Paterson Silk Mill
|Core Unit of Study||Paterson Silk Mill|
NJ Core Curriculum
Standard No. Indicator.
6.4 I: The Emergence of Modern America
9. Discuss the working conditions in the Paterson silk mills and the strike of 1913.
1. Close all blinds in the classroom, turn up the heater, and turn off all the lights, in order to give students a perspective of ventilation and light in factory mills. Ask a student to read the handout aloud, and ask them to imagine working with dangerous machinery with such little light.
2. In this setting, describe to the students how silk is spun, what life is like at a silk mill, including hours, pay, breaks, etc. While this may shed a dreary light on the subject, put it in perspective. Share with them the boarding house style of living at Mills, educational value, meals, and religious opportunity provided for women there. Explain the function of the Mill within the context of industrialization, and the necessity for women to work as well. Reference to the Lowell, Massachusetts Mill may provide a good reference point.
3. One the Mill lifestyle is in perspective, explain the beginnings of the Strike, how it got started, the involvement of the IWW, and the importance of Labor Unions.
4. Read the demands of the Union Strikers, and the response of the Mill Owners. Ask students to think about the Owners’ perspective as well as the Strikers. Explain the importance of the factory in the economic status of the United States, if not already covered. (This should have been addressed in a Unit Introductory lesson on Industrialization, and should only be review)
5. Dialogue with students about the involvement of the IWW and labor unions. Were unions a positive step, or a negative one? Did they help the strike or hurt it? How do you think the public viewed labor unions? Why were labor unions to attractive, do you think?
6. Play The Internationale for students, while either projecting the lyrics, or providing them with a handout. Ask them to think about common themes in the lyrics, and talk about them. Why are these themes important for strikers? How do these themes, like equality, fit in with the American ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence, or the Pledge of Allegiance? What would have appealed to workers about these songs? Would the Mill Owners of Big Businessmen like them? Why or why not?
7. Explain to students that The Internationale was not only a theme for workers at the Paterson Silk Mill, but was also a Socialist anthem and would become the National Anthem of the Soviet Union. Does this change their opinion of the song?
8. Explain other forms of propaganda that were used to support the strike, including the Pageant presented at Madison Square Garden. Show the poster advertising the pageant. Ask questions regarding the use of the color red. Read students the New York Times’ first review of the pageant, in which they discuss the flags and music.
9. Have students critically assess current political statements being made in media, print, and song. Ask for examples of a song, and what that song is supporting/opposing. Ask about the ways in which the media portrays certain ideas, including gay rights, racial prejudice, women’s issues, etc., and how that affects our thinking. How are those outcomes positive, or negative? How do we assess the media critically?
10. Read to students the June 24, 1913 New York Times Article about the Pageant’s failure, and its’ contribution to the end of the strike and conditions for Mill Workers
§ Margaret Sanger lectured Mill Girls about family planning; this helped to contribute to the spread of birth control in urban settings in New Jersey.
11. Paterson Silk Mill never returned to full swing; a lot of damage was done by this strike. The Paterson Strike is representative of many similar strikes seen in America during this time. While this is only one event that took place in New Jersey, similar protests were taking place all around America, particularly in the West for Hispanic migrant and agricultural workers.
of Student Performance
Ask students to compile a list of five questions that allow us to critically examine the media and propaganda. The questions they write should directly correlate to the Paterson Silk Mill Strike Pageant. For each question which they ask, students should provide an event from the Silk Mill Strike which would have been better served had their question been asked. For example, a question may be, “Is there a political party that supports this presentation? The Communist Party supported the International Workers of the World. Their strike was not only about fair working conditions, but the establishment of a communist system in America.”
You may collect students’ questions the follow class day. They should be graded based upon the events relating to the Strike. Students’ questions may seem unusual, but reinforce the creative use of examples and arguments in History.
Brooks McNamara, Jessie Ashley, F. Sumner Boyd, Mabel Dodge, William D. Haywood, John Reed and Margaret H. Sanger. “Paterson Strike Pageant.” The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Summer, 1971), pp. 61-71.
“Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Remembers the Paterson Strike of 1913”, taken from “Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography (New York, 1955), 165-166. New Jersey Women’s History Website. <http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/njwomenshistory/Period_4/flynn.htm>
Golin, Steve. The Fragile Bridge: Paterson Silk Strike, 1913. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.
Paterson: History. <http://www.city-data.com/us-cities/The-Northeast/Paterson-History.html>
Paterson, New Jersey: America’s Silk City. National Park Service, “Teaching With Historic Places Lesson Plan.” Accessed 2008. <http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/102paterson/102paterson.htm>
“Paterson Strike Pageant.” History Matters: The US History Survey Course on the Web. George Mason University, 2005. <http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5649/>
Scranton, Philip B. Silk City: Studies on the Paterson Silk Industry, 1860-1940. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Society, 1985.
Tripp, Anne Huber, The IWW and the Patterson Silk Strike of 1913, 1987, University of Illinois Press
|Printable Version||High School_Patterson Silk Mill Lesson.pdf|
Women's Project of New Jersey,
Funded by a Special Projects Grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State.