08. Workers of the World Awaken! The songs of Finnish North Americans as social and ideological mediators at the turn of the 20th century



1. Hannes Saari, “Proletaarit nouskaa” [Workers of the World Awaken]

From: Proletaarit nouskaa! – Amerikansuomalaisia työväenlauluja 1914–30, AMCD 1043 Artie Music, 2013.


Hannes Saari: vocals.




Proletaarit nouskaa was, and perhaps still is, one of the most important songs of the IWW. It was also translated and recorded in Finnish. The first Finnish version was recorded at the Columbia record label in New York on March 23, 1928 by Hannes Saari (1886–1967). He was also behind the Finnish translation. It has been argued that the melody was composed by Joe Hill.


2. SibA Folk Big Band, “Kaivantomiehen laulu” [Song of the Miner]

From: Sibelius-Akatemian Folk Big Band – FBB, SRCD-1012 Sibarecords, 2014 .


Performer: SibA Folk Big Band – FBB.




Kaivantomiehen laulu was a famous Finnish North American labor song. It was written by a known Finnish socialist, Santeri Mäkelä (1870-1938). The tune is a folk melody from Finland.


3. Enkel, “Siskoille 1925”

From: Enkel, We Are Enkel, NN112 Nordic Notes, 2018.


Leija Lautamaja: 2,5 row accordion and vocals, Miia Palomäki: 2,5 row accordion and vocals, Maija Pokela: kantele and vocals, Iida Savolainen: viola and vocals.




The song “Siskoille” (For Sisters) is written by a Finnish American servant and waitress Hanna Lehtinen who worked in New York. She wrote the song in 1912, and it was published in the Workers Songbook in the same year. Lehtinen was active in women’s rights movement and in her song, she challenges women to organize and fight for their education and equality. The melody is adapted from a traditional tune from Kauhava, Finland.


4. Hazel Dickens, “Rebel Girl”

From: Don’t Mourn – Organize! Songs of Labor Song Writer Joe Hill, SFW40026
Smithsonian Folkways recordings, 1990.


Hazel Dickens: vocals.




“Rebel Girl” is one of the most famous Wobbly songs. It is also an important battle song of women pertinently reflecting the important role of women in the movement. The song is written and composed by Joe Hill (1879–1915), the most important song writer of the IWW. He wrote the song for his good friend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890–1964): an activist, labor leader, and feminist who played a leading role in the IWW. The song was also translated in Finnish, but I haven’t been able to find a recorded Finnish version.