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?

Teachers Page

Grade Level(s): 7th - 8th

Age Levels(s): 12 -14

Subject Area: U.S. History

Goals:

  1. To introduce students to the question of capital vs. labor.
  2. To determine if the wages paid to labor were sufficient to attain a reasonable quality of life.
  3. To relate the actions of mill owners and management to the economic consequences of of paying higher wages.
  4. Assess the role of women in the strike.
  5. Compare and contrast the role of unions, women workers and others in the strike.


    The students will detremine the importance of people, places and events and draw conclusions based on the information they have interpreted.

Curriculum Standards:

Materials/Resources:

Power point presentation: 1912 MILEPOSTS showing what was going on in the world with emphasis on statistical information of poulation of the U.S. and economic costs (i.e. food, average income, etc.).
Three maps showing the establishment of Lawrence.
A diagram of the creation of the mill island and canal and dam to produce water power for the mills.
The diagram of the congested tenements as they developed in Lawrence.
Reports of how the IWW was able to unite people of many different backgrounds for a common cause.
Newspaper accounts and congressional testimony of the children being sent to other cities.
Photographs of the strikers and the militia.
Testimony of strikers and and union representatives before congress.
Words to the song 'Bread and Roses."
The proclamation of the workers.

Timeframe: 3 classperiods of 50 minutes each.

Student Foundational Skills:

Vocabulary, Map reading, Examine written documents, Interpret photographs.
Students will judge and justify the role of women and unions in the strike.

Learning Activities and Organizational Notes:

Step 1 -- Gathering historical background


Introduce the concepts of factory work, the difference between owners and workers (capital and labor), and the general economic situation of the U.S. c. 1912.
Present background information on the reasons for the formation of Lawrence, MA as a mill town, the nature of life in Lawrence, the conditions of work, and the goals of both the owners and of workers.


Ask students to discuss this question:
What do these show you about Lawrence's history and what it was like to live and work there?
Then ask:
How would you respond to living and working like this?

Draw from students the presence of conflicting goals of workers and of owners.

Organizational Notes: none


Step 2 -- Understanding the Strike

Have students examine the "Proclamation of the Striking Workers of the Textile Mills of Lawrence" involved in the 1912 Strike.
insert document name here
Ask students to explain "What caused the Strike?"

Then have students look at "Excerpts from Letter from William Wood to the Strike Committee (January 19, 1912)".
Ask again, "What caused the Strike?"

Organizational Notes: none


Step 3-- Understanding Labor Unions


Introduce the concept of labor unions. Explain briefly the rise of unions as a response to poor conditions and low wages.
Have students investigate the the AFL and Knights of Labor. Discuss the difference between the two types.
Introduce the IWW and discuss similarities to the Knights of Labor.

Have students read and discuss the "Proclamation of the Strikers." What were the demands? Whose interests did this "Proclamation" represent?

Organizational Notes: none


Step 4-- Understanding the Role of Women Workers in the Strike

Introduce the concepts of women as workers.  Have students investigate ways in which women were workers and union members c. 1912.  Discuss the other competing demands on women workers’ time and energy.  Discuss how unions were not friendly to women as members.  Ask students to decide if any unions seemed more likely to have women workers as members.  Have students re-examine the primary sources to see what roles women played in the strike.  Discuss, “Were women leaders in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912?  How and why or why not?”

Organizational Notes: none


Step 5 – Assessment Activity

Assign students into 1 of 3 groups:
--Owners
--Strikers
--Writers.

Then have students form a small group of 3 (one from each group) and have the owners and the workers debate the questions:
"Why strike?"
"Was the strike justified? Why or why not?"

The Writer observes and asks additional clarifying questions as they occur.
At the end the Writer writes a short explanation of the strike and its justification. The Owner and the Worker respond.

Organizational Notes: none


Step 6-- Consolidating Understanding


Have students listen to the song "Bread and Roses" as introduction to the Lawrence Strike of 1912. Ask them "What does this song mean? Why was it written?"

Discuss with students how their understanding of the song has changed since the start of the lesson.

Extension Activity: Compare this strike to other strikes. What was the role of labor unions? What was the role of women workers? How are these alike and different from Lawrence?

Lowell Textile Mill Strike (1834)
Homestead Strike (1892)
Pullman Strike (1894)
New York Shirtwaist Strike (Uprising of the 20,000) (1909)

 


Organizational Notes:

Assessments: Pre and Post Survey

--In class discussion to integrate information from the presentation to create an opinion and draw conclusions supported with facts.
--Construction of a diagram outlining the pros and cons of the Strike
--Newspaper editorial (or paired discussion/debate if ELL) examining the viewpoint of labor and owners.


Alternate assessment: For ELL students -- Pair with another student. Each of you take the role of either a Striker or a Mill Owner. Review what you have learned and then debate using the viewpoint of labor and owners. Answer these questions: Should the strike have occurred? What should have been the role of women and of unions in the strike? What should be the solution to the strike?


Students will be able to: Strong Good Adequate Inadequate Weighting
Explain the conditions in Lawrence, MA in 1912 and why these conditions were problematic for the mill workers Explains conditions with 3-5 examples; connects to mill workers' lived experience Explains conditions with 1-3 examples; connects to mill workers' lived experience Explains conditions with no examples; mentions impact on mill workers Neither explains conditions with examples nor connects to mill workers' lived experience 10
Explain the main events of the Lawrence Strike of 1912 Explains 4+ events Explains 2-4 events Explains 1-2 events Cannot describe events 10
Analyze the role of unions in the strike Fully describes unions and what they did in the strike; argues the importance of unions to the strike Fully describes unions and what they did in the strike; mentions the importance of unions to the strike Defines unions, mentions what they did in the strike; ignores making argument about the importance of unions to the strike Does not describe unions and what they did in the strike; does not argue the importance of unions to the strike 25
Analyze the role of women in the strike Describes women and what they did in the strike; argues the importance of women to the strike Fully describes women and what they did in the strike; mentions the importance of women to the strike Mentions what women did in the strike; ignores making argument about the importance of women to the strike Does not describe women and what they did in the strike; does not argue the importance of women to the strike 25
Write a short persuasive editorial arguing a response to the Lawrence Strike of 1912 Describes women and what they did in the strike; argues the importance of women to the strike States significance of women and unions to Lawrence Strike of 1912; writes in editorial form Restates events of strike, mentions role of women and of unions, states an opinion. States a few facts, makes no argument, not in editorial form. 30

Teacher Notes:

Note that the structure of the workers strike committee with 18 different immigrant nationalities being represented make it difficult for unions to organize all workers at once. It also shows how the Lawrence workers organized themselves, however.

Various levels of students, i.e. ELL, special needs etc. will focus on what they perceive is important. Their determinations and analysis will choose the signifigance of the topics. Whether their focus is the role of women in the strike, the importance of union organization, working conditions or human rights issues, students should justify and utilize facts to support their position.