Guiding Questions:

Who led the Lawrence, MA "Bread and Roses Strike of 1912"? Would the strike have been successful without the involvement of women or the unions?

Introduction

On January 12, 1912 female Polish textile workers in the Everett Mills walked away from their machines in the mill to protest the lack of pay in their envelopes. This began Lawrence (MA) Textile Strike that lasted until March 12, 1912. The strike involved textile workers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, many of them recent immigrants and many of them women. A majority of the workers were not members of labor unions, but all of the major unions of the day, including the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), had representatives present. Although the AFL and the Catholic Church opposed the strike, the IWW strongly supported and help provide for the workers.

These union representatives tried to organize the workers and the IWW in particular assumed the role of leadership as the "Strike Committee." But who really led the strike -- the unions, or the masses of unskilled non-union immigrant workers, many of whom were women and who wanted something better for themselves and their families? How did involvement by women workers and by unions affect the strike's outcome?

 

 

Header Image: A Factory or a Home? From the Trade Union Woman by Alice Henry, Boston Public Library

Background image: Interior of the Largest and Best Equipped Waist and Cloak Factories in New York City,from Boston Public Library