Spur Award winning author Jane Botkin’s new book about savvy union organizer Jane Street, is proof that she is a talented biographer. Not only has she captured the grit and fierceness of the defiant leader who sought to end the oppression of domestic workers, but she’s created an invaluable resource about a serious and robust union. The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver is a well-documented and enlightened portrait of a woman who fought for what was right.
Just before World War I, Jane Street, of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), organized 6,000 domestic workers into the Denver Housemaids IWW Local 113. Street’s work inspired locals that were organized in Tulsa, Duluth, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, and Chicago. She even signed her correspondence, “Yours for a speedy abolition of domestic slavery.” The locals disbanded, however, when the federal government used the Espionage Act to destroy the IWW.
Jane Street’s efforts helped to increase wages, shorten hours, and improve conditions for domestic workers. The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver is about a political reckoning and a quest for workplace justice. It’s inspiring and engrossing.