Reviews of Bread & Roses
“Watson dramatically and effectively brings back to life the 1912 Lawrence strike. With a keen eye for geographic and biographical detail, he captures the contours of industrial New England, re-creates the gritty neighborhoods populated by European immigrant groups, and carefully lays out the ideological beliefs and personal circumstances of the conflict’s many principal actors. . . Bread and Roses is a story well-told.”
“A spirited account. . . As events tumble upon one another—marches, protests, arrests, soup kitchens, negotiations—Watson. . . keeps firm control of the story.”
“Well sourced, evenhanded and briskly paced, Watson’s account of the dramatic textile mill strike in Lawrence, Mass., during the icy winter of 1912 presents a panoramic glimpse of a half-forgotten America.”
“A stirring but studiously balanced narrative. . . Effecting a realistic, street-level vision of the strike, Watson earns and deserves the attention of readers.”
BREAD AND ROSES: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream tells the amazing story of the so-called “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912.
On a freezing day in January, just after paychecks were distributed, thousands of workers walked out of the massive textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Sparked by a 32-cent pay cut, the most celebrated strike in American labor history had begun. By the following Monday, twenty thousand workers from 51 different nationalities stood on picket lines that stretched for blocks. Facing them were battalions of state militia, their bayonets ready. As the winter dragged on, the strike escalated when dynamite was discovered in the tenements. Police, however, soon became suspicious of the “plot.” A week later, when strike leaders were arrested on a trumped up charge, the nation’s most feared radical, “Big Bill” Haywood, came to run the strike. Though strikers were in danger and conditions were deplorable, they remained united and determined, filling the streets with songs and chanting. In mid-February, strikers made national headlines by sending their hungry children away to live with sympathetic families in Manhattan. “The Children’s Exodus” made police determined it would not happen again. When mothers again took their children to the train station, the nation was shocked at what happened. Congressional hearings were called. More violence broke out. Still the strike dragged on. . .
Drawn from newspapers, magazines and oral histories, Bread and Roses is filled with colorful characters. These include the notorious “Big Bill” Haywood, the rags to riches mill owner William Wood, and the fiery Elizabeth Gurley Flynn leading thousands of brazenly defiant female strikers. With its rapid pace, and explosive details Bread and Roses is a history book with a narrative one typically sees only in fiction