american tapestry: Immigrant children of the bread and roses strike

Setting

In 1912, a Massachusetts law reduced the workweek by two hours. Lawrence mill owners in reduced the salaries of struggling workers to match. The pay reduction prompted one of the most effective labor strikes in U.S. history. Thousands of immigrant workers speaking 25 different languages joined forces and went on strike. The winter strike worsened living conditions for families. Attempts were made to relocate some of the children from Lawrence for their health and safety. Police used brutal force to prevent parents from putting their children on a train to Philadelphia. A Congressional investigation into conditions at the mills was launched and a delegation of child strikers from Lawrence testified in Washington D.C. As a result of their testimony, Congress pressured mill owners to accept the strikers’ demands.

What role did women and children play in the textile industry at the start of the twentieth century?

What were the effects of low wages, long workdays, and hazardous living and working environments on immigrant families?

How did workers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds unite to improve working conditions at the Lawrence mills and nationwide?

THEMES
  • Overcoming ethnic divides for a common cause

  • Child labor

  • Exploitation

  • Workers' rights/unions

  • Anti-immigrant sentiments

  • Distribution of wealth

  • Recruitment of immigrant labor

historical connections
  • Bread and Roses Strike

  • American Federation of Labor

  • Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

  • Anarchist movement

  • Immigration and labor

  • Congressional Committee

  • Child labor laws