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Research Guides

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Katie Phar

Interpretive exhibit examining the historical and cultural context of the the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

Her Story

Katie Phar (1905-1943) was a daughter of an IWW member in Spokane, Washington. Known as the "IWW Songbird," Phar was familar with IWW songs about labor and class from a young age. It was very common for children to attend meetings with their IWW parents and perform IWW songs. Phar was a leader of an IWW children's choir and song leader at the organization's Spokane hall.  In 1915, at the age of 10, Phar began a correspondence with IWW songwriter Joe Hill.  Hill encouraged Phar to keep on singing for the IWW. In one photograph, Phar is holding a banner the sheet music for Hill's song “Rebel Girl,” leading some to speculate she might be the "Rebel Girl" Hill was referring to. However, according to Hill’s letters to Phar, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the actual inspiration for the song “Rebel Girl." Hill asked Phar to help Gurley Flynn perform the song in Spokane.

Katie Phar Photographs

Katie Phar's Songbook

  The IWW pamphlet collection held within the Pacific Northwest Historical Documents Collection (UW Libraries, Special Collections) has several editions of the "The Little Red Songbook." Two were selected to be digitized, the one in Scandinavian and this one with Katie Phar's name on it. It is unknown if this was her copy or if this is just her signature for a fan wanting their songbook signed. Regardless of the case, this edition was from Katie Phar's hometown, Spokane, WA.


Sources on Katie Phar are limited but there is enough to interpret her role in the IWW as a child and musician.