Anne Burlak Timpson

The Birmingham News 1934
Newspaper article from the Birmingham News featuring Ann Burlak

A daughter of immigrants, Anne Burlak Timpson was an active labor organizer in Rhode Island during the Great Depression.

Burlak was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Starting at the age of 14, Burlak worked in a textiles mill; even years later, Burlak would identify herself as a “silk weaver.” But Burlak did not stay on the shop floor for long. By the time she was a teenager, Burlak had already been fired for union organizing. Undeterred, while still a young adult, Burlak continued to urge workers to fight for better hours, conditions, and pay. As a result, she was blacklisted. She also served jail time for union work in the South.

Burlak came to Rhode Island to work with people in the textiles industry in 1931. Historian Quenby Olmsted Hughest argues that Burlak saw the state as “fertile ground for organizing.” At the time, “it [was] the most industrialized state in the country; by 1908 Pawtucket had 236 mills, Central Falls had 47, Woonsocket 127, and Providence 1,044. Because of this concentration of industry, by the 1920s, Rhode Island was also the nation’s most densely populated state [.]”

Through local strikes and other demonstrations, including the 1932 Hunger March to Washington, D.C., Burlak pushed for unemployment insurance and other protections for workers. A vocal and often encouraging presence for those on the front lines of labor battles, Burlak was known as “The Red Flame.” Burlak often wore bright red clothing and was an advocate of the Communist Party USA.

Burlak sought the office of Mayor in Pawtucket in 1932, but she was unsuccessful. She spent many of her later years in Massachusetts, where she lived to be 91 years old. “Seditious Ann” was a lifelong advocate for equal pay for women, improved working hours, and integrated unions. She died in July 2002.

Last updated: March 4, 2022

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