Hundreds of Strikers Start Afoot for New York to Take Part In Monster Pageant

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Hundreds of Strikers Start Afoot for New York to Take Part In Monster Pageant


Labor, Politics, and Journalism


Mabel Dodge as a Patron and Active Participant in Social Progress

Mabel Dodge’s active role as both patron and a participant in the early labor reform movements taking place in Greenwich Village was vital to the successful execution of the pageant and development of the efforts as a whole. Dodge is most visible for her role in the Paterson Pageant, but her balanced support of the I. W. W. (International Workers of the World) as well as support of the pageant (under the collective efforts of John Reed) are also important because of how they de-radicalized the movement. Dodge’s work strove to generate a more diverse and complicated exploration of the issues of labor through the efforts of the silk workers. Dodge saved many newspaper articles throughout her work with Reed. The present collection, from the days before and after the strike and pageant, display Dodge’s multi-dimensional role in the organization and funding of the demonstration.

Labor reform movements were bubbling up across the country at the dawn of the 20th century. These movements fought for everything from wages to the eight hours work day. In 1913, thousands of silk workers went on strike in factories location in Paterson, New Jersey. Wages had been cut, and each worker had their work load increased from two looms to four. The silk workers themselves were from a sprawling array of ethnicities, ideologies, ages, and genders—each of which broke off into factions lobbying for the same changes in working conditions, hours, and wages. Disconnected, the efforts were organized but generally ineffective at enacting change. It was John Reed, one of Mabel Dodge’s many romantic interests, who saw the initial opportunity to unite the differing opinions to force change. And, of course, Dodge was right along with him for the effort (Golin).

Dodge’s memoir and the story of the pageant portrayed by the newspapers demonstrate that Dodge wasn’t just a follower of Reed. Dodge played a complex and crucial role to the success of the pageant’s execution. For starters, Reed was a radical. John Reed served dutifully as a member of the Socialist Party and worked closely with the I. W. W., (who were seen by many to be a dangerous organization). One of the articles above, the opinion piece by Mary Boyle O’Reilly, even denounces the organization saying “Any I. W. W. campaign has some incendiary speeches and wonton inviting of some fearful climax.” Though Reed was less radical than the efforts of the militant I. W. W., he was still seen as a radical figure. Dodge had the ability as a high society woman interact with and support the efforts of Reed and the I. W. W. while also not appearing as a radical. In a way, Dodge serves to “soften” the image of the movement. In contrast to her depiction of the I. W. W., O’Reilly commends the pageant saying, “Dramatic and dignified, it [The pageant] has taught the women of New York who wear silks and the men of New York who buy and sell silks under the intolerable conditions such shimmering silks are made—taught them as hundreds of speeches never could have taught them!” O’Reily’s voice can be seen to represent the upper class residents’ sentiments towards labor reform.

Dodge and Reed developed the idea of portraying the struggles of the worker through an artistic display, and the Paterson Pageant was born. In fact, Rudnick accounts how Dodge “suggested that he [Reed] bring the strike to New York City ’and show it to the workers’ by hiring a great hall, like Madison Square Garden, and reenacting the scenario” (Rudnick 1728-1729). Though portraying the struggles of the worker through art brought labor issues to the public eye, this portrayal also somewhat diminishes of the day to day struggles of the workers. One article describes Dodge’s artistic influence in the production of the pageant, reading, “The staging will be done by Ernest Poole, Mabel Dodge, John Reed, Edward Hunt and Arturo Giovannitti.” Dodge adored “the theater,” and the au van grand and the influence of “New Theater” at the time can certainly be seen in the performances silent nature and pantomime movements. The use of a show to depict the struggles of the worker appealed to the emotions of the upper class of the city that would have the funding to support such an effort, but at the same time, the performance made a display of the harsh reality of the lives of the silk workers. One article clearly plays on the hearts of the upper class in New York as it laments, “THE PAGEANTERS DID NOT ACT, BUT MERELY REHEARSED THE HAPPENINGS OF THEIR DAILY LIVES. No face smiled, no self-conscious air obtruded as 800 persons out on ball and wearing their old winter clothes, gave their poignant presentation of an industrial war.” Because of how the pageant turns the real horrors of the silk workers into a spectacle for the upper class, Dodge’s role can be seen as somewhat problematic while also being productive in the winning of rights for the workers. Though the workers participated in the pageant and strike, the publicity Dodge and Reed’s team brought to the situation were essential in the ability for the strikers to spread their message.

