Anne Timpson

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Anne Burlak Timpson

Anne Burlak Timpson (May 24, 1911 – July 9, 2002) was a leading Massachusetts Communist Party USA leader. She was married to William Timpson.

"The Red Flame"

Labeled “the Red Flame” for her passionate mill-gate speeches during New England’s massive textile strikes of the 1930s, Anne was "fearless in defense of working people". The nickname, widely used by the press, was meant as an insult, but Anne took it as a badge of honor and "thousands of mill workers called her “The Red Flame” with affection".

Burlak was convinced that Socialism offered the brightest future for working and oppressed people everywhere, and was a tireless fighter against racism, sexism and classism. She dedicated her life to "solidarity with working people and the struggle for peace and justice world wide".[1]

Early life

Born in Slatington and raised in Bethlehem PA, Anne Burlak was the eldest child of Ukrainian immigrants Harry and Nelly Burlak. She left school at the age of 14 to work in a silk mill to help support her family. By 16, appalled by the miserable working and living conditions of her own family and those around her, and emboldened by company efforts to suppress any talk about unions, she became a union organizer and joined the Communist Party USA.

In 1928, still a teenager, she was a delegate to the founding convention of the National Textile Workers Union, which took an anti-race discrimination stand and, in contrast to other unions, called for a ban on separate “jim crow” locals for Black workers.

She also attended the 1929 founding convention of the Trade Union Unity League, whose platform included equal pay for women, a call for the 7-hour work day and 5-day work week. She was elected to the Women’s Council of the TUUL national organization, which pledged to take on the enormous task of organizing mass production industries and the unemployed.[2]

Activist life

When, in an atmosphere of brutal union-busting, beatings and the murders of organizers, the NTWU voted to organize where the need and the danger were greatest – in the southern textile mills, Anne Burlak volunteered to go South to do the work. She was only 19 years old in 1930 when she was arrested with five others – including two African-Americans – for daring to speak to an inter-racial audience at a public meeting. All six were charged with sedition against the state of Georgia under a 19th-century law originally passed to prevent slaves from rebelling and one that carried the death penalty. First to be bailed out, she launched a national speaking tour to raise money for the defense of the “Atlanta Six.” The case was dropped in 1939, after the law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a similar case.

During the 1930s, she was a NTWU organizer in textile factories in Rhode Island, New Bedford, Fall River, and Lawrence, Mass., where she conducted nearly daily mill-gate rallies to stress the need for unity between employed and unemployed workers, and to voice resistance to wage cuts, lay-offs and reduced hours. She was dubbed “The Red Flame” as one of the leaders in the massive 1931-32 textile strike in Lawrence.

In the spring of 1932, with 17 million unemployed in the country, and over a million demonstrating in state capitols for relief, she led the Rhode Island delegation of 3,000 – 25% Black and 33% women – in the national Hunger March to Washington D.C. There they joined hundreds of thousands of other marchers to petition the government for unemployment insurance, which was opposed at the time by President Hoover and by the AFL. She continued to organize around Social Security and unemployment insurance until they became law in 1935. She then turned her efforts to helping to organize industrial workers into the CIO, which signed up millions during the later 1930s.

Burlak remained in the USA when her parents and younger brothers returned the USSR in 1932. She was an active leader in struggles to free the Scottsboro Boys, and Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg. She was arrested for her protest work numerous times in her life – the first time at the age of 16 just as she began to read aloud The Bill of Rights at a public rally! During the McCarthy era, she was followed constantly by the FBI and persecuted by the press in Boston, where she lived with her husband and children. She was a leading spokesperson for the Communist Party in New England, and was called before a number of governmental committees investigating “un-American activities.” In 1956, she was one of the last American Communists arrested under the infamous Smith Act, charged with “conspiracy to advocate” the overthrow of the US government. The case was dropped for lack of evidence.

Since 1940, she lived and worked as a bookkeeper in the Boston area. She continued working and demonstrating for civil rights, civil liberties, and international peace and justice. In honor of her life’s work, she was a recipient of a 1982 Wonder Woman Award and the Sacco-Vanzetti Memorial Award in 1997.[3]

Communist Party reformer

In 1991 Anne Timpson Massachusetts, was one of several hundred Communist Party USA members to sign the a paper "An initiative to Unite and Renew the Party" - most signatories left the Party after the December 1991 conference to found Committees of Correspondence.[4]

Communist Party Labor Day call

The Communist Party USA paper People's Weekly World issued a statement to mark Labor Day 1995, entitled "We honor the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Of the more than 100 endorsers listed, almost all were identified members of the Communist Party USA.

Anne Timpson, Jamaica Plain Massachusetts, was on the list.[5]