January 17, 2012



You are looking at the passports of Francesca Fierro and Vincenzina Casale, granting them one year stay in the United States in 1919. They are on display in a new museum in Lawrence, Massachusetts as an example of early 20th century documentation of new immigrants. The museum was established to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses Strike of 1912 and is located on the sixth floor of the Everett Mill.

The museum is worth the visit.  It tells the story of the strike through photographs, documents and other artifacts of the era, as well as videotaped interviews with descendants of those involved in the strike.

What? you are unfamiliar with the Bread and Roses Strike? Well here is a brief history:

When Massachusetts law reduced the work week from 56 to 54 hours, the Mill owners (most prominently, the American Woolen Company) responded by reducing workers’ wages by two hours (about 36¢ total — or the cost of about 5 loaves of bread). Polish women weavers at Everett Cotton Mills were the first to walk off of their jobs, shouting, “Short pay, all out!”  They were joined the next day by workers from other mills. Within a week more than 20,000 workers from mills throughout the city were on strike.

Lawrence’s mills were manned mostly by first generation immigrants from throughout Europe. These disparate groups, who preferred to socialized with fellow countrymen, came together for a common cause.

The standoff between the strikers and the Mill owners lasted about 8 weeks. It was peppered with skirmishes between the strikers and state militia resulting in scores of arrests but (luckily) only a couple of deaths.

The strike gained national attention, resulting in a congressional investigation and, ultimately, capitulation by the mill owners to the Strikers’ demands.

The ripples effect of the Bread and Roses strike helped improve working conditions for workers throughout the country.

If you can’t get to Lawrence to visit the Everett Mill in person, be sure to check it out and learn more about the strike and it’s far reaching impact the Centennial Exhibit online.


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  1. Love the detail and textures Bob! Combined with the muted tones they really add a sense of age and a ‘traveled’ feel to the image.