Dr. Ryan Pettengill explains how communist activists in Detroit worked with labor activists during and after the Second World War to enhance the quality of life in the community by advocating for civil rights, affordable housing, protections for the foreign-born, and more. Pettengill is a Professor of History at Collin College and author of Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956.
Historian Jane Little Botkin explains how Jane Street, a single mother, firebrand, and little-known IWW organizer, orchestrated a 1916 housemaids’ rebellion in Denver. To fight for better pay and working conditions in the elite Capitol Hill neighborhood, Street worked with—and later, despite—the IWW to blacklist and shame the area’s worst domestic employers, thereby disrupting the comfort and reputations of some of Denver’s most influential and powerful families.
Author of The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver and Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family, Botkin has received two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Caroline Bancroft History Prize from the Denver Public Library Western History and Genealogy Department, and the Best Historical Nonfiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors.
In the second of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses the life of her grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.