1912 Lawrence textile strike
|1912 Lawrence textile strike|
Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a group of peaceful strikers
|Goals||54-hour week, 15% increase in wages, double pay for overtime work, and no bias towards striking workers|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Lawrence textile strike was a
The strike united workers from more than 40 different
The Lawrence strike is often referred to as the "
A popular rally cry that was used at the protests and strikes:
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
Founded in 1845, Lawrence was a flourishing but deeply-troubled textile city. By 1900, mechanization and the deskilling of labor in the textile industry enabled factory owners to eliminate skilled workers and to employ large numbers of unskilled immigrant workers, mostly women. Work in a textile mill took place at a grueling pace, and the labor was repetitive and dangerous. In addition, a number of children under 14 worked in the mills. Half of the workers in the four Lawrence mills of the
By 1912, the Lawrence mills at maximum capacity employed about 32,000 men, women, and children. Conditions had worsened even more in the decade before the strike. The introduction of the two-loom system in the woolen mills led to a dramatic imcrease in the pace of work. The greater production enabled the factory owners to lay off large numbers of workers. Those who kept their jobs earned, on average, $8.76 for 56 hours of work and $9.00 for 60 hours of work.
The workers in Lawrence lived in crowded and dangerous apartment buildings, often with many families sharing each apartment. Many families survived on bread, molasses, and beans; as one worker testified before the March 1912 congressional investigation of the Lawrence strike, "When we eat meat it seems like a holiday, especially for the children." Half of children died before they were six, and 36% of the adults who worked in the mill died before they were 25. The average life expectancy was 39.
The mills and the community were divided along ethnic lines: most of the skilled jobs were held by native-born workers of English, Irish, and German descent, and French-Canadian, Italian, Slavic, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Syrian immigrants made up most of the unskilled workforce. Several thousand skilled workers belonged, in theory at least, to the