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- Nov 2016
The 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was one of the most heroic struggles and resounding victories of the U.S. working class and one of the most successful efforts of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A distinctive characteristic was the diversity of the workforce: a variety of immigrant groups rallied to the strike, women played as decisive a role as the men, and children (many of whom were textile workers) played a powerful role as well. The strike rocked the nation. It is sometimes known as the "Bread and Roses" strike, thus associated with the stirring socialist-feminist anthem of that name written by James Oppenheim. Although there is scholarly controversy over whether that song was inspired by the Lawrence strike, it is obvious that the spirit of the Lawrence strike was consistent with that of the song: "Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!" The strike's outcome posed fundamental questions for the U.S. labor movement.