HS – Roots of Labor Unrest in Progressive-Era CT

Christine Gauvreau, Project CoordinatorConnecticut Digital Newspaper Project
Connecticut State Library


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Immigration, Social Movements, Women, Work
Theme
Economic Prosperity and Equity
Town
Bridgeport, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Labor, Strikes, Immigrants, Working Women, Organizing, Industry, Commission on Industrial Relations
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What were the causes of the labor unrest that roiled Connecticut in the years between 1900 and World War I?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS

What did the editors of the Norwich Bulletin suspect about the roots of the 1915 Bridgeport strikes?

What picture do the articles from the Bridgeport Evening Farmer paint about the origin of the 1915 Bridgeport strikes?

How did the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations explain labor unrest to Congress in its 1914 report?

D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Detail of article “26,000 Women Workers Will Have Better Conditions in Bridgeport: Strikes Continue In Plants Where Women Want Fair Treatment,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 20, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of page 1 of the article  “26,000 Women Workers Will Have Better Conditions in Bridgeport: Strikes Continue In Plants Where Women Want Fair Treatment,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 20, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
image Download an image of page 2 of the article “26,000 Women Workers Will Have Better Conditions in Bridgeport: Strikes Continue In Plants Where Women Want Fair Treatment,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 20, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “26,000 Women Workers Will Have Better Conditions in Bridgeport: Strikes Continue In Plants Where Women Want Fair Treatment,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 20, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of article “Enthusiasm Marks Mass Meeting of Striking Warner Operatives,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 17, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Download an image of the article “Enthusiasm Marks Mass Meeting of Striking Warner Operatives,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 17, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Enthusiasm Marks Mass Meeting of Striking Warner Operatives,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 17, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of article “The Bridgeport Situation,” Norwich Bulletin, July 20, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of article “The Bridgeport Situation,” Norwich Bulletin, July 20, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “The Bridgeport Situation,” Norwich Bulletin, July 20, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article,“The Bridgeport Situation,” Norwich Bulletin, July 20, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of article “Machinists’ Plan to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of article “Machinists’ Plan to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Machinists’ Plan to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Machinists’ Plan to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of article “Low Wages and Desire for Better Living Conditions Causes of Labor Unrest: Industrial Committee Cites Reasons of Employers and Employees in Report to Congress,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 8, 1914. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of article “Low Wages and Desire for Better Living Conditions Causes of Labor Unrest: Industrial Committee Cites Reasons of Employers and Employees in Report to Congress,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 8, 1914. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Low Wages and Desire for Better Living Conditions Causes of Labor Unrest: Industrial Committee Cites Reasons of Employers and Employees in Report to Congress,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 8, 1914, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Low Wages and Desire for Better Living Conditions Causes of Labor Unrest: Industrial Committee Cites Reasons of Employers and Employees in Report to Congress,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 8, 1914, or click on the image above to link to the article.

In the summer of 1915, immigrant workers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, took advantage of the wartime boom and went on strike to demand an eight-hour work day, better wages, and improved working conditions. Skilled craftsmen led the strike, but when 11,000 less-skilled workers (many of them young women) joined the movement, it turned into a city-wide general strike.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

1. Break the students into four groups and assign a different resource or resource set to each:

Group 1: “The Bridgeport Situation,” Norwich Bulletin, July 20, 1915, and “Machinists’ Plan to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915.

Group 2: “26,000 Women Workers Will Have Better Conditions in Bridgeport,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 20, 1915.

Group 3: “Enthusiasm Marks Mass Meeting of Striking Warner Operatives,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 17, 1915. (Note: there are other related articles of interest on the same page which can be considered as well, as time allows.)

Group 4: “Low Wages and Desire for Better Living Conditions Causes of Labor Unrest: Industrial Committee Cites Reasons of Employers and Employees in Report to Congress,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 8, 1914.

2. Have students list the reasons (as suggested by the different primary sources provided) for the August 1915 Bridgeport strike wave. Questions to explore might include:

  • What industries were involved? What type of work did the laborers do?
  • What were the workers’ concerns and demands?
  • What were the concerns of management?
  • What, if any, outside influences were there?

3. Students should then list the questions that each source and argument provokes. Have the students consider what additional sources they might seek to answer those questions.

4. Ask the students to suggest reasons why the different sources might offer divergent explanations for the Bridgeport situation.

5. Ask the students, after considering the various points of view provided, to develop a working hypothesis about the cause of Bridgeport’s labor unrest that could guide a more in-depth research project. For additional information and opinions about labor unrest in 1915, students can use the Chronicling America database of historic newspapers.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students will be divided into two groups—one representing labor and the other management in 1915. Develop arguments based on the newspaper sources (plus additional primary and secondary sources you may have used in the classroom) and hold a debate on the issues of labor conditions, wages, and the length of the work day/week.

Students will use what they have learned from the newspaper accounts (and any other resources on the topic you have used in the classroom) to create their own picket signs for workers striking in 1915 Connecticut.

Students will use newspapers, the internet, and other sources to investigate labor issues in Connecticut today, including the campaign for a $15 minimum wage and new federal overtime rules. They will create a graphic organizer comparing the issues today to those in 1915 (concerns, demands, industries involved, types of work done by laborers, etc.). Students may then write a letter to their state legislator arguing their own position on these topics and placing them in historical context.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