Time records how, in December 1931, Ms Breen took on the American Federation of Musicians, an organisation that refused to recognise the ukulele as coming within the definition “musical instrument”.
We are told that Ms. Breen, a usually happy, laid back person, saw red at this rejection of her four-stringed pet, particularly as the AFM had already admitted the harmonica into the fold. She was determined that this mountain of prejudice would be moved, and that she would be the one to do it. Walter Damrosch, conductor, gave her his support, saying that the ukulele lady’s playing was like “raindrops in sunshine”. Another expert thought that the ukulele was at least as deserving as the triangle and snare drum — both recognised by the union.
[Update: It seems that Ms Breen was not successful at that time, as the ukulele was used as a substitute during a strike called by the AFM, 1942-1944, which called on musicians not to play their instruments during recording sessions. As the uke was not recognised as a musical instrument, the Four Vagabonds — for instance — could play that instead! But now Jake Shimabukuro has a page on the AFM site. Does anyone know when the AFM saw the light?]