Radical Speaker Attracts Northern California Workers and Socialists

Mar 25, 2014

 One of his generation’s most radical union leaders, Utah-born William “Big Bill” Hayward filled the halls with Socialists and workers for a series of speeches in March 1909 in the towns of Eureka, Fortuna and Arcata, Calif.  

Five-foot-eleven, one-eyed, weighing 220 pounds – and more after a drinking binge -- Hayward was a formidable presence. A contemporary observer said, “Haywood could make himself understood by a crowd … merely by waving his arms and shouting."  “I’m a two-gun man from the West, you know,” he would say as he brandished his membership cards from the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist party of America.  A year before visiting Northern California, Hayward withdrew from seeking the Socialist Party’s nomination as its candidate in the 1912 presidential elections. Only 22 years old, he became a founding member of a Montana miners union and later was a key figure in the Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as the Wobblies. When the Supreme Court upheld his conviction of espionage and sedition for calling strikes during World War I, Haywood jumped bail and fled to the Soviet Union, where he wrote his memoirs and died in 1928. 

 Sources: Armand, Dione F. Eureka and Sequoia Park. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.Dubofsky, Melvyn. 'Big Bill' Haywood. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987. Dubofsky, Melvyn, and Tine W. R. Van. Labor Leaders in America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.