Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rachel I Buff

Committee Members

Joe Austin, Christine E Evans, Vicki L Ruiz, Christina Heatherton


Coal, Colorado, IWW, Strike, Syndicalism, Union


“‘As Dangerous to Society as a Rattlesnake’: IWW Worker Intellectuals in Colorado’s Southern Coal Fields, 1926-1929,” examines the role of rank-and-file union activists in igniting and sustaining a statewide coal strike in 1927-1928. Very little has been written about this strike, and even less about the Spanish- and Italian-speaking mine workers who made up a substantial portion of both the workforce and the active union membership. This dissertation focuses on the Mexican-American, Mexican-immigrant, Italian-immigrant, and Spanish-immigrant unionists who were central to the growth of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in southern Colorado, yet whose stories have been overlooked by historians. In order to better understand the collective intellectual efforts of grassroots IWW activists, this study looks at various ideological dimensions of the movement, examining the IWW organizing philosophy of industrial unionism and its connections with both Marxist and anarcho-syndicalist traditions. In order to better understand the rank-and-file IWW members who powered the strike, this dissertation explores the lives and biographies of individual activists, contextualizing their stories within the broader histories of colonization, exploitation, and resistance that shaped their communities. To do so, this project draws from an array of archival and other primary source materials, including from union and coal company records, historical newspapers, oral histories, and a variety of genealogical resources.

Available for download on Friday, May 30, 2025