Union Songs

The Ballad of Janet Oakden

A Song by Pip James

Let me tell you 'bout a woman, Janet Oakden is her name
She came here from England, just to drive a train
She started as a steward, and why I cannot tell
When she tried to join a union, the men all ran like hell

Janet Oakden, Janet Oakden
You should be very proud
With the odds stacked against you
Your spirit was not cowed

The union said "We'll help you, but let us make this clear
The railway wives won't like to see their husbands placed so near
The feminine temptation a woman would present
You must have separate quarters, so morals won't get bent"

They raised up great objections why she can't drive a train
"You can't lift up the engine, or undertake the strain
Of toting all the fireman's gear upon your fragile back, What happens if your nails should break, your make-up start to crack?"

But Janet was too wily for all those doubting men
She took herself to drivers school, and answered back again
Now she can be a driver, and fill a driver's shoes
This courageous woman has earned the right to pay her union dues


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