Haywood, William Dudley

Haywood, William Dudley, 1869–1928, American labor leader, known as Big Bill Haywood, b. Salt Lake City, Utah. He began work as a miner at 15 years of age. In 1896 he joined the newly organized Western Federation of Miners, and in 1900 became a member of the executive board and national secretary-treasurer of the organization, with headquarters in Denver. His leadership was militant, and he was often accused of inciting violence, especially in the Colorado troubles culminating in the Cripple Creek strike (1904), which he led. He was also accused of instigating the assassination of former governor Steunenberg of Idaho in 1905, but was acquitted in a trial in which he was defended by Clarence S. Darrow; the trial attracted nationwide attention. In 1905 he was one of the organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He joined the Socialist party and became a member of its national executive board, but because of his advocacy of violence was forced out of the party. He led the famous Lawrence and Paterson textile workers' strikes in 1912 and 1913. Repudiating the crafts union ideal and the cooperation policy of the American Federation of Labor, he preached the IWW doctrines of class struggle, no compromise, and mass action. When the United States entered World War I he was arrested on a charge of sedition, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. While awaiting a new trial in 1921, he forfeited bail and escaped to the Soviet Union, where he lived for the rest of his life. Haywood wrote many articles and prepared his own autobiography, published as Bill Haywood's Book (1929, repr. 1958).

See P. F. Brissenden, The I.W.W. (2d ed. 1920, repr. 1957); S. H. Holbrook, The Rocky Mountain Revolution (1956); J. A. Lukas, Big Trouble (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Labor: Biographies