Born in 1888 to impoverished immigrants in rural Minnesota, 12-year-old Reuben is sent to the faraway city of Streator, Illinois, to pay off the family’s debts. He labors on trolley lines and in glass factories before finding steady work at a local newspaper print shop, where he becomes captivated by the news stories of the day and catches the attention of labor leader John Williams. Under Williams’ tutelage, the young Soderstrom embarks on a decade of self-disciplined study at the Streator public library and then barnstorms though the Midwest as a political activist and linotype apprentice. Returning to Streator in 1918, Reuben is propelled into the Illinois Statehouse, where he serves as an aggressive voice for organized labor. This volume ends in 1930 with Soderstrom on the precipice of becoming President of the ISFL, as the Great Depression blankets the nation.