Cover image for Fannie never flinched : one woman's courage in the struggle for American labor union rights
Fannie never flinched : one woman's courage in the struggle for American labor union rights
Physical Description:
44 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
A storm center for bullets -- Fannie stitches together a dream -- Fannie finds her voice -- Angel of mercy -- Labor war -- Fannie's dream lives on.
Reading Level:
1020 L Lexile
Fanny Sellins was a union activist who fought and gave her life for equality and labor reform.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 331.88092 FAR 1 1
Book J 331.88092 FAR 1 1
Book J 331.88092 FAR 1 1
Book J 331.88092 FAR 1 1

On Order



Fannie Sellins (1872-1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when the Carnegies and Morgans wore jewels while their laborers wore rags. Fannie dreamed that America could achieve its ideals of equality and justice for all, and she sacrificed her life to help that dream come true. Fannie became a union activist, helping to create St. Louis, Missouri, Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. She traveled the nation and eventually gave her life, calling for fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in both the garment and mining industries. Her accomplishments live on today. This book includes an index, glossary, a timeline of unions in the United States, and endnotes.

Author Notes

Mary Cronk Farrell's books have been honored with the SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction, and as Notable Social Studies Books for Young People and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. Mary speaks at schools, libraries, and women's and family workshops. She lives in Spokane, Washington.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Farrell (Pure Grit) spotlights little-known activist Fannie Sellins (1867-1919) in an accessible biography that also serves as a valuable introduction to the U.S. labor rights' movement. Widowed with four children, Sellins worked in garment sweatshops in St. Louis, Mo., at the turn of the 20th century. She successfully united her fellow workers to fight for better wages and working conditions, and went on to do the same for workers in other industries. She butted up against anti-union coal mine owners, and was ultimately killed for the causes she championed. Over six brief chapters, Farrell deftly places Sellins's story within the larger context of immigration and industrialization at the time. Stitched blue-denim illustrations on the endpapers color coordinate with blue-tinted archival photographs of immigrant workers at sewing machines, in mines, and in company towns. In a nod to Sellins's work as a seamstress, images of buttons, gears, and stitching help frame each spread. Readers interested in the history of workers' rights shouldn't miss this entrée to the subject, which is bolstered by a timeline of labor struggles, source notes, and other resources. Ages 10-14. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Garment-factory seamstress Fannie Sellins became a leader of the labor movement and "an angel of mercy" for striking workers' families. She was killed in 1919 when police turned clubs and rifles against protesters. Farrell relates the story of this extraordinary activist with deft pacing and relatable anecdotes; an engaging layout includes copious photos and primary source clippings. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The author may be addressing this stirring story of early union activist Fannie Sellins (1872-1919) to middle-schoolers, but the rigor of her approach yields a book with solid scholarly features: a noncondescending glossary, a time line for historical context, recommendations for further reading, and a helpful index. In 1902, Sellins was a widowed mother of four working in a St. Louis sweatshop to support her family when she first heard about the United Garment Workers of America, then in its infancy. She helped to organize her fellow seamstresses, most of whom were recent immigrants working 10 to 14 hours 6 days a week for the grand sum of $5 ($145 in today's currency), into Ladies' Local 67. The threat of a strike resulted in a grudging doubling of wages, and within a few years Sellins was traveling to hot spots around the country to spread the word. She ultimately landed in Pennsylvania coal country, the site of egregious abuses, where her fervor proved fatal: pegged as an agitator, she was shot in the back while trying to herd children away from a melee. Her story, richly illustrated with vintage photographs and documents, fairly leaps off the page, driving home the message that the work she fought for is far from over.--MacDonald, Sandy Copyright 2016 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-The narrative begins with the murder of Fannie Sellins by deputies in Natrona, PA, in 1919 and then goes back 20 years to when Sellins first started working at the Marx and Haas garment factory and helped form the local United Garment Workers of America (UGWA) in St. Louis. Sellins moved up the UGWA ladder and traveled the country talking about the plight of factory workers: long days, low pay, and unsafe working conditions. Word of Sellins's abilities reached coal country, where she visited. Sellins supported the coal miners' efforts to unionize. When mine owners brought up scabs from the South, she chased their car along the railroad tracks, yelling at them not to break the coal miners' strike. Though there was no justice for her death, her memory lives on in coal country. In her author's note, Farrell details why she wrote about Sellins and discusses the difficulties she faced in finding reliable information about her subject's personal life. The text is matter-of-fact in tone, with captioned black-and-white photos and newsprint ads. The beige background features buttons, cogs, and stitches along the bottom of each page, and the end pages are scraps of seamed blue fabric. VERDICT An essential purchase for public or large school libraries interested in workers' rights and social justice.-Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Farrell chronicles Fannie Sellins life as a garment worker, organizer, and martyr for workers rights at the turn of the 20th century.After Fannies husband died, leaving her with four children, she sewed in a St. Louis sweatshop. Women and girls worked 10 to 14 hours daily, six days a week, locked in deafening factories where tuberculosis ran rampant. Hearing of the United Garment Workers of Americas successes elsewhere, Fannie began organizing co-workers during breaks. In 1902, she helped form the Ladies Local 67 of the UGWA. In 1909, a workers punishment engendered a walkout, a lockout, a strike, and a boycott. As the locals president, Sellins traveled on the workers behalf, raising strike fund money in union halls and successfully advancing the boycott. Next, Sellins helped coal miners fight brutal owners in West Virginia, where she was arrested and jailed. Organizing in western Pennsylvania, she was murdered during a fight between strikers and armed deputies. Farrells text and annotated timeline demonstrate that the early struggle for fair wages, hours, and benefits was rife with setbacks and bloodshed, as owners, government officials, and law enforcement colluded to break strikes and unions. Acknowledging the paucity of material on Sellins, Farrell includes well-captioned period photos and primary documents that deepen readers context for the workers exploitation and resistance. A cogent, well-documented, handsomely designed treatment of a heretofore forgotten hero of labor. (author's note, glossary, timeline, quotation notes, sources, websites, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.