Anne Feeney: Pittsburgh’s Hellraiser, Memorial Events Planned for May 1

Two images of Anne Feeney. In the one on the left she is younger with long hair, standing on the bed of a pickup truck, singing into a mic, wearing a red "Solidarity Forever" T-shirt. In the one on the right she is older with shorter hair, singing into a mic indoors at the Labor Notes Conference, one fist in the air, wearing a black "Railroad Workers United" T-shirt, with a "Troublemakers Union" banner hanging on the wall behind her.

Left, on the Staley strike line in Decatur, Illinois, in 1995. Right, at the Labor Notes Conference in 2012. Photos: Dexter Arnold, Jim West (

Friends and family of legendary labor singer Anne Feeney have announced the first in-person events celebrating the life and work of “Pittsburgh’s hellraiser,” who passed away following complications from Covid in 2021.

The events are fittingly planned to coincide with May Day: a 12 p.m. panel discussion on women in the Pittsburgh labor movement at Heinz History Center, and a memorial concert and gathering at Mr Smalls Theater at 6 p.m.

The concert features a lineup of activist musicians carrying on Anne’s legacy of using music to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” including renowned folk duo Emma’s Revolution, the Pittsburgh Labor Choir, Liz Berlin of Rusted Root, queer punk singer Evan Greer, local singer/songwriter Mike Stout, and more.

The event is free with an RSVP, and there is a suggested donation of $25 or more to help cover costs. (Register and donate here.)

“People all around the world are still singing my mom’s songs, and there are so many people who loved her who haven’t gotten a chance yet to celebrate her in person, because of the pandemic,” said Anne’s daughter Amy Sue Berlin, who is organizing the event with me.

“My mom loved May Day, so we couldn’t think of a better way to honor her than with a big concert here in Pittsburgh, the city she loved.”

More about Anne Feeney and the legacy she leaves behind, from her obituary:

Utah Phillips named Anne Feeney “the best labor singer in North America.” Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine called her “a beacon of hope and solidarity for future generations.” Dar Williams said that Anne was “a true friend and folk sister.”

Starting in 1987—when she was inspired by Faith Petric to quit her job as an attorney and dedicate her life to touring and making music in support of workers—Anne played more than 4,000 shows across North America and Europe.

She performed for striking workers on countless picket lines, in union halls, and at some of the largest protests of the last century, including the protests that shut down the WTO in Seattle in 1999 and the March for Women’s Lives in 2004. Her performance at the WTO was featured in the documentary This is What Democracy Looks Like.



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She organized dozens of tours supporting various causes, including the Sing Out for Single Payer Healthcare tour in 2009, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for strike funds and progressive causes.

Anne’s anthem “Have You Been to Jail for Justice” has been sung by activists around the world, and was recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

She was a songwriter, but also a song collector who gave life to classic union hymns like Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid,” and Joe Hill’s “Dump the Bosses off Your Back.”

She released 12 albums over the course of her career, and shared stages with iconic artists like Pete Seeger, Loretta Lynn, John Prine, Toshi Reagon, The Mammals, Dan Bern, the Indigo Girls, and Billy Bragg.

A lover of Irish music, she committed hundreds of Irish songs to memory, and led yearly singing tours of Ireland. She was a regular at Kerrville Folk Festival, Oregon Country Fair, and other major festivals.

Anne Feeney was born July 1, 1951, in Charleroi, PA, and lived in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh. She was influenced by her grandfather, William Patrick Feeney, who was a first-generation Irish immigrant, a mineworkers’ organizer, and violinist who used music to support working-class organizing.

Anne performed publicly for the first time in 1969, singing a Phil Ochs song at a protest against the Vietnam War. In 1972, she was arrested at the Republican National Convention where she was protesting Richard Nixon’s re-nomination for president. That same year, Anne attended the 2nd Annual Conference on Women and the Law.

Inspired by the group that founded “Women Organized Against Rape” in Philadelphia, she began a campaign for a rape crisis center in Pittsburgh. The work begun by her committee evolved into Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, which still provides services to survivors of sexual assault in the Pittsburgh area.

She served on the executive board of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW), and as the president of the Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union, the first and only woman to ever hold that position.

Queer punk singer Evan Greer was Anne’s longtime friend and touring partner. You can also read Labor Notes’ remembrance of Anne here, and check out this touching tribute video compiled by musician, friend, and photographer Bev Grant, including many picket-line snapshots.