There are powerful forces in the U.S., as elsewhere, that will labor to secure their wealth & power, whatever the human cost. They will succeed, if they are not opposed by an informed & committed public. Political rights do not originate in the halls of Congress; they are rather forced upon them from without.
You don't win your rights because somebody writes it down in a law, & you don't lose your rights because somebody writes it down in a law. You win your rights by struggle & you maintain your rights by struggle.
Strikes in the past have brought about monumental changes in society & the government. Such as: the 8 hour work day, child-labor laws, woman's right to vote & civil rights legislation.
*On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day demonstrations, 40,000 went out on strike.
*The Children's Crusade 1903–1911
In the early twentieth century, child labor was a pervasive phenomenon. Studies estimate that between one-fifth and one-sixth of all children were employed on a full-time basis. Instead of attending school, children worked as much as sixty hours per week in unsafe factories and coalmines.
When a strike began in the textile mills of Kensington in Philadelphia, Mother Jones vowed to expose the crimes of child labor. The Textile Workers Union had demanded that the work-week decrease from sixty to fifty-five hours, and that women and children be prohibited from working night hours. Mother Jones convinced the leaders of the strike to prioritize the issues related to child labor, then devoted all of her energy into publicizing this campaign. She organized a children's march from Philadelphia to New York. Mother Jones made frequent stops to give speeches and to show the public the effects of exploitation–many of the children marching were permanently maimed, which provided real proof of the dangers of their employment. Mother Jones gained much publicity for the plight of child laborers, and the march was an important first step towards child labor laws in the United States.
*Throughout the winter of 1917, Alice Paul and her followers in the National Women's Party picketed the White House. They stood silently at the gates, holding signs that said "Mr. president, how long must women wait for liberty?" The picketers were suffragists. They wanted President Woodrow Wilson to support a Constitutional amendment giving all American women suffrage, or the right to vote.
At first, the suffragists were politely ignored. But on April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. The suffragists' signs became more pointed. They taunted Wilson, accusing him of being a hypocrite. How could he send American men to die in a war for democracy when he denied voting rights to women at home? The suffragists became an embarrassment to President Wilson. It was decided the picketing in front of the White House must stop.
Soon, the police began arresting the suffragists on charges of obstructing traffic. At first, the charges were dropped. Next, the women were sentenced to jail terms of just a few days. But the suffragists kept picketing, and their prison sentences grew. Finally, in an effort to break the spirit of the picketers, the police arrested Alice Paul. She was tried and sentenced to 7 months in prison.
Paul was placed in solitary confinement. There she began a hunger strike-one which others would join.
Paul refused to end the hunger strike--or her fight for the vote.
By the time Alice Paul was sent to prison, the fight for women's suffrage had been going on for almost 70 years. It had started in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, at a small Women's Rights Convention.
These early feminists wanted the same opportunities as men. They wanted the chance to attend college, to become doctors and lawyers, and to own their own land. If they could win the right to vote, they could use their votes to open the doors of the world to women.
For the next 50 years, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony led the women's rights movement. Thanks to their efforts, the women's suffrage amendment was presented to Congress for the first time in 1878. But Congressmen refused to allow a vote on the issue. The amendment was reintroduced every year for forty years. During that time, it was never voted upon.
By the time Alice Paul and the National Women's Party began their suffrage campaign, the old leaders of the women's movement were gone. But support for the suffrage amendment had grown. Women were already voting in twelve western states. And in 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first women elected to Congress. Yet Congress was no closer to passing the suffrage amendment than before.
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Giant suffrage parades were held in New York and Washington. Thousands of suffragists in long white dresses marched. There were floats, women on horseback, and banners flying. A number of men joined in. But the parades did not change the minds of President Wilson or Congress. So the picketing began at the White House.
After 5 weeks in prison, Alice Paul was set free. The attempts to stop the picketers had backfired. Newspapers carried stories about the jail terms and forced feedings of the suffragists. The stories angered many Americans and created more support than ever for the suffrage amendment.
Finally, on January 9, 1918, Wilson announced his support for suffrage. The next day, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Susan. B. Anthony Amendment, which would give suffrage to all women citizens. On June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the Amendment by one vote. And a little more than a year later, on August 26, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. That made it officially the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
List of strikes
The following is a list of deliberate absence from work related to specific working conditions (strikes) or due to general unhappiness with the political order (general strikes).
Chronological list of strikes
- Great Railroad Strike (1877)
- Homestead Strike (1892)
- Pullman Strike (1894)
- The Anthracite Coal Strike (1902)
- Bread and Roses Strike (1912, Lawrence, Massachusetts)
- Waihi miners' strike (1912, Waihi, New Zealand)
- Ludlow Massacre Strike (1913, Colorado)
- Columbine Mine Massacre Strike (1927, Colorado)
- Invergordon Mutiny (1931)
- 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike
- Flint Sit-Down Strike (1936-1937)
- Textile workers Strike (1934)
- New Zealand waterfront strike (1951)
- Major League Baseball players' strike (1981)
- UK Miners' Strike (1984-1985)
- Eastern Airlines' pilots strike (1989-1990)
- Major League Baseball players' strike (1994)
- NBA players' lockout (1999)
- UK Firefighter strike 2002
- California grocery workers strike 2003-2004
Chronological list of general strikes
- Seattle general strike of 1919
- Winnipeg general strike of 1919
- UK general strike of 1926
- San Francisco general strike of 1934
- Minneapolis General Strike of 1934
- Electro Auto-Lite Strike of 1934 in Toledo, Ohio
- French general strike of May 1968
- Italian general strike of 2002
- Spanish general strike of 2002
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