Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream

Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream

by Bruce Watson
     
 

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On January 12, 1912, an army of textile workers stormed out of the mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, commencing what has since become known as the "Bread and Roses" strike. Based on newspaper accounts, magazine reportage, and oral histories, Watson reconstructs a Dickensian drama involving thousands of parading strikers from fifty-one nations, unforgettable acts of… See more details below

Overview

On January 12, 1912, an army of textile workers stormed out of the mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, commencing what has since become known as the "Bread and Roses" strike. Based on newspaper accounts, magazine reportage, and oral histories, Watson reconstructs a Dickensian drama involving thousands of parading strikers from fifty-one nations, unforgettable acts of cruelty, and even a protracted murder trial that tested the boundaries of free speech. A rousing look at a seminal and overlooked chapter of the past, Bread and Roses is indispensable reading.

Editorial Reviews

Elsa Dixler
In place of romance, Watson offers a fast-paced, well-researched narrative. He finds room for sketches of the central players, like Angelo Rocco, an Italian former weaver who invited the Industrial Workers of the World, in the person of the organizer Joe Ettor, to Lawrence, as well as of the radical orators Haywood and Flynn and the millowner William Wood. He provides information about textile manufacturing and immigration in New England. He relies heavily on contemporary accounts, including those from the immigrant press, and he carefully sorts through rumors. Bread and Roses is packed with facts, but Watson, a journalist who has written for Smithsonian and The Boston Globe, makes it an exciting read.>br>— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Well sourced, evenhanded and briskly paced, Watson's account of the dramatic textile mill strike in Lawrence, Mass., during the icy winter of 1912 presents a panoramic glimpse of a half-forgotten America, one in which violent agitation and swift repression were often the order of the day. The story of how a polyglot mass of immigrants hailing from Syria to Scotland cohered into a powerful bargaining force is riveting in itself, and Watson (The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made) places that struggle within the larger currents of reform that were slowly reshaping America. The cast includes self-made mill owner William Wood, who simply couldn't understand how "his" workers could betray him; Joseph Ettor, the union organizer who slept in a different bed every night to avoid reprisals; fiery Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn of the IWW and muckracker Ida Tarbell. The bloody strike was repressed from public memory in the hyperpatriotic years of WWI, later idealized by the labor movement in ways that downplayed union violence. This book's subtitle, and its contents, suggest that the "American Dream" enjoyed by the nation's middle class had to be taken by force by the working class and is by no means a permanent entitlement. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A vivid work of labor history, recounting a famed textile workers' strike of 1912. Lawrence, Mass., was a major center of textile manufacture in the early 1900s, and most of the work was done by immigrants-Italians, Portuguese, Greeks and others whom a nativist magazine called "the off-scourings of Southern Europe . . . [who] will not be assimilated [and] have no sympathy with our institutions." Apparently, journalist Watson records, one of those institutions was poor pay. The textile makers, organizing under the banner of radical labor unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (which, Watson writes, "seemed to show up whenever labor unrest began to smolder"), complained about wages and working conditions, eliciting the response of another institution: when the workers went on strike in the winter of 1912, the mill owners prevailed upon the state to send in the militia, as if to lend credence to Jay Gould's observation, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." Violence ensued, and workers died, including one Italian woman whom Watson nominates for residence in a Tomb of the Unknown Immigrant. Naturally, the violence was blamed on the workers. The strikers won wide sympathy, however, when they sent their hungry children down to New York City to stay with relatives; when the kids returned six or seven weeks later, well covered by the press, "they were plump-some had gained a dozen pounds or more-and well clothed." That was evidence enough to suggest to at least some contemporaries that the immigrants were indeed being misused, and in the wake of what has come to be known as the Bread and Roses strike, the textile workers actually came out ahead: theleading plant agreed to raise wages, to pay extra for overtime work and to rehire even the most vocal of the homegrown activists. And so it was-at least for a time, when bosses across the land returned with a vengeance. A fine reconstruction of events now too little remembered.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440649264
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/25/2006
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
701,408
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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