Crowd of strikers menacing strike-breakers, Lawrence, Mass., 1912.

The Lawrence Textile Strike was made up mainly of immigrant workers from Austria, Belgium, Cuba, Canada, France, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Syria, and Turkey. According to the 1910 census, 65% of mill workers (many of whom eventually struck) lived in the United States for less than 10 years; 47% for less than five years.

Conditions were such that, just days before the strike commenced, on Saturday, January 6, a worker from the Wood Mill walked into a store on Essex Street and dropped dead.  Was it stress, factory fatigue, tuberculosis? No one knew. Three days later a fourteen year-old boy had his leg crushed in an elevator at the Arlington Mill; he died the next day.

Here, an excerpt from “open letter” circulated by the strikers explains what they hoped to gain: " We hold that as useful members of society and as wealth producers we have the right to lead decent and honorable lives; that we ought to have homes and not shacks; that we ought to have clean food and not adulterated food at high prices; that we ought to have clothes suited to the weather and not shoddy garments.”