Historic obsession about the Titanic sinking 100 years ago wipes Bread and Roses strike from popular memory

By John Keller

The RMS Titanic sank exactly 100 years ago early Sunday morning, taking 1,514 souls to their deaths in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, but I'm not here today to talk about this maritime disaster that has dominated popular memory for the entirety of a century. Instead, I'd like to point out how the sinking of the Titanic super ocean liner wiped other notable events from the front pages, and from popular memory (I apologize for not writing this week of matters aerospace and defense electronics ).

The year 1912 was an eventful one, even though the historic milestone of that era -- the First World War -- would not start for more than two years after the Titanic disappeared beneath the ocean. When 1912 began, owners of the textile mills in the booming industrial town of Lawrence, Mass. , reduced the work hours and pay of the largely immigrant labor force. When workers realized their pay was being cut, they walked away from their looms and left the mills shouting "short pay, short pay!"

The work stoppage spread through the city's textile mills, and within a week more than 20,000 angry mill workers left their jobs and took to the streets. The result was the so-called Bread and Roses Strike , a popular term for the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, which involved street violence, antagonism among competing labor unions, and ultimately the attention of then-First Lady Helen Herron Taft, wife of President William Howard Taft.

The Bread and Roses Strike lasted for three months, and involved mass arrests, callup of the Massachusetts state militia, clubbing in the street of women and children, and other kinds of ugliness that by 12 March 1912 led to the strike's end when the American Woolen Company agreed to most the strikers' demands. Mill workers throughout New England also received many new benefits.

The Bread and Roses Strike is notable in that it signaled what, for its day, was a new era of labor relations and worker-management harmony in the industrialized Northeast.

Another notable historic event in the spring of 1912 -- particularly for New Englanders -- was the scheduled opening of a new baseball field in Boston, Fenway Park , home to the Boston Red Sox, and today the oldest and perhaps most beloved Major League Baseball stadium in existence.

Fenway Park opened on 20 April 1912, and that day the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings. Think that game was on the front page? Not with the Titanic sinking less than a week before.

The next year the New York Highlanders would be renamed the New York Yankees, and one of the most storied rivalries in baseball history would be born.

So April 1912 saw a new era in labor relations, the opening of one of America's best-known baseball parks, and the beginning of a great baseball rivalry.

So 100 years later what do we hear about most? The Bread and Roses Strike and its influence on American labor history? The beginning of an old and hard-fought baseball rivalry? The opening of America's best-loved baseball park?

No, we hear about that damned ship made with brittle hull plates, breakable rivets, and not enough life boats.

Maybe it won't be like this forever, though. I can't wait for Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Bread and Roses: The Movie."

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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