Not only does Dodge aide in the “marketing” and “de-radicalizing” of the labor movement, but Dodge’s economic and social status allow her to actually provide the necessary funding and task force for the event. Reed spear-headed the effort, but he tapped Dodge for the resources necessary for the pageant’s execution. A detailed account of the Paterson Strike by PBS sums up that work on the pageant was done by “a social circle associated with heiress Mabel Dodge” (Golin). Dodge’s ability to assemble provided a cache of arts and reformers ready to take on a project like the Paterson Pageant. Dodge’s funding of the event also cannot be overlooked. When collections are taken up for the workers, the news reports that I. W. W. leaders were able to drum up some funding. It is reported by one publication that, “Yesterday Haywood brought $155 from Pittsburg where he addressed a meeting of Socialists. A collection was taken up for the relief fund of this city and the same was given to the big chief for the local strikers.” To put things into perspective, this is about equivalent to 4,000 dollars in 2016 United States currency. Even with this support, the I. W. W. and the pageant as a whole required much more funding than it ever could bring in from collections. That money came from mainly Mabel Dodge’s reported contribution of $3,000 ($72,500 2016 dollars) to offset the deficit. In comparison, the $155 dollars from the efforts of Haywood that day are hugely diminished. In this comparison the importance of Dodge’s funds can be fully understood. These funds not only kept the organization financially stable but also provided aid to the striking silk workers.

Dodge’s social and economic contributions and artistic influence on the pageant are a large reason why the pageant went so smoothly. In the end, though, the laborers would not be able to continue to remain united in their efforts to achieve the reforms they desired. The unraveling of their unity could be traced to Reed and Dodge not continuing to act as unifiers and visionaries in the labor movement.

Golin, Steve. "People & Events: The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913." The American
Experience. PBS, 11 Mar. 2004. Web. 15 June 2016.

Rudnick, Lois. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds (Kindle Locations 1728-1729). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.


John Reed
Mabel Dodge
Elizabeth Gurly Flynn


Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection


Beinecke Library


1913 June 12-25


Mabel Dodge


Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection


Image of newspaper clippings





Text Item Type Metadata



I. W. W. Leaders Denounce Shop By Shop Settlement Plan and "Roast" the News


Haywood Returned to Paterson Last Night and Made the Principal Speech-- Claims That Statement That Seventy-Five of the Weavers Favor Settlement on This Basis Untrue—News, in keeping with Its Policy to give both sides of Every Controversy Whether Favorable or Not, Prints Agitators Speeches Herewith—Haywood Claims New is Unfriendly to the Workers of Advising Anything But General Settlement Under the Full Demands as Originally made.
Just after the official report of the recent labor pageant given by the local strikers at the Madison Square Garden had been read by Miers Jessie Ashley, the woman lawyer of New York, at the open air meeting held last evening at the old Doremus estate the regular I. W. W. leaders continued with their meeting and delivered their speeches. They again made an urgent appeal to the strikers to stand firmly together as they had done in the past and not to settle by the shop by shop plan.
The leaders claimed that the strikers in West Hoboken and New York city had come out on strike with them not exactly for more compensation and a reduction in hours but in sympathy with the local textile operators. An individual settlement would be, they claimed, an awful blow to them and they maintain that in the name of justice and right they should all stand firm in determined until a general settlement with all the shops had been effected by the Central strike committee. “It is now at the end of the game,” said Haywood, during his remarks, “as the bosses will have either to grand demands of the strikers or go into bankruptcy for they will lose their fall orders. This has been the general idea of the strikers for the past few months and they point to the date of July 7th and say that if they hold out until that time they will have won a complete victory.

The relief is reported to be coming in as good as can be expected. All who apply for food and other provisions are given the same. There is hardly a mall that does not bring in contributions. Yesterday Haywood brought $155 from Pittsburg where he addressed a meeting of Socialists. A collection was taken up for the relief fund of this city and the same was given to the big chief for the local strikers. Haywood left Saturday for that city and delivered an address on Sunday.


Pageant Used in New York


New Idea in Warfare of Labor as Seen by Mary Boyle O’Reilly
New York, June 12—the pageant is the new idea in the warfare of labor.

The new instrument by which workers hereafter are going to present to the world the spectacle of their wrongs, not in words from a soap box on a corner, but in a great dramatic picture that will flash up in the eye with the greater truth that actual vision always brings.

I have seen the first labor pageant in the world the Patterson Silk Workers Pageant. I walked with them on their great cross county march up from their city to New York and watched them on their arrival here, give the nobly conceived splendidly presented drama of their grievances at Madison Square Garden before a great audience of persons from all walks of life.

Four months ago New Jersey silk operatives struck against the four-loom system and for an eight hour day the granting soon after of the JUSTIFIABLE demands made them eager to resume work. Then alien agitators of the I. W. W. promptly manufactured a counter strike. It was not it became apparent to man of their desire intent to uplift a single industry but instead to overthrow a whole industrial order.

Any I. W. W. campaign has some to mean I think incendiary speeches and wonton inviting of some fearful climax.

