A Community Responds

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Union Franco Belge, Lawrence, Mass.

Working families developed multi-ethnic community support networks. 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. And, families shared what coal they had to ward off the winter’s chill in their roughly furnished tenement apartments.

The city responded to the strike by ringing the city’s alarm bell for the first time in its history. A company of the local militia patrolled the streets. The strikers engaged in mass picketing. Mill security turned fire hoses on the picketers gathered in front of the mills. During the strike there were hundreds of arrests and strikers Anna LoPizzo and John Ramey lost their lives.

A week after the strike began a local undertaker attempted to frame the strike leadership, planting dynamite in several locations in town. He was caught and fined $500, but not before several strike leaders were hauled off to jail. William Wood – the owner of the American Woolen Company, who had made a large payment to the defendant under unexplained circumstances shortly before the dynamite was found – was not charged.