Free Speech Corner

Missoula Downtown Historic District

In autumn 1909, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Jack Jones arrived in Missoula, soon followed by their comrade, Frank Little. After renting space for a union hall, they took to the streets, determined to spread “the glad tidings of a great revolutionary union” to Missoula’s working class. From this corner, they demanded union hiring halls for timber workers while preaching the destruction of capitalism, worker control of production, and workplace-centered democracy. On September 28, 1909, the police arrested Little and Jones for violating Missoula’s long-ignored ban on public speaking. Flynn immediately put out a call for additional speakers. Her goal was to fill the Missoula jail and cost the city so much money and trouble that it would agree to allow the IWW to continue organizing. During the next week, over seventy IWW speakers were arrested, including the pregnant Flynn. On October 8, faced with overflowing jails, increasing expenses, and a growing public relations nightmare, the city council capitulated. The IWW had secured its right to speak, a lasting victory for the First Amendment.

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Near 111 North Higgins Avenue, Missoula MT, intersection of West Front Street ~ Public