• The Lawrence Textile Strike was a strike mainly of immigrant workers from several countries, including Austria, Belgium, Cuba, Canada, France, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Syria, and Turkey. According to the 1910 census, 65% of mill workers (many of whom eventually struck) lived in the United States for less than 10 years; 47% for less than five years.

  • A new MA law reduced the maximum number of hours of work per week for women and children from 56 to 54, effective January 1, 1912. On January 11, workers discovered their employers had reduced their weekly pay to match the reduction in their hours. That difference in wages amounted to several loaves of bread a week.

  • To all Workers of Lawrence, Mass:
    … As long as the fight was confined to the mills of Lawrence and appeared not to extend any further we deemed it unnecessary to appeal to other classes of workers; but now that the combination of capitalists have shown the unity of all our adversaries, we call on you as brothers and sisters to join hands with us in this great movement. Our cause is just…

  • A new MA law reduced the maximum number of hours of work per week for women and children from 56 to 54, effective January 1, 1912. On January 11, workers discovered their employers had reduced their weekly pay to match the reduction in their hours. That difference in wages amounted to several loaves of bread a week.

  • Strikers and community members responded to the strike in unprecedented and remarkable ways. On the morning of January 12, even before the strike had spread, the Boston Morning Journal on its front page warned readers that Lawrence “faces one of the biggest strikes in its history” (Erin Dubinski, The Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, unpublished paper).

  • The City responded to the strike by ringing the city’s alarm bell for the first time in its history. A company of the local militia patrolled the streets. The strikers engaged in mass picketing. Mill security turned fire hoses on the picketers gathered in front of the mills. During the strike there were nearly 300 arrests and strikers Anna LoPizzo and John Rami lost their lives.

  • This is the original command sent from Mayor Michael Scanlon to Captain Louis Cox of Battery C of the Massachusetts State Militia (what we now call the National Guard). Battery C was the first of several militia companies and police contingents to be called to Lawrence to help maintain order during the strike. Police and militia came from Lowell, Haverhill, Lynn, Newton, Wakefield, Stoneham, Charlestown, Waltham, and Boston. A troop of Boston Metropolitan Police, and a number of sharpshooters from the US Marine Corps was in the city as well.

  • The authorities charged Joseph Ettor, Arturo Giovannitti, and Joseph Caruso as accomplices in the death of striker Anna LoPizzo, likely shot by the police. Ettor and Giovannitti were three miles away, speaking to workers at the time. They and a third defendant were held in jail for the duration of the strike and stood trial in the fall of 1912 in Salem, MA. When their trial began in September 1912 in Salem, Massachusetts before Judge Joseph F. Quinn, the three defendants were kept in metal cages in the courtroom.

  • The tactic of sending children of textile workers to live with supporters in Barre, VT, New York City, and Philadelphia for their care and safety generated public sympathy and financial support. According to Michael Slone the tactic was originally conceived in Europe and “had helped French, Belgian, and Italian workers win bitter strikes in their home countries” (Slone, unpublished paper). Police and the militia tried preventing 100 children from leaving by train to Philadelphia on February 24. The train station melee resulted in injuries and the arrests and jailing of mothers and children.

  • This is a cartoon that appeared in I.W.W. publications during the strike. The caption reads: "On February 24 and 25, soldiers and policemen forcibly prevented parents from sending their children away from Lawrence to cities that offered food and shelter." It depicts the aforementioned "Children's Exodus" which gave the strikers considerable sympathetic attention across the country. Cartoons like this one and detailed narratives of the events of the arrest of women and children on February 24th appeared in many American newspapers.

  • This identification card would have been fixed to the lapel of children leaving Lawrence during the strike. To highlight the oppressive conditions in Lawrence and to attract public attention to their cause, many striking families sent their children to sympathetic families in other American cities. Can you imagine how scary it must have been as a child being sent away to live with a strange family? Public officials required that children being sent away have the proper signed permission from their guardians. The strike committee created these identification cards for that reason.

  • William Wood and the American Woolen Company agreed to most of the strikers’ demands on March 12, 1912. The rest of the manufacturers followed by the end of the month and many textile companies throughout New England, anxious to avoid a similar confrontation, followed suit.

  • The strikers, however, lost nearly all of the gains they had won in the next few years. The IWW disdained written contracts, holding that such contracts encouraged workers to abandon the daily class struggle.

    The mill owners proved more persistent, slowly chiseling away at the improvements in wages and working conditions, while firing union activists and installing labor spies to keep an eye on workers.