THE REBEL GIRL
(JOE HILL) (1914-1915)
There are women of many descriptions In this queer world, as everyone knows. Some are living in beautiful mansions, And are wearing the finest of clothes. There are blue blooded queens and princesses, Who have charms made of diamonds and pearl; But the only and thoroughbred lady Is the Rebel Girl.
CHORUS: That's the Rebel Girl, that's the Rebel Girl! To the working class she's a precious pearl. She brings courage, pride and joy To the fighting Rebel Boy. We've had girls before, but we need some more In the Industrial Workers of the World. For it's great to fight for freedom With a Rebel Girl.
Yes, her hands may be hardened from labor, And her dress may not be very fine; But a heart in her bosom is beating That is true to her class and her kind. And the grafters in terror are trembling When her spite and defiance she'll hurl; For the only and thoroughbred lady Is the Rebel Girl.
First published in the March 1916 edition (ninth edition; "Joe Hill Memorial Edition") of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook." © 1916
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Several songs and some of his writings show Hill's awareness that women, too, could aid in the "class struggle." On November 29, 1914, he wrote to the editor of
The female workers are sadly neglected in the United States, especially on the West coast, and consequently we have created a kind of one-legged, freakish animal of a union, and our dances and blowouts are kind of stale and unnatural on account of being too much of a "buck" affair; they are too lacking the life and inspiration which the woman alone can produce.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, June 1913.
Soon afterward, Hill began corresponding with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a prominent I. W. W. organizer. A warm friendship developed through numerous letters and a visit she paid Hill in his jail cell. After having exchanged several letters with Miss Flynn, Hill wrote to his friend Sam Murray, "... have been busy working on a song named 'The Rebel Girl' (Words and Music), which I hope will help line up the women in the OBU." Nine months later, as he faced execution, he wrote to her,
You have been an inspiration and when I composed The Rebel Girl you was right there and helped me all the time. As you furnished the idea I will now that I am gone give you all the credit for that song, and be sure to locate a few more Rebel Girls like yourself, because they are needed and needed badly.
"The Rebel Girl" clearly shows Hill's idea of the importance of women to the rebel cause, and while it was inspired by Miss Flynn, it was dedicated to all the women of the I. W. W.
1. Hill to editor of Solidarity, 29 November 1914, in Solidarity, 19 December 1914; also in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, pp. 16-17.
2. Hill to Murray, 13 February 1915, in "The Last Letters of Joe Hill," Industrial Pioneer, December 1923, p. 54; also in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, p. 32.
3. Hill to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, 18 November 1915, in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, p. 82.
Gibbs M. Smith, Labor Martyr Joe Hill, New York, NY, 1969, pp. 26-28.