The Strike Gains Attention

The Strike Gains Attention

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in Europe and “had helped French, Belgian, and Italian workers win bitter strikes in their home countries” (Slone, unpublished paper).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. One pregnant mother miscarried.

The following poem by Jane Roulston appeared in the New York Call on February 15, 1912, titled “The Coming of the Children”.

Was it an army’s martial tread
That beat through the traffic’s sullen roar?
And was it the shouting of warriors’ dread
That the icy blasts of North wind bore?

Nay, ‘twas but the patter of little feet
And children’s voices clear and sweet
Loud rang their call o’er the city’s din
“We are the strikers, and we shall win!”

When the children arrived in New York City in mid-February the New York Times reported the children sang the “Marseillaise” as they marched down Fifth Avenue. They carried signs reading “A Little Child Shall Lead Them” and “Suffer the Little Children Come Unto Us” (Slone, unpublished paper).

The press reported extensively on the February 24 Lawrence train station attack. When the women and children were taken to the Police Court, most of them refused to pay their fines and opted for a jail cell, some with babies in arms. Headlines read: “Arrest Children in Textile Strike,” Cleveland Plain Dealer; “Police Prevent Children’s Exile,” Lawrence Eagle-Tribune; “Children and Mothers Taken by Police,” Boston Globe; “Police Clubs Keep Waifs In,” New York Times.

The police action against the mothers and children succeeded in gaining the nation's attention and in particular that of Helen Herron Taft, wife of President Taft. Soon after, the House and Senate investigated the strike. In the early days of March a special House committee heard testimony from some of the strikers children, and various city, state and union officials. In the end the House and the Senate published reports detailing the conditions in Lawrence.