I clearly need to find better materials to read regarding the relationship of immigrant communities to work in the late 19th/early 20th c., and i'm sure they're out there (please send suggestions my way), but this limited account of the Lawrence strikes doesn't add much nuance to my understanding of the era.
(Having students recommend books to me is one of my favorite things about being an educator.) It is truly excellent; if you don't know the Lawrence Mill strike of 1912, it's one of the more remarkable events in labor history--one of the times that women were really at the forefront of the labor movement, visible in the strike.
Watson does a good job lining up the situation leading into 1912, and every time a crucial figure makes their first appearance, he steps back and takes his time really letting you get to know the person -- which I loved. There's also a lot of good discussion of the way the Lawrence strike was viewed for many years, and why (thanks, middle-class "concerned citizens" trying to preserve your town's "good name"!); Watson also talked about media spins in regards to the strike, not just in local papers, but in national press, and how reporters also behaved while covering the strike (as best he could tell). But I loved that Watson gave time in the epilogue to talk about what happened to each major figure after the strike, and some labor history in the aftermath of Lawrence. No one knows quite why Bread and Roses got connected to the Lawrence strike, but it's got such a nice ring to it.
To commemorate the strikes100th anniversary and to consider its lessons for today, the Lawrence History Center is issuing a call for papers, art, spoken word, and video presentations for a Bread & Roses centennial conference to be held in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, 2012.
Bruce Watson's "Bread and Roses" tells the captivating story of the 1912 textile strike in the mill town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. In less than a year, the union in Lawrence had been all but exterminated, victim of a violent reaction.
Watson uses great storytelling ability to present a thrilling well-researched account of one of America's most famous strikes.
What looked like a fabulous book about equality and ethics in dealing with immigration, is actually calculated attack on capitalism.
The American Library Association's Booklist called "Light: A Radiant History" "a dazzling book." Watson is also the author of four other well-reviewed books, including "Freedom Summer: The Savage Season that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy," "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and The Judgment of Mankind," and "Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream." Watson has also written more than three dozen feature articles for Smithsonian.