Hopedale History
    October 15, 2009
    No. 142
    Lawrence, 1912


    The grand opening/Oktoberfest at the Little Red Shop Museum was a huge success. Click here for a
    few pictures.

    Hopedale in October    

    Hopedalebuzz.com – Oktoberfest

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                                                            Lawrence, 1912

    Why a story about Lawrence? No, it’s not because I’m running out of Hopedale stories. That’s not likely
    to happen any time soon. I thought the Lawrence strike of 1912 might be of interest because of its
    connection with one of the biggest events in the history of Hopedale – the Draper strike of 1913.
    Several of the organizers in Hopedale had been leaders of the “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence.
    In the article below, I’ve put the names of those who were involved in the Hopedale strike in boldface.

           The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) became involved in a set of dramatic events in
    Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the year 1912, where the American Woolen Company owned four mills.
    The work force were immigrant families- Portuguese, French-Canadian, English, Irish, Russian,
    Italian, Syrian, Lithuanian, German, Polish, Belgian-who lived in crowded, flammable wooden
    tenements. The average wage was $8.76 a week. A woman physician in Lawrence, Dr. Elizabeth
    Shapleigh, wrote: A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years
    after beginning work ... thirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die
    before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age.

          It was in January, midwinter, when pay envelopes distributed to weavers at one of the mills-Polish
    women-showed that their wages, already too low to feed their families, had been reduced. They
    stopped their looms and walked out of the mill. The next day, five thousand workers at another mill quit
    work, marched to still another mill, rushed the gates, shut off the power to the looms, and called on
    the other workers to leave. Soon ten thousand workers were on strike.

          A telegram went to Joseph Ettor, a twenty-six-year-old Italian, an IWW leader in New York, to come
    to Lawrence to help conduct the strike. He came. A committee of fifty was set up, representing every
    nationality among the workers, to make the important decisions. Less than a thousand millworkers
    belonged to the IWW, but the AFL had ignored the unskilled workers, and so they turned to the IWW''
    leadership in the strike.

          The IWW organized mass meetings and parades. The strikers had to supply food and fuel for
    50,000 people (the entire population of Lawrence was 86,000); soup kitchens were set up, and money
    began arriving from all over the country-from trade unions, IWW locals, socialist groups, individuals.

          The mayor called out the local militia; the governor ordered out the state police. A parade of
    strikers was attacked by police a few weeks after the strike began. This led to rioting all that day. In the
    evening, a striker, Anna LoPizzo, was shot and killed. Witnesses said a policeman did it, but the
    authorities arrested Joseph Ettor and another IWW organizer who had come to Lawrence, a poet
    named Arturo Giovanitti. Neither was at the scene of the shooting, but the charge was that "Joseph
    Ettor and Arturo Giovanitti did incite, procure, and counsel or command the said person whose name
    is not known to commit the said murder.. .."

          With Ettor, head of the strike committee, in jail, Big Bill Haywood was called in to replace him;
    other IWW organizers, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, came into Lawrence. Now there were twenty-
    two companies of militia and two troops of cavalry in the city. Martial law was declared, and citizens
    were forbidden to talk on the street. Thirty-six strikers were arrested, many sentenced to a year in
    prison. On Tuesday, January 30, a young Syrian striker, John Ramy, was bayoneted to death. But the
    strikers were still out, and the mills were not working. Ettor said: "Bayonets cannot weave cloth."

          In February, the strikers began mass picketing, seven thousand to ten thousand pickets in an
    endless chain, marching through the mill districts, with white armbands: "Don't be a scab." But their
    food was running out and the children were hungry. It was proposed by the New York Call, a Socialist
    newspaper, that the children of strikers be sent to sympathetic families in other cities to take care of
    them while the strike lasted. This had been done by strikers in Europe, never in the United States- but
    in three days, the Call got four hundred letters offering to take children. The IWW and the Socialist party
    began to organize the children's exodus, taking applications from families who wanted them,
    arranging medical exams for the youngsters.

          On February 10, over a hundred children, aged four to fourteen, left Lawrence for New York City.
    They were greeted at Grand Central Station by five thousand Italian Socialists singing the
    "Marseillaise" and the "International." The following week, another hundred children came to New
    York, and thirty-five to Barre, Vermont. It was becoming clear: if the children were taken care of, the
    strikers could stay out, for their spirit was high. The city officials in Lawrence, citing a statute on child
    neglect, said no more children would he permitted to leave Lawrence.

            Despite the city edict, a group of forty children assembled on February 24 to go to Philadelphia.
    The railroad station was filled with police, and the scene that followed was described to
    Congressmen by a member of the Women's Committee of Philadelphia:

           When the time approached to depart, the children arranged in a long line, two by two, in orderly
    procession, with their parents near at hand, were about to make their way to the train when the police
    closed in on us with their clubs, beating right and left, with no thought of children, who were in the
    most desperate danger of being trampled to death. The mothers and children were thus hurled in a
    mass and bodily dragged to a military truck, and even then clubbed, irrespective of the cries of the
    panic-stricken women and children....

           A week after that, women returning from a meeting were surrounded by police and clubbed; one
    pregnant woman was carried unconscious to a hospital and gave birth to a dead child.

          Still, the strikers held out. "They are always marching and singing," reporter Mary Heaton Vorse
    wrote. "The tired, gray crowds ebbing and flowing perpetually into the mills had waked and opened
    their mouths to sing."

          The American Woolen Company decided to give in. It offered raises of 5 to 11 percent (the strikers
    insisted that the largest increases go to the lowest-paid), time and a quarter for overtime, and no
    discrimination against those who had struck. On March 14, 1912, ten thousand strikers gathered on
    the Lawrence Common and, with Bill Haywood presiding, voted to end the strike.

          Ettor and Giovanitti went on trial. Support for them had been mounting all over the country. There
    were parades in New York and Boston; on September 30, fifteen thousand Lawrence workers struck
    for twenty-four hours to show their support for the two men. After that, two thousand of the most active
    strikers were fired, but the IWW threatened to call another strike, and they were put back. A jury found
    Ettor and Giovanitti not guilty, and that afternoon, ten thousand people assembled in Lawrence to
    celebrate. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States.

    Wikipedia history of the Lawrence strike.  

    Lucy Parsons and the strike

    Consiglia Rocco Teutonica Adolescent Activist 1898-1997  

    Holt Labor Library history of the Lawrence strike.  

    The Draper strike according to Milford News reports at the time  


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    Recent deaths:

    Richard L. Childs, 90, Mendon, September 29, 2009, HHS 1937.

    Timothy Biagetti, 36, September 30, 2009, HHS 1992.

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