Today in Labor History May 7

Today in Labor History May 7, 1763: Pontiac’s War began against British rule in the Great Lakes region after the French and Indian War. The Native American warriors destroyed eight forts and killed hundreds of colonists. The British eventually sent in the army and crushed the rebellion.


May 7, 1845: Mary Eliza Mahoney was born. She was the first African American to work professionally as a trained nurse. She helped establish the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. The organization had a big influence on reducing discrimination in the field of nursing. Mahoney was also an activist for both civil rights and women’s suffrage.


Today in Writing History May 7, 1861: Indian poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore was born. Also known as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was also an anti-imperialist and supported Indian nationalism. In 1916, Indian expatriates tried to assassinate him in San Francisco.

Today in Labor History May 7, 1867The Knights of St. Crispin union formed in Milwaukee. It grew to 50,000 members before employers crushed it in 1874. It began as a union of shoemakers. (St. Crispin is the patron saint of cobblers). The union spread to Wisconsin, the Northeast and Canada.

Nobel laureate in literature, Wladyslaw Reymont.
By Nobel Foundation. Public Domain

Today in Writing History May 7, 1867: Polish author and Nobel laureate Wladyslaw Reymont was born. He wrote “Revolt,” about a rebellion of animals on a farm fighting for equality. However, the revolt quickly degenerated into a bloody terror. It was a metaphor for the Bolshevik Revolution. Consequently, the Polish authorities banned it from 1945 to 1989.

Bloody Tuesday

May 7, 1907: Bloody Tuesday occurred in San Francisco. The Street Car workers were among the most militant workers in the city and San Francisco was one of the strongest labor cities in the country. The mayor, Eugene Schmitz and two city supervisors were from the Union Labor Party. San Francisco workers, particularly the streetcar union, had struck in five of the six years from 1902 to 1907. Capitalists were fed up with the power of the city’s unions and wanted to crush them once and for all. Led by Rudolph Spreckels (the sugar magnate), the bosses hired the Burns Detective agency to undermine the political establishment. They did this by exposing the corruption of the mayor and the board of supervisors. However, the violence started when scabs tried to run the streetcars. This resulted in an exchange of gunfire between union men and scabs. 


Today in Labor History May 7, 1912: The Hotel Workers Industrial Union struck New York City’s finest hotels and restaurants, including the Waldorf and Astoria hotels and the Plaza. It was the first strike ever by New York restaurant and hotel workers. Elizabeth Gurly Flynn and Joe Ettor, of the IWW, organized the strike, along with the Hotel and Restaurant union. At the height of the strike, 54 hotels and 30 restaurants had no staff. However, the bosses hired African Americans and college students to work as scabs. As a result, many feared they’d have no jobs to return to. So, many of them returned to work on their own. And the strike ended on June 25.


May 7, 1937: the German Condor Legion arrived in Spain with 51 biplanes. They came to help Franco suppress the communist and anarchist forces. Two weeks prior, the Condor Legion bombed Guernica, in the Basque Country. As a result, they killed 20-60% of the population.


Today in Labor History May 7, 1975: The Vietnam War officially ended. The war lasted nineteen and a half years. Over 58,000 Americans died in the conflict. However, up to 4 million Vietnamese died, including nearly 2 million civilians. Additionally, tens of thousands of Laotians died and hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.

May 7, 1977: The longest transit strike in Philadelphia’s history ended on this day. The strike lasted 44 days. A key issue in the fight was the hiring and use of part-timers.

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