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Merrimack Valley

August 15, 2013

New book on Bread and Roses Strike published

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The book has nine chapters including the history of Lawrence, the exodus of the children, congressional hearings, the striker’s victory, “God and Country,” how the city remember the strike 100 years later and a time line of the strike.

Within its pages, the book offers more details about participants as found in jail records and death certificates. It also reveals the involvement of famous Americans who came to support the strikers, including Helen Keller.

During the strike, Keller, who was blind and deaf, toured Lawrence and helped raise money to provide food and find home for the children. She was an active member of the Ettor-Giovannitti-Caruso defense committee, who were charged as accessories to the fact in the death of striker Anne Lopizzo. She even spoke in their defense during the trial. Keller later said the Bread and Roses strike inspired her desire for socialism. Keller also wrote an introduction to “Arrows in the Gale” by Arturo Giovannitti, principal leader of the Bread and Roses strike. “Giovannitti is, like Shelley, a poet of revolt against the cruelty, the poverty, the ignorance which too many of us accept.” Keller wrote in the 1914 book of poems.

Labor journalist Mary Heaton Vorse covered the strike for a New York magazine and also wrote about her experience in her memoir, “A Footnote to Folly” in 1935. Another prominent woman who came to Lawrence to support the strikers was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, an organizer for the International Workers of the World. She played a leading role in organizing the children’s exodus and gave a rousing speech.

Rounding out the book is the image of Ralph Fascenella’s 5-foot by 10-foot painting, “Lawrence 1912: The Great Strike” also titled “Bread and Roses - Lawrence, 1912” The self-taught artist came to Lawrence in the mid-1970s, to sketch for his series of paintings of Lawrence’s strike. The paintings by the famed artist and labor activist rekindled an interest in the strike, Grabski said.

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