On January 12, 1912, the labor protest later known as the “Bread and Roses” strike began in Lawrence.
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A new state law had reduced the maximum workweek from 56 to 54 hours. Factory owners responded by speeding up production and cutting workers’ pay by two hours. Polish women were the first to shut down their looms and leave the mill. As they marched through the streets, workers from all the city’s ethnic groups joined them. Mill laborers, their families, and their neighbors joined together against the city’s mill aristocracy. Over the next months, increasingly violent methods were used to suppress the protest, but the strikers maintained their solidarity.

After Congress held hearings on the situation, the mill owners were anxious to avoid bad publicity. They settled with the strikers, bringing to an end a watershed event in American labor history. One year later the organizers of the Bread and Roses strike organized a similar strike at the Ipswich Mills, which resulted in the death of a young Greek woman by a stray police bullet.

Read more at Mass Moments: Bread and Roses Strike Begins.

View a video at the Lawrence History Center

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