Break Their Haughty Power


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Joe Murphy in the Heyday of the Wobblies

By Eugene Nelson
ism Press
Ages: 13+

Joe Murphy, chased out of his Missouri hometown by anti-Catholic bigots, hopped aboard a freight train and headed west for the wheat harvest. Within weeks, the 13-year-old Joe became a labor activist and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. Eugene Nelson, a longtime friend of Joe Murphy, describes many labor and free-speech struggles through the eyes of “Kid Murphy.” The Wobblies built a dynamic mass movement, and this novel relates Murphy’s adventures in the wheat fields, lumber camps, and on the high seas. In contrast to the standard dreary recounting of labor history, Break Their Haughty Power brings you inside labor history as it is being made by passionate human beings with complex personalities.

While portraying Joe Murphy’s adventures, Nelson presents a series of dramatic historical events — including the lynch-mob assault on IWW workers by American Legionnaires in Centralia, Washington in 1919; the nationwide railroad strike of 1922; the Colorado coal miners’ strike of 1927, in which IWW activists marched and rallied in the face of company gun thugs; and the 1931 strike by workers building Boulder Dam. Nelson also relates the young Murphy’s reflections on meeting Helen Keller, Eugene Debs, and Bill Haywood.

“Fellow Worker Nelson has done [a] beautiful job of bringing Joe Murphy’s reminiscences into a most readable tome and your reviewer enthusiastically recommends adding this book to any working stiff’s book shelf.”—Carlos Cortez, Industrial Worker (January 1994)

Additional information

Weight 14.7 oz
Dimensions 8 × 5.5 × 1 in



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