Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family

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University of Oklahoma Press, May 25, 2017 - Biography & Autobiography - 512 pages

Franklin Henry Little (1878–1917), an organizer for the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), fought in some of the early twentieth century’s most contentious labor and free-speech struggles. Following his lynching in Butte, Montana, his life and legacy became shrouded in tragedy and family secrets. In Frank Little and the IWW, author Jane Little Botkin chronicles her great-granduncle’s fascinating life and reveals its connections to the history of American labor and the first Red Scare.

Beginning with Little’s childhood in Missouri and territorial Oklahoma, Botkin recounts his evolution as a renowned organizer and agitator on behalf of workers in corporate agriculture, oil, logging, and mining. Frank Little traveled the West and Midwest to gather workers beneath the banner of the Wobblies (as IWW members were known), making soapbox speeches on city street corners, organizing strikes, and writing polemics against unfair labor practices. His brother and sister-in-law also joined the fight for labor, but it was Frank who led the charge—and who was regularly threatened, incarcerated, and assaulted for his efforts. In his final battles in Arizona and Montana, Botkin shows, Little and the IWW leadership faced their strongest opponent yet as powerful copper magnates countered union efforts with deep-laid networks of spies and gunmen, an antilabor press, and local vigilantes.

For a time, Frank Little’s murder became a rallying cry for the IWW. But after the United States entered the Great War and Congress passed the Sedition Act (1918) to ensure support for the war effort, many politicians and corporations used the act to target labor “radicals,” squelch dissent, and inspire vigilantism. Like other wage-working families smeared with the traitor label, the Little family endured raids, arrests, and indictments in IWW trials.

Having scoured the West for firsthand sources in family, library, and museum collections, Botkin melds the personal narrative of an American family with the story of the labor movements that once shook the nation to its core. In doing so, she throws into sharp relief the lingering consequences of political repression.
 

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Contents

Trials and Truces
Hallelujah Im a Bum
San Diego 1912
Midwest Folly
Drumright 1914
Wilhelms Warriors
The Canary
Part Three The Dissolution 19171920

Broken Dreams
Part Two One Big Union 19001916
Bisbee 1903
The Visionaries 1906
The Organizer 19061908
The FourWord Speech
An Injury to One 19091910
Reds
Fresno Free Speech Fight
The SonofaBitch
The Vigilantes
Thirteen Days
The Big Pinch
Epilogue
Bibliography
Index
Copyright

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About the author (2017)

Award-winning author Jane Little Botkin served as a public school teacher for thirty years before turning to historical investigation and writing. As a high school teacher, she supervised the compilation of fifteen volumes of the student publication A History of Dripping Springs and Hays County (1993–2008), a valuable resource for Texas researchers. In 2008 the Texas state legislature honored her career in education by formal resolution. Botkin continues to contribute to local historic preservation in the Texas Hill Country and New Mexico’s White Mountain Wilderness. Her book Frank Little and the IWW has won two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Caroline Bancroft History Prize from the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library, and the Best Historical Nonfiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors. She is currently working on a biography of labor organizer Jane Street.