Frank Little was born in 1879. Little is known about his family background but he told friends that he had "Indian blood". However, Sal Salerno argues that he had a Cherokee Indian mother and Quaker father.
Little joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1906 and took part in the free speech campaigns in Missoula, Fresno and Spokane and was involved in organizing lumberjacks, metal miners and oil field workers into trade unions. On one occasion he was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment for reading the Declaration of Independence on a street corner.
Other members of the IWW included: William Haywood, Vincent Saint John, Daniel De Leon, Eugene V. Debs, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mary 'Mother' Jones, Lucy Parsons, Hubert Harrison, Carlo Tresca, Joseph Ettor, Arturo Giovannitti, James Cannon, William Z. Foster, Eugene Dennis, Joe Haaglund Hill, Tom Mooney, Floyd B. Olson, James Larkin, James Connolly, Frank Little and Ralph Chaplin.
In 1910 Little successfully organized unskilled fruit workers in the San Joaquin Valley. Sal Salerno has argued that he was a "fearless and uncompromising agitator, he was repeatedly beaten and jailed for his union-forming activities." This brought him to the attention of the national leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World and by 1916 was a member of the party's General Executive Board.
Little was a strong opponent of the USA becoming involved in the First World War. The leader of the party, William Haywood shared Little's opinions, but this was a minority view in the party. When the USA joined the war in April, 1917, Ralph Chaplin, the editor of the trade union journal, Solidarity, claimed that opposing the draft would destroy the IWW. Little refused to back down on this issue and argued that: "the IWW is opposed to all wars, and we must use all our power to prevent the workers from joining the army."
In the summer of 1917, Little was helping organize workers in the metal mines of Montana. This included leading a strike of miners working for the Anaconda Company. In the early hours of 1st August, 1917, six masked men broke into Little's hotel room in Butte. He was beaten up, tied by the rope to a car, and dragged out of town, where he was lynched. A note: "First and last warning" was pinned to his chest. No serious attempt was made by the police to catch Little's murderers. It is not known if he was killed for his anti-war views or his trade union activities.
The lawyer representing the Anaconda Company said a few days later: "These Wobblies, snarling their blasphemies in filthy and profane language; they advocate disobedience of the law, insults to our flag, disregard of all property rights and destruction of the principles and institutions which are the safeguards of society.... Why, Little, the man who was hanged in Butte, prefaced his seditious and treasonable speeches with the remark that he expected to be arrested for what he was going to say... The Wobblies... have invariably shown themselves to be bullies, anarchists and terrorists. These things they do openly and boldly."
Lillian Hellman claimed in Scoundrel Time (1976) that Dashiell Hammett, while working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Montana, turned down an offer of $5,000 to "do away with" Frank Little. Hellman recalled: "Through the years he was to repeat that bribe offer (to kill Frank Little) so many times, that I came to believe, knowing him now, that it was a kind of key to his life. He had given a man the right to think he would murder, and the fact that Frank Little was lynched with three other men in what was known as the Everett Massacre must have been, for Hammett, an abiding horror. I think I can date Hammett's belief that he was living in a corrupt society from Little's murder."