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Here is a riddle (and the answer!):

She had an extensive FBI file.

In spite of very serious physical impairments, she was considered a threat to the government.

Yet so successfully has our society censored information about her radical politics that the state of Alabama has selected her likeness for their state coin.

Everyone has seen movies about her remarkable early life; very few now know about her once widely-disseminated beliefs.

Who is she?

Answer is at the bottom of this page.


The dramatic history of the I.W.W. in Colorado includes:

The Columbine Mine Massacre.


More information is here (offsite).

There is more information about the Columbine Mine Massacre in the IWW Poetry section.

In the "gee, they used to really fear us" department, if you go to the University of Northern Colorado Libraries "Discover Weld County and Colorado History" page (offsite) then click on the Race and Ethnicity, then the Hispanics link, you'll see this reference to the I.W.W.:

"Delegates are Named Here by Beet Workers." Greeley Tribune. 11 February 1928: 10.
The local beet tenders association, which included most of the Spanish American beet workers in the Greeley vicinity and north from Platteville, elected three delegates to meet with the Great Western Sugar Company and the Mountain States Beet Growers Marketing Association to discuss the 1928 beet labor contract. Lauro Valdez, President of the beet tenders association, declared his association was the best bulwark against invasions by the I.W.W.

This was, after all, 1928, one year after the great coal strike.

Most online references to the union's role in Colorado are self-references.

This one may seem like a frivolous example. On the contrary, it is further indication that radical unionism sometimes results in a stronger impetus for companies to recognize less radical unions. They should appreciate us more. ;-)


Paint The Town Red


This letter (offsite) by Jane Street is a fascinating glimpse into the role of the early I.W.W. in Denver history.

Here is a link to Colorado's labor landmarks.

One of those monuments is the Ludlow Monument.

Like many countries, the United States Constitution grants "rights" yet the government fails to enforce them. This has certainly been true of the first amendment (free speech) throughout this nation's history. While many recall the sixties as a time of asserting rights, not too many know that the battles of the sixties were largely patterned after the free speech fights waged by the I.W.W. half a century earlier.

The I.W.W. fought for the right to free speech in the northwest in particular from 1907 to 1916. Speaking out on streetcorners against injustice such as the abuse of workers by ruthless bosses or the extortionist practices of labor agents, workers would gain publicity for their cause by crowding city jails. As soon as one speaker was arrested, another would step out of the crowd to take his place. This practice came to be called "soap boxing".

The idea that officials and local citizens' committees routinely committed murder to suppress free speech must shock some folks today. Consider that citizens' committees are typically organized to carry out the agenda of the employing class. Profits are at stake!

To demonstrate how dangerous the free speech fights were, check out the story of the massacre in Everett, Washington. They are considering a monument of their own. I hope the monument itself (if it comes to fruition) includes the point of view of the working people.

The article at this link is pretty even-handed, considering that it appears in the corporate press. We in Colorado found that newspapers reporting on massacres of workers would tell some of the workers' points of view-- as long as the struggle was sixty years ago. :-)

Free Speech

It's just a little box for soap.
They use it with a piece of rope
Which they sling o'er the nearest tree;
We use the box to set folks free.

And if their laws won't let you speak,
Anid if it's justice that you seek--
And if their courts have let you down
Then watch the wobblies come to town.



How is the IWW different from more traditional AFL unions? Current union members should read this.


Answer to the riddle:

One of the most well-known wobblies was Helen Keller.


Industrial Workers of the World Writings



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