American Revolution - Industrial Revolution
The Daughters of Liberty
"Say Your Money! Save Your Country!"
The Daughters of Liberty was an all-female political group formed in the mid-to-late 1760s in the North American British colonies. Similar to the Sons of Liberty, the Daughters of Liberty formed as a response to unjust British taxation imposed on colonists. This early women’s group embodied the notion that women were determined to play a role in public affairs and one of the best ways to express their affiliation with colonial protest was to boycott British-made goods. Women were the main buyers of consumer goods for their households and their actions had a major impact on British merchants and therefore the events of the American Revolution.
The Townshend Act of 1767 was a particular source of contention with American colonists as it enforced customs duties on imported British goods such as tea, paper, glass, and paint. The Townshend Act caused discontent among colonial woman and thus provided an opportunity to encourage female patriotism. Members of the Daughters of Liberty enacted their right to say “no” to the consumption and purchase or sale of British goods, they organized spinning bees to spin yarn and wool into fabric when textiles became scarce, and were instrumental in repealing the Stamp Act of 1765.
Perhaps the most notable was Daughters of Liberty member Sarah Bradlee Fulton, otherwise known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party.” Fulton is credited with the idea of disguising the men as Mohawk Indians, painting their faces, and donning Native American clothing. The bravery of women like Fulton and many others continues to inspire and ignite a flame of action that is within all of us.
Mother’s Day March, 1868
In the years prior to the Civil War, public healthcare for women and children, especially pre and postnatal care, was severely lacking across the United States. There was also a great divide in the country due to opposing social sentiments and people who were once neighbors were now at odds.
Enter Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a wife and mother living in the area that is now West Virginia. Like many other women in the 1850s, she would give birth to a total of twelve children and would only watch four of them grow to adulthood as a result of deadly disease.
Concern for the health and wellbeing of children was paramount for mothers like Jarvis and she was impelled to organize several “Mothers Day Work Clubs” as a way for mothers to support each other and fight poor health and sanitation conditions that contributed to the high mortality rate of children. Mothers Day Work Clubs provided medicine for the poor and nursing care for the sick. When the Civil War broke out, Mother Jarvis called on her Mothers Clubs to pledge friendship and goodwill to all. Jarvis worked tirelessly as a peacemaker and taught women that they should not fall victim to conflict and hate bred by the war. Members of these clubs were empowered by Jarvis’ suggestion of peace and they nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers saving many lives.
After the war, Jarvis continued her crusade for unity and in 1868 created and organized Mothers Friendship Day to bring together families divided by social conflict. Mother Jarvis believed by appealing to the love and respect people feel for their mothers would allow reconnection and healing for the people of the nation. The event was well attended from citizens of both sides and by the conclusion of the day many people were seen in tearful embrace. Ann Jarvis’ significant purpose, “To make us better children by getting closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers.”
Rose Schneiderman and Bread & Roses
“You have nothing that the humblest workers have not a right to have also...the worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”
The famous speech by labor activist Rose Schneiderman became a rallying cry for labor rights all throughout the 20th century.
Schneiderman, a Jewish immigrant who grew up in a single-mother household, had supported her family as a cap maker after entering the workforce at the age of thirteen. She quickly grew frustrated by the gender hierarchy in her shop that reserved the best-paying positions for men while relegating women to the worst jobs. By 1903, she organized her first union shop, the Jewish Socialist United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers' Union, where she quickly developed a reputation as an effective leader after she organized a successful strike opposing an open-shop policy.
The phrase “Bread and Roses,” pulled from Schneiderman’s speech, is commonly associated with the the successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts from January to March of 1912. The strike was promoted by a new Massachusetts law that reduced the number of hours women and children were allowed to work. Starting January 1, 1912, women were limited to working 54 hours a week. The reduction in hours and loss of wages amounted to several loaves of bread a week. To protest the cut, textile workers went on strike and created the first moving picket line in the United States.
The strike ended in a success not just for the workers in Lawrence but all throughout New England textiles workers saw an increase in wages of five to seven percent.
Clara Lemlich & The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand
Clara Lemlich, a 23-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, ignited the spark that set off the famous Uprising of the Twenty Thousand on November 22, 1909, the largest strike by women to date in American history. Born in 1886 in Gorodok, Ukraine to Jewish parents, Lemlich’s family fled Ukraine due to poverty and the rising anti-Jewish violence and in 1903, found home and work in the United States. Like many young Jewish and Italian immigrant girls, Lemlich found work in the textile-manufacturing workforce in a Lower East Side garment shop only two weeks after arriving in New York. Appalled by the working conditions that she says reduced workers “to the status of machines” – with women working 11 hours a day, six days a week, for starting pay of $3 a week – Lemlich joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), a new organization in the fight for workers' rights. There, Lemlich led picket lines, wrote opinion pieces, and organized strikes to improve factory conditions.
In November 1909, Lemlich decide to ignite the long-awaited strike that proved revolutionary to the industrial labor reform. Insisting she be allowed to address a strike meeting at New York’s Cooper Union, she said: “I am one of those who suffers from the abuses described here, and I move that we go on a general strike.” After a prolonged approval from thirty to forty thousand predominantly Jewish immigrant women garment workers, Lemlich and the thousands walked off their jobs and stood in the streets of New York to protest wages and working conditions for over two months. The strike ended in February 1910 when workers were finally given better pay and shorter hours. Lemlich had not only started a protest but had also instigated a worker’s revolution that transformed the culture of the industrial worker.