Rebel Song Book

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This is my great grandma, Ruth Leopold's (Wana's), songbook. She was singing with the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL). Her father, who came to the US at age 12 from Odessa, was a tailor and an activist for the unions. At the age of 3, Wana was run over by a truck so she was in and out of the hospital until she was 18, for 15 different operations to help her walk again. She was often alone in the hospital and so she sang to herself, especially to help her to overcome her great pain. As Wana's family was poor and working long hours, the strict visiting hours prevented them from seeing her, but her cousin would sneak in to visit via the fire escape. Once a rich lady in the next room, who had fallen out of her limousine, heard Wana singing many songs during a particularly long hospital stay, and when Wana left the hospital this lady asked the nurse who had been singing so beautifully. This woman then sent Wana a big flower arrangement and came personally to meet her family, who had never met such a grand lady, in their poor neighborhood. She even walked all the way to their top floor apartment to give her greetings to Wana’s mother, who was cleaning the hall as she was the custodian of the building. Wana spent a lot of time learning labor songs and all her life she fought for labor rights. She went to Commonwealth College, a socialist college that paid teachers no money but gave them housing, food, tobacco, and toothbrushes. This songbook is out of print.

Year: 1906

– Saul Ferholt-Kahn

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