Activity 1 Activity 2 Activity 3 Activity 4 Activity 5

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?

Activity 1

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Listen to the song "Bread and Roses" (click on the play arrow to hear the song).
What is this song about? What does "Bread and Roses" mean? Who would have sung it? And why it is "the song" of the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike? Let's find out more...

Background of Strike

In order to explain to your readers the leadership of the strike, you need to be able to give them the context, or, what were the conditions of life and work for the employees of the textile mills and their families.

What was life like in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912?

First, let's learn a little about this town and the factories in it.

Look at the maps of Lawrence from 1844 to 1905. Map of Lawrence over time from Lawrence History Center Then look at information from the Lawrence History Center on the "Background and Early Development of Lawrence." What you can you tell about the establishment of Lawrence and its growth to 1911? If a town can have a purpose, what was Lawrence's?

Now let's look at where and how people lived in Lawrence. Note that almost all of the people who lived in Lawrence were the textile mill workers, many of whom were immigrants -- the owners and managers usually were native-born and lived in other towns nearby, such as Andover, MA. Use the Maps and Pictures of tenements in Lawrence in The Report of the Lawrence survey; studies in relation to Lawrence, Massachusetts, made in 1911.
Look between pages 32 and 35 at the numbers of apartments in new homes. What were the conditions under which people in Lawrence lived?

Let's get a sense of life and the cost of living in the United States in 1912. Look at this website to find out the 1912 population, cost of food products, average annual income , new products, cost of a car -- the numbers that show what it cost to live in the United States. Now compare these to what you know about costs today. (Use this Inflation calculator to help you.) What is the difference between 1912 and today in what things cost?

Now look at what workers at the Lawrence Mills were paid and what they usually bought. Look at the Report on strike of textile workers at Lawrence, Mass. pp. 19-22 to see what they were paid. What was the average weekly wage? Then look at the average spending on food (contained in the Senate Hearings, page 184 and page 185). What did Lawrence mill workers spend for food on average?

Also note that the Massachusetts Assembly had mandated fewer hours of work by women and children effective January 1, 1912, in an effort to protect these members of society. Many women and children worked in the mills. Why did they work? What did fewer hours mean to them and their families? Did they feel protected?

What do these show you about Lawrence's history and what it was like to live and work there?