstruction for drivers or pedestrians. An engineering study was conducted that fall, which determined nothing would be obstructed.

Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn

The sign was erected at the beginning of May 2023. The Historical Commission alone was responsible for the content of the marker. Prior to the marker being put up, the state Executive Council was not advised as to the wording on it. Only when the sign went up and word got around did objections start coming in.

The sticking point happened to be that Gurley-Flynn was a member of the Communist Party in America, in addition to being a labor organizer, and a member of the ACLU. She also helped fundraise for the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, two socialist defendants who came before the court in “the trial of the century.” The word “communist” appeared on the marker, which drew ire from state Republicans. One of them was Joe Kenney, a Republican Executive Councilor representing District 1.

He called her a “devout communist,” and the sign “propaganda,” invoking NH being the “live free or die state.”

Governor Chris Sununu called for the sign to be removed, blaming the Concord City Council for putting it up. However, Concord Mayor James Bouley declared the city had no authority to place the sign where it was, had no authority over the wording on the sign, and had no authority to remove it from state property

“This was politics,” Jennifer Kretovic, a member of the Concord City Council said. “It was somebody trying to get their name in the paper. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this process, not one bit. The Executive Council should be reviewing the content of the sign before it gets submitted.”

Since then, the state has removed the sign from where it was erected.  The historical marker lasted roughly two weeks. Its existence highlighted growing opposition to far-left ideologies, in addition to a dysfunction in the New Hampshire state government.

During McCarthyism in America, Gurley-Flynn was jailed for being a communist. Some years later, she moved to the Soviet Union. Upon her death, Gurley-Flynn was given a state funeral in Moscow. A biography about her can be read here.


About this Author

Winter Trabex

Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and regular contributor to Community Voices.