Ever heard of union hero Joe Hill? He's missing from most history books today.

If you're a fan of folk music or lyrics about working people, you might be familiar with the song "Joe Hill."

The song, originally written as a poem by Alfred Hayes, has been performed for decades by the likes of Paul Robeson, Joan Baez (at Woodstock in 1969), Phil Ochs, and Billy Bragg.

Among the more memorable renditions is a version by Bruce Springsteen, who plays it here. Go ahead and start it playing while you read about who Joe Hill really was.


The song's lyrics recall a dream where Joe Hill, a workers' hero who was likely framed on a murder charge and sentenced to death, returns in a seemingly spectral form, symbolizing the spirit of the labor movement.

"I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're 10 years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he..."



Joe Hill isn't a fictional character. He was a poet, songwriter, and a union activist.

(He also inspired the famous union phrase "Don't mourn, organize!" — but more on that later.)

Born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, he came to the U.S. from Sweden in the early 1900s with the hopes of finding work. He adapted to his new home by changing his name to Joseph Hillstrom, which he later shortened to Joe Hill once he began to write songs.

Upon arrival in New York City, he sought employment as a migrant laborer but found opportunities sporadic and sometimes nonexistent. This sparked his interest in a labor union, which would give him and his coworkers a voice on the job no matter where they worked.

Image in public domain.

He found his calling when he discovered the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

One of the IWW rallying cries was "one big union," and its goal was uniting every working person worldwide into one union. That sat very well with Hill.

Having been raised in a musical family, he began writing songs, poems, and powerful speeches after joining the IWW. He became the resident lyricist and a frequent cartoonist.

Hill wrote songs about all different types of IWW members, from immigrant factory and railway workers to itinerant laborers moving across the country from job to job. His songs inspired people — and still do today.

His popularity grew when the IWW published the first version of its "Little Red Songbook" in 1909. The musical collection, bearing the subtitle "Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent," was made up mostly of Hill's compositions.

The first edition of "The Little Red Songbook." Image by Hunter Gray.

It included the song "There Is Power in a Union" about ... well, power in a union, and "The Preacher and the Slave," about how religion causes people to fight for things in heaven rather than on earth:

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
[Crowd shouts, "That's a lie!"]



(This is, in fact, where the phrase "pie in the sky" was born.)

Hill would show up at picket lines and strikes across the country, getting the crowd energized and resolute.

His activism drew the attention of authorities, too.

In June 1913, he was arrested for "vagrancy" during a dockworkers strike in San Pedro, California, and put in jail for 30 days. The real reason for the incarceration, according to Hill, was that he "was a little too active to suit the chief of the burg."

So, Hill was on the radar of cops and politicians who didn't want to see unions establishing a presence in their towns. He may have been even more worrisome to authorities than other union leaders since he could energize the workers and reinforce their solidarity with song.

Cover of "The Rebel Girl" by Joe Hill. First published in "The Little Red Songbook," it was released as sheet music in 1915. Image in public domain.

But one cold night in 1914, a turn of events made Joe Hill's name internationally known.

Hill, who was in Salt Lake City to work in the mines, knocked on a doctor's door at 11:30 p.m., needing treatment for a gunshot wound to his chest.

Hill told the doctor he had been shot by a rival suitor for a woman's affection — he never did tell anybody her name.

On that same night, a former police officer named John Morrison, now a grocery store owner, and one of his sons were killed by two people who didn't rob the store.

The murders appeared to be motivated by revenge, perhaps a holdover from Morrison's previous career. Another of Morrison's sons witnessed the shooting and stated that one of the two killers shouted, "We've got you now!" before pulling the trigger.

(And just to note: At least four other people were shot in Salt Lake City that night; it's just kinda how things were back then.)


Salt Lake City, 1890, by Charles Roscoe Savage. Image in public domain.

The doctor who tended to Hill's injuries noted that it was a gunshot to the chest — the same kind as the shopkeeper's surviving son said occurred with the intruder who killed his father and brother.

Over the next few days, 12 different men were arrested for the killings — and each, in succession, was released.

Around the time that the 12th man was cleared, the doctor came forward and offered his patient as a possible suspect. Hill was arrested.

When the grocer's son who survived saw Joe, he stated, "That's not him at all!" However, a few days later after the publicity started and authorities knew they had the famous Joe Hill, he changed his mind and claimed it was definitely Hill he saw that night.

Several aspects of the case made Hill an unlikely suspect.

