Ben Williams was born in Maine in 1877. At eleven he left school and started working in his brother's print shop in Nebraska. The company printed material for several radical organizations and Williams was introduced to socialist ideas. Williams joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1904 and the following year he became active in the Workers of the World (IWW).
During a steelworkers' strike in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, established the trade union journal, Solidarity. He worked as typesetter as well as the editor. Williams, who spoke French fluently, translated many articles written by French radicals and published them in the magazine.