Hazel Dickens, R. I. P.


There was no better friend of the working woman and man than Hazel Dickens, who has died at the age of 75.  I will leave the biographical details to the excellent New York Times obituary, which is largely accurate, but gets one thing very wrong. One sentence of the obituary claims: “No immediate family members survive.”  Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who carries a lunch pail, anyone who works way too long for way too little, anyone whose job is threatened by the new wave of anti-labor legislation sweeping the country: every one of us is an immediate family member of Hazel Dickens.

No one ever had to ask Hazel Dickens:  “Which side are you on?” Every day of her life was a tribute to her choice of sides. We owe her a lot, and no better way to pay than to continue her fight. I don’t know if there’s an angel’s union in heaven, but my guess is there might be one soon. Look out, God, here comes Hazel!

Here’s a clip from the great documentary Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song, an Appalshop documentary. You can buy the DVD at Appalshop, too. Please visit their site, a great resource for Appalachian arts and artists. They’ve got a front page story up this morning about Hazel’s passing, well worth reading.


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