THE UNION MAID (WOODY GUTHRIE & MILLARD LAMPELL (last verse)/tune: "Red Wing") (1940/1941)

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While in Washington, Woody acquired Pete Seeger as a traveling companion for the trip to Oklahoma [May 1940].... Arriving in Oklahoma City, they contacted the local Communist Party organizers, Bob and Ina Wood, who put them to work singing for the poor desperate people in the Hooverville on the banks of the Canadian River, and then for the striking oil workers and the Unemployed Workers' Alliance....

They spent the night with the Woods.... Although Woody later wrote that his song "Union Maid" was inspired by the story of a southern Tenant Farmers' Union organizer... it's probable that Ina Wood was a more direct influence. A militant feminist, she criticized Pete and Woody for never singing any songs about the women in the labor movement, and Woody responded that night by writing a parody of "Red Wing"....

Pete's first reaction, when he saw the song the next morning, was that it was kind of dumb. But it began to grow on him. It was so artless and simple, and direct.... Like almost everything Woody wrote... it was written for the ear more than the eye.... For the next decade, "Union Maid" would be Woody's most popular song, appearing in union songbooks and sung on picket lines all over the country.

Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life, London, 1981, pp. 161-162

We weren't completely satisfied with the songs we picked out to sing, and they asked me if I had suggestions. I thought of the great chorus Woody had put together about a year before when he and I were in Oklahoma City.... "But it has only two verses that were any good. I can't remember the other ones," says I. Mill Lampell said, "Give me twenty minutes," and went into another room and came back with the third verse which we recorded.
Pete Seeger (1987), as quoted in Ronald D. Cohen & Dave Samuelson, liner notes for "Songs for Political Action," Bear Family Records BCD 15720 JL, 1996, p. 78

Lyrics as recorded by THE ALMANAC SINGERS, New York, NY, c. May 1941, and reprinted ibid., p. 86.

ORIGINAL ISSUE: "TALKING UNION" (KEYNOTE ALBUM 106), Jul 1941
[PETE SEEGER, lead vocal]

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come 'round
She always stood her ground.

CHORUS:
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn't be fooled by a company stool, she'd always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
She'd show her card to the National Guard
And this is what she'd say:

CHORUS

You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.

CHORUS

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