“The Jail Is All Full”

By early March 1912, the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence, Mass., had been ongoing for nearly two months. Textile workers in Lawrence, Mass., primarily immigrant women, went out on strike on January 12 after mill owners lowered wages due to a shortened workweek.  More than 20,000 workers were out by the end of the first week.  Demonstrations and picketing took place and the governor of Massachusetts eventually called out the state militia to keep the peace, and large numbers of strikers were arrested. 

Postcard Front

Postcard, 1912; 0000.1623.2

The postcard shown here is a common view of the Lawrence Dam; we have about a dozen different views of the dam in the holdings here in the Osborne Library.  However, it is the message on the back of this one that stands out.  Postmarked Feb. 26, 1912, and written by “Tom” in Lawrence to “Rose” in Revere, Mass., it includes the following message: “Rose am having a swell time here this. [sic] a man was shot and 17 women arrested, and 30 men.  the jail is all full.  Yours, Tom” 

Postcard Reverse

Postcard-reverse, 1912; 0000.1623.2

While the strike was extensively reported in newspapers and periodicals of the time throughout 1912, and has been studied in depth since then, it is less common to see a personal comment while the strike was ongoing.  This is the only personal notation concerning the strike we have here in the library. 

The strike was settled on March 14 in favor of the strikers, with pay increases, overtime pay, and a promise of non-discrimination against the strikers.  Due to a number of factors, the gains from the strike dissipated over the next few years and the mill workers ended up no better off than they had been before 1912. 

By Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian

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