His injury, a shot through the left lung, would have bled profusely. Yet authorities did not find any blood in the store other than the victims'. No bullet was ever found, nor was there a motive; Joe did not know the shopkeeper, and the assailants didn't even take the money in the register.

The trial itself was a poor excuse for justice, according to author William Adler. Although two young, unknown attorneys volunteered to defend Hill, it became clear partway through that they weren't doing anything of the sort. Hill requested new lawyers, which the judge refused. From that point on, Hill refused to participate in the trial at all, and remained silent.

(In a letter written in 1949, the woman who was there when Hill was shot, Hilda Erickson, confessed that it was her former fiance and a friend of Joe Hill's, Otto Appelquist, who shot him that fateful night.)

After just a few hours, the jury found the 35-year-old guilty. He spent 22 months in prison while he awaited appeals of his sentence: execution by firing squad.

Image via Today in Labor History. Lyrics from the song "Workers of the World, Awaken!"

The IWW sought help from other labor unions around the world, and support began to build.

Backers demanding his release and a retrial sent tens of thousands of letters and circulated petitions.

Among those advocates were then-President Woodrow Wilson, the Swedish minister to the United States, 30,000 Australian IWW members, American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers, and trade unions across the world. Even Helen Keller, the famed deaf and blind activist (who also belonged to the IWW), wrote to the president on Hill's behalf.

The efforts targeted Utah Gov. William Spry, who had been elected to office on a platform that stated he would "sweep out lawless elements, whether they be corrupt businessmen or IWW agitators." Unsurprisingly, he did not intercede on Hill's behalf.

The IWW logo, featuring one of its main slogans: "An Injury to One Is an Injury to All." After Joe Hill was executed, it was really taken to heart.


The governor's record was clear: He had broken a large mineworkers strike and helped the Utah Copper Company bring in strikebreakers who used hired thugs to defeat the union there. Not surprisingly, this did not help Hill one bit.

There's a famous union phrase: "Don't mourn — organize!" Here's the origin story.

While in prison, Hill kept writing poetry, music, letters, and more. In a Aug. 15, 1915, article in the weekly political magazine Appeal to Reason, he stated:

"The main and only fact worth considering, however, is this: I never killed Morrison and do not know a thing about it. He was, as the records plainly show, killed by some enemy for the sake of revenge, and I have not been in the city long enough to make an enemy.

Shortly before my arrest I came down from Park City; where I was working in the mines. Owing to the prominence of Mr Morrison, there had to be a 'goat' and the undersigned being, as they thought, a friendless tramp, a Swede, and worst of all, an IWW, had no right to live anyway, and was therefore duly selected to be 'the goat'.

I have always worked hard for a living and paid for everything I got, and in my spare time I spend by painting pictures, writing songs and composing music.

Now, if the people of the state of Utah want to shoot me without giving me half a chance to state my side of the case, bring on your firing squads - I am ready for you. I have lived like an artist and I shall die like an artist."





In one of his last letters, when writing to IWW founding member and leader William Dudley Haywood (better known as "Big Bill" Haywood), he wrote these practical yet poignant words:

"Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."

Haywood changed that to the phrase that has been used by union activists ever since: "Don't mourn — Organize!"

The memory of Joe Hill's words lives on in the hearts of working people the world over.

Hill died on Nov. 19, 1915. According to author Philip Sheldon Foner, when the firing squad was instructed, "Ready ... aim," Joe Hill himself issued the final order before the commander: "Yes, aim! Let 'er go. Fire!"

30,000 people came to his funeral in Chicago. Eulogies were translated into 10 languages. The mourners sang songs by Hill and shut down traffic for hours as the funeral procession stretched for miles. Many had IWW patches, pennants, and red ribbons with the words, "Joe Hill, murdered by the authorities of the state of Utah, November the 19th, 1915."

Especially in times like these, when unions in the United States are very much on the ropes, it's good to remember the words from "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night," aka "Joe Hill" — "I never died, says he. I never died, says he."

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him
Him standing by my bed
They framed you on a murder charge
Says Joe, But I ain't dead
Says Joe, But I ain't dead

The copper bosses killed you, Joe
They shot you, Joe, says I
Takes more than guns to kill a man
Says Joe, I didn't die
Says Joe, I didn't die

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize
Went on to organize

Joe Hill ain't dead, he says to me
Joe Hill ain't never died
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side
Joe Hill is at their side

From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organize
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he







































Joe Hill's story is nearly 100 years old, but it still is not often told in schoolhouses and history books today. Why do you think that is?

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.