Labor: The lawrence strike in poetry and public opinion

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One approach to telling the story of labor between 1910 and 1920 would take the long view, surveying the period for all its changes in modes of production, its political configurations and reconfigurations, and above all its many strikes and tragedies: the McKees Rocks strike; the New York shirtwaist strike; the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building; the Triangle Shirtwaist fire; the Lawrence textile strike; the Ludlow strike and massacre; and the steel, coal, Boston police, and Seattle general strikes of 1919. In addition, that approach might seek even higher ground, putting these national events against the backdrop of global ones, especially immigration, World War I, and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, all of which influenced how the story of labor played out in the United States. That approach would also examine the variety of working-class literature that arose during the 1910s. A very short list of that literature – a canon, if you like – would start with Upton Sinclair’s various anti-capitalist publications building upon his success with The Jungle (1906): novels such as Love’s Pilgrimage (1911), King Coal (1917), and Jimmie Higgins (1919); critical studies of religion (The Profits of Religion 1917) and of journalism (The Brass Check 1919), and his own editorial stab at defining a socialist canon, The Cry for Justice (1915). It would include late publications by Jack London such as The Valley of the Moon (1913) and The Strength of the Strong (1914) as well as John Reed’s dramatic account of the Russian Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919). Reed had traveled to Russia as a journalist for The Masses. Any accounting of the literature and politics of the 1910s would also need to make room for that and related journals, including Emma Goldman’s anarchist Mother Earth and, toward the end of the decade, the successor to The Masses, The Liberator. As for poetry, although the decade of the 1910s is remembered for the birth of modern poetry, that literary historical commonplace obscures two details about the period: (1) the radical poetry that continued to appear during the decade, especially in journals like The Masses; and (2) the fact that even modern poets often made modern poetry out of the poor and working class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAmerican Literature in Transition, 1910-1920
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781316534397
ISBN (Print)9781107143302
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Labor: The lawrence strike in poetry and public opinion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this