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Paterson Silk Strike of 1913

Anne F. Mattina

Subject Social History » Labor History
Sociology » Social Movements

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics labor movements, revolution, rights, strikes

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01164.x


On January 27, 1913, four men were fired by the Doherty Silk Mill in Paterson, New Jersey for asking management for a meeting to discuss the increase of their responsibilities from two looms to four. Eight hundred of their fellow workers walked off the job in protest, leading to a massive strike in which 24,000 workers went out and nearly 300 mills were idled for 6 months. National organizers from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) , fresh from a victory among woolen workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, immediately entered the fray. Despite a massive effort by local organizers and strikers, the workers were unsuccessful in their attempt to affect change in their working conditions. As the mills emptied, the city of Paterson acted swiftly in closing down public spaces to the strikers. The police and private security hired by the mill owners were called into action to enforce laws against loitering, effectively shutting down parades and driving the workers off of city streets. Nightly meetings helped rally the strike force. The IWW's “Big Bill” Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn spoke constantly to workers urging them to remain true to the cause. In addition, Gurley Flynn held weekly meetings with the women throughout the strike. These gatherings empowered the women, creating an atmosphere for female strike leaders to emerge. Gurley Flynn served as an inspiration to the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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