The Lawrence Textile Mills strike in 1912 known as the “Bread and Roses strike” involved immigrant workers in Lawrence MA striking against a a two-hour pay cut. The strike grew to more than twenty thousand workers. Amos Lawrence also owned the Ipswich Mills Company, where a similar strike occurred a year later.
The Ipswich Mills Strike
In early 1913, a strike by non English-speaking workers demanding a 20 percent wage increase at the Ipswich Hosiery Mills plant was organized by members of the local Industrial Workers of the World. Hundreds of immigrants from England, Ireland, Poland and Greece and French Canadians worked in the mill. Five hundred local people continued to work through the strike. A newspaper article reprinted in the Hellraisers Journal states that 500 Italians and 100 Greeks were involved in the strike, but such a high number of Italian immigrants is not substantiated.
There was considerable agitation, and agitated residents at a large meeting at town hall declared “We have got to meet force with force.” On June 10, police fired into a crowd of protesting immigrant workers just after the non-striking English-speaking workers had left the plant. They claimed that the “foreign” strikers were “jostling” the English-speaking strikebreakers.
Seven of the wounded were taken to a hospital in Salem. A young Greek woman named Nicholetta Paudelopoulou was shot in the head and killed by police as she left work in Brown’s Essex Mill, and seven persons were injured, including several policemen hit by flying bottles and debris tossed by the demonstrators. Fifteen persons, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. were taken into custody. Nicholetta Paudelopoulou was buried at The Immigrant Cemetery, part of the Highland Cemetery Annex on Fowler’s Lane.
The New York Times
Thursday June 12, 1913
Ipswich, Mass. – Police open fire on picket line, one woman killed.
On Tuesday, June 10th, police here opened fire on the strikers’ picket line at the Ipswich Hosiery Mill killing Nicholetta Paudelopoulou, 27, and wounding seven others. The wounded were taken to a hospital in Salem. Miss Paudelopoulou was taken to a nearby doctors office where she died of a bullet wound to the head.
Fifteen strikers were arrested, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. Nathan Hermann, I.W.W. organizer, Mr. E.L. Pingree, Secretary of the Lowell I.W.W., and Mrs. Pingree have been charged with inciting to riot resulting in murder. Thomas J. Halliday, National Secretary of the textile branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, has arrived to take charge of the strike.
- Gavin Keenan adds, “The Ipswich Mills strike followed eighteen months after the huge Bread & Roses strike at the Lawrence Mills. The small Ipswich Police force at the time of the strike was supplemented by other police from the mill cities – Haverhill, etc. I do not believe that the National Guard was deployed as in Lawrence. Unlike the Lawrence strike, these immigrant strikers were likely undermined by the large number of english-speaking, native workers employed at the Ipswich Mills who did not walk off the job. Fear of immigrants, mostly from southern europe, fed a xenophobia that resulted in the infamous Palmer Raids, repressions, arrests and prosecutions of many on the scantiest evidence of being associated with anarchists and other ‘enemies of the state.’ It was a good lesson for the times in which we live.”
- Charlotte Lindgren adds, ” I enjoyed reading about the strike which had a family connection to me. It was not just immigrant workers against their employers. The town people were very torn. Many were close friends of the workers. My grandmother had been one of the Scottish Canadian earlier workers before marrying my grandfather, a policeman. My uncle worked in a higher position in the mill, but sided with the strikers and suffered a serious blow on the head from a police baton. My grandfather had to try to restore order, but was actually sympathetic to the workers. It was not simply an us against them event.”
Steve Georgakopoulos, witness to the 1913 Ipswich Mill Strike
The following story was written by Carole Perkins of Ipswich, published Tuesday July 3, 1984 as a supplement to Essex County Newspapers.
Steve Georgakopoulos was barely out of his teens when he made the long trip from Greece to Ipswich in 1911 to work in the Ipswich Mills. A mecca for immigrants, the mills employed over 1,500 workers, of which 75 percent were women. Known as the largest hosiery mill in the world, the mill attracted scores of immigrants, despite the long hours and meager pay, It took Georgakopoulos four years of sheep herding before he was able to earn the $60 fare to America. His brothers had arrived earlier, in 1907, and had urged him to join them.
Like other immigrants to the area, the Georgakopoulos family worked long days. Four brothers set up a bakery, a grocery and a milk store within the house. Steve, who spoke English, went to work in the mills. In 1913, Georgakopoulos, a foreman at the mills, earned $4.16 a week for a 72-hour week. The highest paid worker made $7 weekly “tops,” he said. The mill operated six days a week with two shifts a day with a day shift from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a night shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Starting wage for a worker in training was as low as $2.50 for a 72-hour week, and a worker was not paid for her first two weeks’ work. The mill kept the money in escrow until she left, then paid it only if she had given proper notice.
The mills claimed business conditions made pay raises an impossibility.There was little chance for escape as there was no lunch hour or vacation time. The machines never stopped, and workers ate right at their posts. Some received injuries from the machines, but never received workmen’s compensation.
