This same winter found Tateh and his daughter in the mill town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. They had come there the previous autumn, having heard there were jobs. Tate stood in front of a loom for fifty-six hours a week. His pay was just under six dollars. The family lived in a wooden tenement on a hill. They had no heat. They occupied one room overlooking an alley in which residents customarily dumped their garbage. He feared she would fall victim to the low-class elements of the neighborhood...The dismal wooden tenements lay in endless rows. Everyone from Europe was there--the Italians, the Poles, the Belgians, the Russian Jews. The feeling was not good between the different groups.
In early 1912, a state law was introduced limiting the number of hours women could work to 54 hours per week. Instead of shortening the work week as instructed, the mill owners of the American Woolen Company shorted the paychecks of their women mill workers. Despite not belonging to any union, a few Polish women went on strike on January 11 when they noticed the shorted paychecks. On January 12, 10,000 workers walked off the job, with the number soon rising to 25,000, many of whom were immigrants. Nationalities represented in the Lawrence Textile Strike include Italian, Hungarian, Portuguese, French-Canadian, Slavic, and Syrian. The city of Lawrence rang its riot bells in panic. Many strikers met the next day with an organizer from the I.W.W. to set their demands--15% pay increase, 54 hour work week, double pay for overtime, elimination of bonus pay.
On January 29, Anna LoPizzo was shot, allegedly by police as they broke up a picket line. Police instead arrested strike organizers Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti for the murder of LoPizzo who were at a meeting three miles away at the time of her death. After this arrest, martial law was declared and all public meetings were declared illegal.
Violence around town led many children of immigrants to be sent to New York, as Tateh attempted to do with Little Girl. Around 200 children were sent away on trains, with some 5,000 people showing up at the station to receive them in a demonstration of solidarity and to assist with finding them foster homes. The success of the so-called "children's crusade" in bringing awareness and sympathy to the Lawrence strikers led the authorities to send militia to intervene with the next attempt to send children to New York. Mothers and children were clubbed and arrested. Children were separated from their parents. The brutality of this event gained national coverage and led to an investigation by Congress. Seeing the national reaction and fearing further government involvement, the mill owners gave in on March 12 to the strikers's original demands at the American Woolen Company.
The Lawrence Textile Strike is sometimes called the "Bread and Roses" strike because of a speech given by Rose Schneiderman invoking the slogan, "We want Bread and Roses, too":
What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist--the right to life as the rich woman has it, the right to life, and the sun, and music, and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.
This rallying cry signaled to the world that workers wanted more than just economic benefits, but for their basic humanity to be recognized.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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