Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1840-1849”

August 15, 1845

solidarity-of-labourEnglish artist and book illustrator Walter Crane is born in Liverpool. He was part of the Art Workers Guild, which promoted the unity of all of the arts. Following the Haymarket bombing, Crane made multiple trips to the U.S., where he spoke in defense of the men accused of the bombing.

July 19, 1848


The first ever women’s rights convention convenes in Seneca Falls, New York, with almost 200 women in attendance, calling for equal rights and suffrage. A local newspaper’s response: “This bolt is the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity. If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentlemen, will be our dinners and our elbows? Where our domestic firesides and the holes in our stockings?”

June 23, 1848


Parisian workers take to the streets after the French government cuts public works programs to provide for the unemployed. Artillery was brought in against the protesters’ barricades and at least 1,500 people were killed, 12,000 arrested, and many exiled to Algeria.

March 31, 1840


U.S. President Martin Van Buren issues an Executive Order, “finding that different rules prevail at different places as well in respect to the hours of labor by persons employed on the public works under the immediate authority of himself and the Departments as also in relation to the different classes of workmen, and believing that much inconvenience and dissatisfaction would be removed by adopting a uniform course, hereby directs that all such persons, whether laborers or mechanics, be required to work only the number of hours prescribed by the ten-hour system.”

January 22, 1849


Terence V. Powderly is born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Powderly would become the Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor – a labor organization that promoted an eight-hour workday, the end of child and convict labor, a graduated income tax, equal pay for equal work, and worker cooperatives. At its height in 1886, the Knights had over 700,000 members.

September 15, 1845


Earlier in the year, 5,000 women cotton mill workers in and around Pittsburgh go on strike for a 10-hour day and an end to child labor.  Months into the strike, hundreds marched on the Blackstock Mill, one of the largest in the area.  The women broke down the factory’s gates and forcibly expelled the scabs, while the men who accompanied them kept the police at bay.

July 12, 1842


Celebrated criminal defense lawyer William Wallis Erwin is born.  Nicknamed “the Tall Pine,” Erwin was a fiery orator and champion of labor.  He successfully defended leaders of the Homestead strike in 1892 who had been charged with murder and joined Clarence Darrow in defending Eugene V. Debs and other leaders of the American Railway Union put on trial for their role in leading the 1894 Pullman strike.

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