Community Response

Community Response

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that Lawrence “faces one of the biggest strikes in its history” (Erin Dubinski, The Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, unpublished paper).

Working families developed multi-ethnic community support networks. Soup kitchens, such as the one at the Franco-Belgian Hall, were operated by and catered to Italian, Russian, Jewish, Irish, Syrian, Greek, German, Polish, and Franco-Belgian women and children. Families also shared what coal they had to ward off the winter’s chill in their roughly furnished tenement apartments.

The Franco-Belgian soup kitchen fed over 23,000 workers and their dependents, this from a population of 1,200 Franco-Belgians in the city at the time of the strike. The cooperative store that coordinated this effort was modeled after organizations that originated in Belgium. As soon as the strike started the Franco-Belgians offered their hall, with a 500-seat auditorium for a strike headquarters (Janelle Bourgeois, unpublished paper, 2012).

Against the mass media of the day, the MA governor’s office and most of the legislature, the state militia, and even Harvard University students, excused by the president of Harvard from their mid-term exams, and brought in to help police the city during the strike, strikers overcame long-standing political, religious, cultural, and language barriers to forge a successful strike.