At 95, Georgakopoulos can vividly recall that “BloodyTuesday,” June 10, 1913, when he and his fellow workers were wounded while on strike: Anger stills lingers when he describes the discrimination the Greek and Polish people faced.
“We wanted a five percent increase. They say no, so we strike, the Greek and the Polish. They never give us our Greek holidays. We had to work Christmas and Easter.”
For seven to eight weeks, workers had picketed for higher wages. A dispute sparked a fracas. Ipswich police and officers from surrounding towns were “given the order to shoot any strikers.” Georgakopoulos said the strikers didn’t push anyone, and no one rushed the police. He and his family lived on Saltonstall Street in the old Bancroft house, now the site of the K & G bowling lanes. A young Greek girl, Nicoletta Pandelopoulou, appeared at his house, he recalled, his voice rising as if it were yesterday:
“They shot the Greek girl and killed her. She wasn’t even a mill worker. She wasn’t even a striker. I come out and tried to help, and they shoot me in the leg. My sister comes out with a baby in her hands, and they shoot her. My second sister called for help, and they club her. My mother comes out, and they started to shoot her. All they wanted is to shoot the God damn foreigners,”
Translating for his father, Georgakopoulos’ son Pete said the wounded totaled two women and three men, with one woman killed. But despite the immigrants’ hardships in fighting discrimination, Pete praised those who sympathized with their plight.
“There were some good people, some really good people, but there were some really mean, evil ones…They even bothered the priests who received potshots of eggs and snowballs.”
The injured reached an agreement in Salem court — no one would be sent to jail, and no one would be paid for injuries. Georgakopoulos paid his own hospital bills. Because business was poor, the Ipswich Mills were forced to close before the Depression started. Ipswich mill workers never did get their raises or holidays, said Georgakopoulos.
In 1940, Georgakopoulos moved out of the Bancroft house and cleared some wooded acres at 190 High St. where he lives today. Beside the house is a shack where he once sold vegetables and where, when red tide isn’t around, he still sells quarts of clams. “We’ve been digging clams since 1931, said Pete. “I was about 10 years old then and lucky to make 50 cents a day. That was good money then for a kid.” He would dig alongside his dad. Even when in his 90s, the elder Georgakopoulos dug clams until he suffered a stroke last summer. Now, walking well with the aid of a cane, the elder Georgakopoulos nods yes when asked if he plans to go back to the flats.
His relatives scattered or passed away, Georgakopoulos lives with Pete, a former merchant marine and Ipswich harbormaster. “This is a nice place, good people. I’m very happy to be alive,” he said, his dog Mouyatsta at his side.
*(editor’s note: I was not able to find a date of death for Steve Georgakopoulos.)
The Ipswich Chronical stirs up opposition
The Ipswich Chronicle printed the following news item :
“Tuesday June 19: At 5:50, employees were leaving when two lines of strikers–chiefly Greeks, Marched from the direction of Union and Saltonstall Streets, Penning the workers on both sides. One woman was pushed into the street by a Greek woman and two officers arrested her. It is alleged that a shot was fired at the officers from a building in the vicinity and that this was followed by clubs, bricks, bottles and other missiles. The officers advanced and drew their revolvers opening fire on the crowd and driving them back. Shots then rained from all directions upon the police and the officers returned them. When order was restored 20 minutes later, Nicoletta Pandelopolou was found to be mortally wounded. Five other strikers had been shot. There were no police injuries, except for one man reportedly bitten by a Greek woman.”
In an editorial by George Schofield, the Ipswich Chronicle called for the restoration of law and order and reported that strike funds were being provided by Socialists and the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). On Sunday June 15, 1200 strikers and sympathizers gathered on the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Chronicle reported that the crowd applauded the Socialist slogan of “No God, No Country, No Flag but the Red Flag.”
At a crowded Town Meeting, Charles Hull, chairman of the Selectmen, warned that “a dark cloud overhangs Ipswich and something must be done.” Almost all of the attendees wore American flag pins. The Postmaster Luther Wait called for a massive July 4th parade. George Schofield pointed to an American flag and said, :We believe in one God, one country and one flag, not the red flag of revolution.”
The next day it was reported that a vigilante group was organizing to “run the IWW out of town.” Schofield advised against this in the Chronicle, but added, ” Only an absolute failure of those whose duty is to dispense justice would warrant even the thought of any other course.”
The Fourth of July celebration that year was the largest that the town had ever seen. Banners and flags hung from almost every store and building. George Schofield said the labor problems were caused not by immigration laws but by outside agitators. If they did not like the rules, he said, they should leave the country voluntarily. If they did not go of their own free will, they should be forced to leave. In mid-July, the Mill management began evicting striking families from their homes in company owned buildings on Estes Street. At least 14 families were kicked out on the street. By the end of the month the strike was broken, and laborers went back to work, without an increase in pay.
News articles from 1913
- NY Times article, June 11, reporting the strike of the previous day
- Account of the hearing from the Boston Evening Transcript.
- Account of the trial on June 14, 1913 in the Lewiston Daily Sun.