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Merrimack Valley

August 15, 2013

New book on Bread and Roses Strike published

LAWRENCE — After more than a year of researching the history and events related to the textile strike of 1912, Robert Forrant and Susan Grabski wrote a book about it.

Later this month, “Lawrence and the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike” will be published in the ‘Images of America’ series by Arcadia Publishing.

“The strike had national and international resonance and issues we still hear about today such as labor disputes, diversity of immigrants,” said Grabski, executive director of the Lawrence History Center. Forrant is chairman of the Bread and Roses Centennial Committee and a professor of history at UMass Lowell.

“This story also shows what happens when groups act collectively and overcome barriers. It can help a generation of new immigrants see a different perspective,” Grabski said.

The strike began on Jan. 12, 1912 when workers, mostly women and children, in the American Woolen Company Mills walked out of the factory when their hours were cut from 56 to 54 per week resulting in a loss of wages.

The strike is often referred to as the Bread and Roses strike. It lasted nine weeks.

The authors say the book looks at the lives of mill workers before the strike, events during the conflict, and how the strike was perceived by others throughout the nation and world.

“This is more than the basic story told from the eyes of the mayor, the head of the militia and the head of the strikers,” Forrant said. “This book looks at what life was like before the strike and we could tell a more complete story.”

The book features more than 180 photographs from the Lawrence History Center as well as others from the University of New Hampshire’s Roland D. Sawyer collection, Lawrence Public Library, Library of Congress, American Textile History Museum in Lowell, and the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit. Many of the pictures many have never been published.

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