Skip to Main Content
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) hailed from Spokane, Washington, and was the offspring of a dedicated IWW member. Revered as the "IWW Songbird," Phar exhibited an early familiarity with IWW songs centered around labor and class-related themes. The practice of children attending meetings with their IWW-affiliated parents and partaking in the rendition of IWW songs was a prevalent occurrence. In her capacity as a song leader, Phar notably assumed leadership of an IWW children's choir at the organization's Spokane hall.

At the tender age of 10, in 1915, Phar embarked upon a significant correspondence with the prolific IWW songwriter, Joe Hill. Hill, recognizing her burgeoning talent and fervor for the IWW cause, encouraged Phar to persist in her musical contributions to the organization. A photograph captured during this period reveals Phar holding a banner adorned with the sheet music for Hill's seminal composition, "Rebel Girl," thereby leading some to conjecture that she may have been the eponymous figure alluded to in the song. However, this perception is corrected by Joe Hill's own correspondence with Phar, affirming that the inspiration for "Rebel Girl" was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Hill also solicited Phar's assistance in supporting Gurley Flynn's performance of the song during an event in Spokane, thus underscoring the significant role she played in furthering the IWW's musical traditions.

Katie Phar Photographs

Katie Phar's Songbook

The collection of IWW pamplets, residing within the Industrial Workers of the World, Seattle Joint Branches records, 1890-1965, encompasses multiple editions of "The Little Red Songbook." Notably one which is written in Scandinavian languages including Swedish, while the other is imprinted with the name of Katie Phar. The specific origins of this item, or whether it was indeed her personal copy or simply a signed item for an admirer seeking her autograph, remain undetermined. Irrespective of the circumstances, it is worth noting that this edition originated from Katie Phar's hometown of Spokane, Washington.


Information regarding Katie Phar is somewhat constrained, yet there exists sufficient data to construct an understanding of her involvement within the IWW as a youth and musician.