American Federation of Labor Created in 1886 by labor leaders, including Samuel
Gompers, the AFL was originally a more conservative confederation
of craft unions. Eventually, in 1955, it merged with the Congress
of Industrial Organizations.
Industrial Unionism Workers in an industrial union are organized by industry,
rather than by craft or by skills. This type of labor organizing
was embodied by the Industrial Workers of the World in the early twentieth
century. Anyone could become a member of the IWW, regardless of
their sex, race, occupation, or beliefs. Within the American Federation
of Labor, which organized workers by craft, industrial unions became
so numerous that they were expelled from the AFL in 1936. Currently,
industrial unions, such as the Service Employees International
Union, have organized not only manufacturing employees or miners,
but also office workers.
Industrial Workers of the World Mother Jones attended the founding meeting of this
radical industrial union in 1905, along with Eugene Debs and Bill Haywood.
Through various methods of direct action, including strikes and
boycotts, the purpose of the IWW was to rally together all workers
and overthrow capitalism.
Socialism A term with many different interpretations, the most
general meaning of socialism is a political and economic system
that supports collectivism and government ownership of the means of
production. The Socialist Party in the United States had strong support
in the early twentieth-century.
United Mine Workers
of America An industrial union formed in 1890, the UMW organized
coal miners throughout the United States to confront company control
and the abuse of workers. Indeed, miners lived in terrible conditions
in secluded company towns, where they were forced to work in hazardous
mines for long hours and little pay. The UMW instigated many successful
strikes, of which Mother Jones was a part.
Western Federation of Miners Inclined to militancy and radical actions, the WFM
was created in the western United States as a union of miners predominantly from
the Rocky Mountain states. In 1905, its leaders, Charles Moyer,
Bill Haywood, and George Pettibone were accused of murdering Frank
Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho. With the defense of
legendary attorney Clarence Darrow, the three were acquitted. After
the early 1910s, the WFM began to lose support.
Irish Potato Famine
Starting in 1845, a fungus spread throughout the Irish
potato crop, destroying the harvest and causing mass starvation
and disease. Poverty-stricken peasants flocked to the cities, where conditions
were not much better and disease spread easily. An estimated one
million people died as a result of the potato blight, and an equal
number emigrated out of Ireland.
Fire destroyed a large proportion of the city of Chicago
in 1871. Mary Harris's home and business were destroyed.
On May 1, 1886, an anarchist demonstration turned violent when
one of the participants threw a bomb at policemen, who responded
by opening fire. Many innocent people died, and the authorities
saw this as an opportunity to arrest and convict prominent activists.
With little evidence, the activists were sentenced to be executed
and imprisoned. Despite international protest, four of the activists
were hanged. Later, the remaining imprisoned activists were pardoned.