In the Pacific Northwest, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are remembered as a group of transient, unattached men, ready to fight for free speech regardless of the cost in broken bones, prison time, and even death. In her provocative new book Beyond the Rebel Girl, Heather Mayer revises this well-worn image. Placing women at the center of the story, and extending beyond well-known leaders such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mayer offers a spare but compelling argument for the potential of gender history to transform our understanding of the radical past.

In this new view, national leaders recede and regional leaders emerge. Local IWW halls become community centers enlivened by women and by children, whose presence is visible in photographs of IWW picnics, strikes, and funerals. The category of labor expands to encompass prostitution. Marriage is implicated in...

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