Jan 2015 Labor History Minute

1912 Bread and Roses Strike

In January of 1912 a new law went into effect in Massachusetts lowering the work week from 56 hours to 54. When the workers at Everett Mll in Lawrence, MA found out they were losing two hours of pay they walked out. During the next few days word spread through this textile town and as many as 30,000 workers went on strike across all the mills there.

During the height of the strike conditions had become so dangerous that over 100 families sent their children off to New York City to stay with relatives or strangers who could keep them fed and safe. The children were taken all around the city and the workers were starting to get sympathy and support. They tried to send another group of children off to Philadelphia but were cut off by police at the police station. Some of the mothers were beaten and dragged off to jail by their hair.

Mill owners trying to discredit the strikers paid a local man to plant dynamite around the city. He was fined 500 dollars and served no time. Evidence showed a large sum of money was deposited to him by the owner of one of the mills. He was never charged. In a separate incident a woman was shot and killed during one of the protests. Three men were charged and later acquitted after spending months in jail. Two of the men were miles away at the time of the incident and the third was at home eating dinner.

After 8 weeks of striking, the workers won a 15% increase in pay, a slight increase in overtime pay, and a promise of no retaliation for strikers. By the end of March hundreds of thousands of textile workers and other trades across New England won comparable concessions by owners fearing similar strikes.

This was a major event in our history and there is a lot of information out there beyond this quick snippet. Please take a minute to find out more.

Matt Fennell
Education Committee


The strike that shook America 100 years ago

Photograph source

View a video on the Bread and Roses strike


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