In tribute to the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike January 11.

Posted: January 11, 2015 in Fight Back, For your information, for your reflection, In Remembrance, Solidarity, Workers Unite!

In tribute to the women, children and men who went out on strike in Lawrence Massachusetts on January 11, 1912.

The Lawrence textile strike was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912 led by theIndustrial Workers of the World (IWW). Prompted by a two-hour pay cut corresponding to a new law shortening the workweek, the strike spread rapidly through the town, growing to more than twenty thousand workers and involving nearly every mill in Lawrence. The strike united workers from 51 different nationalities. Carried on throughout a brutally cold winter, the strike lasted more than two months, defying the assumptions of conservativetrade unions within the American Federation of Labor (AFL) that immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers could not be organized. In late January, when a bystander was killed during a protest, IWW organizersJoseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were arrested on charges of being accessories to the murder. IWW leadersBill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to Lawrence to run the strike. Together they masterminded its signature move, sending hundreds of the strikers’ hungry children to sympathetic families in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. The move drew widespread sympathy, especially after police stopped a further exodus, leading to violence at the Lawrence train station. Congressional hearings followed, resulting in exposure of shocking conditions in the Lawrence mills and calls for investigation of the “wool trust.” Mill owners soon decided to settle the strike, giving workers in Lawrence and throughout New England raises of up to 20 percent. Within a year, however, the IWW had largely collapsed in Lawrence.

The Lawrence strike is often referred to as the “Bread and Roses” strike, or, the “strike for three loaves”. The phrase “bread and roses” actually preceded the strike, however, appearing in a poem by James Oppenheim published in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1911. However, a 1916 labor anthology, The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest by Upton Sinclair, attributed the phrase to the Lawrence strike and the association stuck. “Bread and roses” has also been attributed to socialist union organizer Rose Schneiderman.

From the Bread and Roses Facebook Page:

‘IT TAKES TEN POLICEMEN TO HANDLE ONE WOMAN!’ At the start of the Jan. 1912 Bread & Roses Strike, mill owners wrongly predicted a quick end to it. They were shocked when they learned that enraged Italian women who had happened upon a lone police officer on an icy bridge stripped him of his gun, club, and badge, sliced the officer’s suspenders, took off his pants, and dangled the officer over the freezing river. Lawrence’s district attorney lamented, “One policeman can handle 10 men, while it takes 10 policemen to handle one woman.” A horrified boss, described women activists as full of “lots of cunning and also lots of bad temper. They’re everywhere, and it’s getting worse all the time.”

'IT TAKES TEN POLICEMEN TO HANDLE ONE WOMAN!' At the start of the Jan. 1912 Bread & Roses Strike, mill owners wrongly predicted a quick end to it. They were shocked when they learned that enraged Italian women who had happened upon a lone police officer on an icy bridge stripped him of his gun, club, and badge, sliced the officer’s suspenders, took off his pants, and dangled the officer over the freezing river. Lawrence's district attorney lamented, “One policeman can handle 10 men, while it takes 10 policemen to handle one woman.” A horrified boss, described women activists as full of “lots of cunning and also lots of bad temper. They’re everywhere, and it’s getting worse all the time.”
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