May 8 Mary Marcy is Born

May 8, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1877.

That was the day American socialist Mary Marcy was born.

Raised in Belleville, Illinois, Mary moved to Kansas City and joined the Socialist Party.

She found work as a secretary to meatpacking executives at Swift and then Armour.

Her 1904 investigative series, “Letters of a Pork-Packing Stenographer,” published in the International Socialist Review, revealed the inner workings of the “Big Five” trust.

Marcy described how the packinghouse bosses manipulated markets, set rates and prices, and created an industrial monopoly.

She also exposed low wages and dangerous working conditions in the industry.

Months later, she provided testimony and secret correspondence of executives to a Grand Jury investigation.

The case made a big splash in the press, though packers would win immunity from prosecution a year later.

Mary lost her job and hired on with the Associated Charities of Kansas City.

There she became critical of philanthropic forces that lectured the poor on morals rather than provide concrete aid.

She serialized her experiences in the fictional account, Out of the Dump. Returning to Chicago, Mary worked as assistant editor to the International Socialist Review.

Her wildly popular book, Shop Talks on Economics, served as a primer on socialism.

She continued to agitate against World War I, publishing articles like “You Have No Country!”

Mary threw her lot in with the IWW in 1918, though the split in the Socialist movement soon after affected her deeply.

She and her husband lost their home after mortgaging it to provide bail for numerous Wobblies, including Bill Haywood, then swept up in Red Scare conspiracy trials.

The period proved too much for her and in 1922 she took her own life.

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