Due to the increase in poverty, child labor, dangerous conditions in factories, and lower standard of living from the industrial revolution many labor unions came about. One of the main figures of these labor unions was Eugene Debs. Eugene Debs was the head of the IWW- Industrial Workers of the World- a group of radical unionists and socialists in Chicago. The IWW wanted to included workers skilled and unskilled.
an illustration of the Haymarket Affair
The Social Gospel Movement brought about reforms that preached salvation through service to the poor. Many women at this time were a part of this including Jane Addams and Janie Porter barrett. Jane Addams created the first settlement house in 1886 while Janie Porter Barrett founded the Locust Street Social Settlement, the first settlement home for African Americans. These people worked to educate and help the poor in cities and slum areas. These many acts of kindness inspired many to join to help in this act. By 1910 about 400 settlement houses were operating across the country.
Women and girl winding wire onto a machine
During the late 1800s many workers began going without pay causing several violent strikes to start. Railroads workers in Baltimore and Ohio went on the Great Strike of 1877 to protest their second wage cut in two months. Another major strike was the Haymarket affair on May 4th, 1886 which was a protest against police cruelty. A bomb was thrown and 7 police officers were killed while many workers were injured. The Homestead Strike included steel workers on June 29th, 1892 which caused the national guard to step in. Many women were not allowed in labor unions, but they supported much of the work of unions. Women such as Mary Harris Jones, or Mother Jones, demanded for better working conditions, end to child labor and equal pay for equal work. Mary Harris Jones spoke on child labor,
“The employment of children is doing more to fill prisons, insane asylums, almshouses, reformatories, slums, and gin shops than all the efforts of reformers are doing to improve society.”
In 1903 she led 80 million children to Theodore Roosevelt’s home to expose the injuries and horrors of child labor this would later lead to the passing of child labor laws.
Mary Harris Jones in the Children’s Crusade