In Patterson, for instance, fifteen weeks of such tacties have proved futile. The strikers have only what they won for themselves—the I. W. W. has utterly failed to add anything to their already gained victory…

And the strikers decided on their marsh and pageant . Dramatic and dignified, it has taught the women of New York who wear silks and the men of New York who buy and sell silks under the intolerable conditions such shimmering silks are made—taught them as hundreds of speeches never could have taught them! On the largest stage in the world a stage set with Shakespearean simplicity a mighty company of striker-players reacted the somber movements of their working lives before fifteen thousand sympathizers…

At the back of the stage a gigantic curtain showed the silk mills where the protested four-loom system was first installed.

In all the thousand players on the stage the only real actors were those who represented the police, for THE PAGEANTERS DID NOT ACT, BUT MERELY REHEARESED THE HAPPENNINGS OF THEIR DAILY LIVES.

No face smiled, no self-conscious air obtruded as 800 persons out on ball and wearing their old winter clothes, gave their poignant presentation of an industrial war.

Girl Strikers not the I. W. W. organization planned this great pageant, They themselves paid the advanced rent demanded for Madison Square Garden. Men Strikers—not the I. W. W. policed the hall.

Quietly with intense conviction this Paterson pageant opened a new era in labor warfare by coming to New York giving their play in an orderly manner they returned to their stricken city.

Whatever danger and discredit developed were due not to the strikers but to the destructive organization whose growth as I see it in this country’s red peril.

Haywood, Tresca and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn did not walk with the marching pageantry. They rode
[Paper is torn… paragraphs omitted]

With all these meetings the I. W. W. has been eliminated and repudiated since this organization has tried in vain to bring about a settlement of affairs. The strikers realize that the I. W. W. is a fighting organization and nothing more. They have taken the matter of settlement in their own hands and are determined to end the struggle which is beginning the seventeenth week.

IWW Loss $3000
Backer of Peterson Silk Workers One Night Stand Made Up Deficit
The committee of the famous one night stand of the Patterson strike pageant in the Garden are rushing to publication figures showing that the backers of the silk strikers benefit were compelled to stand a loss of $3,000. What makes the backers burden harder are intimations that $7,000 in “profits” from the show have been stolen.

Miss Jessie Ashley, lawyer of No. 27 Cedar St., who was the treasurer of the committee that arranged the pageant yesterday not only denied that there was any profits but declared there was a deficit of between $3,000 and $4,000.
“It is outrageous to hint that there has been dishonesty upon the part of the strike leaders and committee in charge of the project.” Said Miss Ashley, “As a matter of fact the committee planned to make a public accounting within a few days but we’ll rush ahead with it now. The deficit on the pageant is between $3,000 and $4,000. This is borne by John Reed, Ernest Poole, Mrs. Mabel Dodge, of No. 23 Fifth Avenue, Myself and a few others. The collection take up at the pageant brought in $697.20 and this sum was divided between the Paterson and New York silk strikers.”

Arrive at New York at the Noon Hour
It was shortly after noon hour that the strikers landed in New York, headed by Hannah Silverman who by her work in the strike has won the title of “Jeanne d’Arc of the silk strike.” By her side was Carrie Torello, known, known as her chief lieutenant. A parade was formed and they marched up Broadway with the band playing the international “Big Bill” Haywood, Miss Elizabeth Gurley Flynn were also in line as were Adolph Lesig and Organizer Ewald Koettgen, of Paterson.

After luncheon at the Garden where the pageant will be given Hannah Silverman, together with John Reed, got their troupe together and rehearsed their part. After this they adjourned to Union Square where a monster open air meeting being held.

This evening the pageant will be presented. It will be in six scenes and will be in the nature of a pantomime, excepting when the strikers will sing songs, arranged by the director, John Reed. The first scene will be the appearance of the mills alive with workers busily engaged. Later the strike is called. The second scene will be the mills closed down, the workers doing picket duty. The police charging the strikers and the shooting of Modestino. The third scene is the funeral and burying of the dead. The strikes’ pledge.

Following this the picnic in the woods at Slate Mountains will be reproduced, the bands playing and the strikers making merry, The sending of the children to sympathizers in other cities. The play is then followed up to a monster open air meeting held at Haledon. Strike songs by a Paterson composer are sung as are the Marcellaise, The Red Flag and the International. The affair will close with a meeting at Turn hall, when by direct action the eight-hour work day is adopted. At this junction Miss Elizabeth Gurley Flynn William D. Haywood and Carlo Tresca will speak.

The idea to raise money to carry on the local strike in an effort to win the eight-hour work day. The money will be turned over to the relief committee.

The staging will be done by Ernest Poole, Mabel Dodge, John Reed, Edward Hunt and Arturo Giovannitti. The press committee consists of Lincol Steffens, W. E. Walling, Upton Sinclair, Inez Haynes Gillmore, Hutchin Hapgood, Thompson Buchanan and Rose Pastor Strokes.

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