Industrial Workers of the World - Northeast Pennsylvania

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[Klotts Throwing Mill, Carbondale PA, where children as young as 12 worked six-day, fifty-seven hour weeks.]

In 1905, the state factory inspector found that 41,140 factory workers in Pennsylvania were minors age thirteen to sixteen.

In 1901 and 1907, thousands of boys and girls working in the silk mills throughout the Wyoming Valley in northeast Pennsylvania, empowered by IWW co-founder Mary "Mother" Jones' organizing here, led strikes for better pay and conditions.

The Scranton Republican reported on July 25, 1907: "The main question in the trouble is the time. Ten and a half hours in a hot mill on a sultry day is more than any child of tender years can endure, the strikers claim."

For Pennsylvania, the 1910 census listed 3,721 boys under sixteen working in the anthracite mines, 3,247 boys under sixteen working in the coal breakers, and more than five thousand children under sixteen working in the silk mills. In Scranton, federal investigators found that more than 30 percent of girls between thirteen and sixteen were working for a living.

Inspired by the successful Lawrence Strike and the ongoing Paterson Silk Strike, in February 1913, 1,200 silk workers in Hazleton, mostly young women, went on strike and voted to join the IWW. Organizers were arrested, including nine young striking women who were accused of attacking older men with clubs and stones who were going to work as scabs. The young women shouted as they were dragged away, "Iron bars cannot stifle our freedom!"

Police repression and their conservative parents, clergy, newspapers, politicians, and the pro-management United Mine Workers' leader John Mitchell dissuaded the children from opposing the bosses during the strike, allowing the pro-management United Textile Workers union to take root and negotiate "the worst contract" IWW leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn had ever seen.

Here is an excerpt from Their Fathers' Daughters: Silk Mill Workers in Notheastern Pennsylvania 1880-1960: