It was mid-January in the year 1912. Storm clouds were gathering over the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. But on this occasion the weather was clearly not the issue. Rather, this was the season of discontent for the tens of thousands of workers who labored in the dozens of textile mills that dotted the banks of the Merrimack River. The vast majority of these workers were immigrants hailing from all over Europe who had been attracted to Lawrence by the promise of permanent employment, higher wages and a decent standard of living. It all seemed to good to be true. And indeed it was. The realities of life in these mills would gradually fan the flames of rebellion. When affluent mill owners instituted what amounted to a cut in pay for their workers it proved to be the straw that broke the camels back. In "Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants and the Struggle for the American Dream" author Bruce Watson brings to life the tragic events of that winter in Lawrence. This is a story that needed to be told and one that our children need to read about.
As events unfolded in Lawrence the battle lines were quickly drawn. During this volatile period in American history labor disputes such as this were sure to attract a variety of charactors each with his/her own political point of view and each with an ax to grind. Labor activists would descend upon Lawrence sensing correctly that the time was right to advance their cause. Enter one JosephEttor. Ettor was an organizer for the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). He would prove to be the catalyst that would transform what was about to occur in Lawrence from a local dispute into an event that would attract nationwide attention.
As Bruce Watson points out the situation in Lawrence deteriorated rapidly. Although not all of the workers agreed with the strike roughly 2/3 of them walked of the job on January 12th. Mill owners such as William Wood of the American Woolen Mills refused to negotiate. Despite the appeals of Joseph Ettor and others violence would rear its ugly head on a number of occasions. As the strike progresses tensions between the workers continued to escalate. Those who chose to remain on the job were being threatened by the taunts and jeers of those on strike. It was an ugly situation and one that would take a great many weeks to finally resolve.
"Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants and the Struggle for the American Dream" deserves a spot on the shelves of every library in America. This is an extremely engaging and well written account of an very significant event in our nations history. Bruce Watson places the reader right smack in the middle of these events. You get to know all of the important players in this monumental struggle for the rights of the American worker. And at the same time you will gain an appreciation for all of those tens of thousands of working men and women who had the courage to say "emough is enough" and put it all on the line for what they believed was right. If you have a youngster in high school or college I would strongly suggest you get them a copy of this book. I read "Bread and Roses" in just a few sittings. I could not put it down. Highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Told here for the first time, the riveting story of the most remarkable strike in American history
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.
Bruce Watson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published in Smithsonian, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Yankee Magazine, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003.