Bread and Roses Strike of 1912

Lawrence, Massachusetts, Immigrants Usher in a New Era of Unity, Labor Gains, and Women’s Rights

“When I first heard the theme for the 1999-2000 National History Day Contest, ‘Turning Points in History,’ my thoughts instantly centered on a subject that is personally meaningful and relevant to me: the struggle during the early 1900s of textile mill workers, both male and female, for fair wages, safe working conditions, and better living standards. The struggle eventually erupted in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and became known as ‘The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912.’”

“No ordinary strike, it has been recognized as a defining moment in the labor history of the United States. It forced management to stop, look, and listen to its workers. The consciousness of the American people was awakened to the desperate living and working conditions of immigrant families. This strike was a turning point in unifying different nationlities. It was one of the first times in American history that individuals set aside their ethnic backgrounds and united in a common cause: fair wages and better working conditions. This strike was a unique lesson in patient and peaceful demonstrations.”

“This strike victory of 1912 gave strength to the industrial union advocates of the labor movement. The strike also helped women to take their rightful place beside male workers; they became effective union organizers asserting their right to a ‘voice’ in public policy. They pushed for equality and full participation, establishing a link with the suffragist movement. The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912 succeeded in providing not only ‘bread’ for those involved, but also ‘roses’ or a fuller measure of human dignify and respect for all workers.”

The preceding paragraphs are taken from Lisa M. Litterio’s “Bread and Roses Strike of 1912: Lawrence, Massachusetts, Immigrants Usher in a New Era of Unity, Labor Gains, and Women’s Rights,” which appeared in Labor’s Heritage, vol. 11, no. 3. The article, containing an annotated bibliography, is the oral and written work Litterio presented at the national competition, with minor editorial changes by the staff of Labor’s Heritage. The historical photographs and other illustrative material are a portion of the fifty-nine images used in the original presentation.

Mother Jones’ Final Sojourn

My Search for the House Where the Miners Angel Died

IMAGES:

1. Mary “Mother” Jones, a “hell raiser” for unions and the rights of workers. Photograph courtesy of the George Meany Memorial Archives.

2. Mother Jones seated between Walter Burgess and his newphew Burgess (Burt) Fowler on the front porch of the Burgess home, ca. October 1929. She spent the last several years of her long life at this house in what was then rural Maryland, north of Washington, D.C. Photograph courtesy of Vanette Fowler.

3. Saul Schniderman stands next to the Maryland roadside marker which was dedicated on December 2, 2000, two days after the seventieth anniversary of Mother Jones’ death at the Burgess home. Photograph by Bob Reynolds; courtesy of Saul Schniderman.