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feeling a little Wobbly?

May 1st, 2008     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

Then it must be May Day!

Hazel Dickens is a longtime union supporter and feminist folksinger. She comes from a family of miners in West Virginia, and has lent her voice to the cause of workers’ rights - especially women workers - countless times. She appears in Barbara Kopple’s incredible documentary Harlan Country USA, about a miners’ strike that ended in tragedy, and some of her most powerful songs are collected on the amazing album Coal Mining Women, and are a potent reminder that women have ALWAYS been part of the fight for safe working conditions, shorter hours and decent pay. She also, I should mention, has a voice that could raise the dead (and invariably makes me cry like a babe). Plus, in an industry (the music one, I mean) where youth is god and death may as well occur at 30, it’s really important to remember that there are people out there who have been doing it and doing it well since before you were born, you little pischer. So, as she says in Woman Coal Miner Blues, if you can’t stand by her, don’t stand in her way.

A mystery person (thank you, whoever you are!) has created this fan video featuring Dickens singing union organizer Joe Hill’s song Rebel Girl. It opens with a speech by feminist labour leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and the images are all of women involved with the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies). It’s really worth checking out the video’s original source for brief bios of all the women pictured. Powerful stuff. What? No no, I just have something in my eye, that’s all.

I’ve also posted the first half of a video biography of Hazel Dickens after the cut. Happy May Day!

Tags: on the job, picks from planet venus, playlist

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