Jane Little BotkinApr 20, 2021
The Girl Who Dared to Defy
Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver
In 1916, hundreds of local female household workers attempted to establish a union in Denver. The organizer behind the effort was Jane Street, a remarkable 29-year-old woman who, as Jane Little Botkin describes in The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021), brought a remarkable set of skills to what seemed an impossible task. Raised in Arkansas, young Jane went west with her sister after a failed marriage to a bigamist and sexual predator. While in San Francisco, she joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and upon her move to Denver in late 1915 began to organize the mainly immigrant housemaids who worked for the city’s elite. While Street’s efforts enjoyed considerable success initially, she soon found herself battling as well the patriarchal views of the all-male IWW leadership. The loss of the Housemaids’ Union’s charter in 1917 spelled the beginning of the end for the local, while the demands of her growing family forced Street to bring her career as a labor activist and union organizer to a premature end soon afterward.