Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1850-1859”

December 2, 1859

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Having been found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting slave insurrection, abolitionist John Brown is hanged in Charlestown, Virginia. Frederick Douglass said of John Brown: “His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine – it was as the burning sun to my taper light – mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.”

November 5, 1855

m07-elec-post-480Eugene V. Debs – labor leader, socialist, three-time candidate for president, and first president of the American Railway Union — is born. “The Republican and Democratic parties, or to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”

May 12, 1856

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700 workers gather and celebrate when the government in Victoria, Australia agree to an eight-hour day for workers employed on public works. By 1858 the eight-hour day was firmly established in the building industry, but it wasn’t until 1916 that the Victoria Eight Hours Act was passed, which applied to all workers in the state.

February 9, 1854

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Novelist, journalist, and social activist George Lippard dies. Considered the first muckraking novel in the United States, his “The Quaker City” (1845) was a best seller about city life in Philadelphia. In 1849, Lippard founded the Brotherhood of the Union to “espouse the cause of the Masses, and battle against the tyrants of the Social System – against corrupt Bankers, against Land Monopolists, and against all Monied Oppressors.” The Brotherhood eventually had 40,000 members in 20 states.

January 26, 1850

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Labor leader Samuel Gompers is born in London, England. A cigar-maker by trade, Gompers served as president of the American Federation of Labor for almost forty years. He believed that strong trade unions would humanize industry, protect workers’ interests, and create opportunities for workers to educate themselves and claim a larger role in industrial society.

March 21, 1857

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Women’s rights advocate and labor activist Alice Henry is born in Melbourne, Australia.  Henry came to the U.S. in 1905 and worked for twenty years for the National Women’s Trade Union League of America in Chicago, lecturing, organizing, directing the education department, writing two books on women in the labor movement, and editing the League’s official journal.

December 2, 1859

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Having been found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting slave insurrection, abolitionist John Brown is hanged in Charlestown, Virginia.  Frederick Douglass said of John Brown:  “His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine – it was as the burning sun to my taper light – mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity.  I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.”

November 30, 1854

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Social reformer and activist Mary Eliza McDowell is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.   McDowell – who was referred to as the “Angel of the Stockyards” – established a settlement house in the back of the stockyards in Chicago, where she lived and worked to improve the working conditions of the stockyard workers and the living conditions of their families.   Her passion for social justice and equality continued throughout her life.

October 16, 1859

ImageAbolitionist John Brown leads 18 men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry armory.  The raid to seize the weapons failed and Brown was captured, tried, and hung.  At his trial, Brown said:  “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood…with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!”

June 8, 1852

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The first known labor strike in San Francisco occurs when Chinese laborers working on the Parrott building demand a wage increase.

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