May Day in the Meany Labor Archives!

Today is May Day! Also known as International Workers’ Day. May Day is considered an international labor holiday. This post highlights some of the materials in our collections related to May Day. Much of our May Day material can be found in the May Day, 1885-1986 folder in the vertical file collection, and the Haymarket folders in the Morris B. Schnapper collection!

May Day was created by a resolution initiated by American Socialists at the International Socialist Congress in Paris, France, in July of 1889. The purpose of May Day was to gain support for an eight-hour work day. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, precursor to the American Federation of Labor, and the Knights of Labor cooperated in preparing for a general strike in U.S. cities on May 1, 1886. And on that day, approximately 350,000 American workers went on strike, impacting over 11,000 businesses. Although workers in New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, and other cities participated, Chicago was widely considered the center of May Day agitation, largely due to Chicago being one of the few cities with broad union and radical solidarity in support of the eight-hour day.

In Chicago, May Day demonstrations were large and continued for several days, with roughly 80,000 workers marching down Michigan Avenue, led by Albert and Lucy Parsons. According to a 1935 article written by Lucy Parsons, titled, “The Story of Haymarket,” between May 1st and May 3rd, “the strike was spreading like wild fire. The bosses were hostile, the police were brutal to the last degree!” On May 3rd, employees of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company held a noon meeting to discuss the strike, when, according to Parsons, “two patrol wagons, loaded with police, dashed down upon them and began clubbing and shooting those unarmed workers.” After the incident, August Spies, a speaker at the meeting, returned to the office of the German radical newspaper, Arbeiter Zeiting, and issued a flyer that called the famous meeting in Haymarket Square to “protest against this outrage.”

The next day, approximately 3,000 people attended the meeting at Haymarket Square. According to Lucy Parsons recount, “the Haymarket meeting was a perfectly peaceful meeting,” but as the meeting ended, “about two hundred police rushed upon us with drawn clubs and pistols, clubbing and shooting into this peacefully assembled meeting of men, women, and children.” After police rushed the meeting, “someone hurled a bomb into their ranks. Who threw that bomb was never known.” The bomb killed one policeman, and several others were fatally injured either by the bomb, or the rioting that followed.

Here is a publication from 1915 comparing May Day with Labor Day, written by Socialist Labor Party member Boris Reinstein, titled “International May Day and American Labor Day.” Reinstein compares May Day and Labor Day, arguing that May Day is the “drilling day for the Social Revolution,” that was “created by the workingmen themselves, in defiance of the capitalist class and its governments,” while Labor Day, on the other hand, was a “gift” that workers “received from their masters, the capitalists, through the capitalist politicians,” further arguing that Labor Day was “created by the political agents of the American capitalists to fan the sleeping giant, the American working class, while the capitalists are sucking its blood.”

Next, we have a 1931 “May Day Manifesto,” published by the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, and printed by the Victoria House Printing Company in London. The manifesto calls for unity and organization, and “renews its pledge to strive in politics and industry for the creation of a saner system in which work and wealth will be equitably shared, leisure will be organised, and science and invention will lighten the toll of all, rather than service to enrich the few.” The manifesto also argues that “organisation is our most pressing and immediate task. In unity of purpose, in fidelity to the principles which inspired the pioneers of our Trade Union, Co-operative and Labour Organisations, we pledge ourselves afresh on this May Day to the ideals of freedom, peace, and social justice which our organised Movement exists to serve.”

Next, we have the front page, and main article the 1937 May Day issue of Miner’s Voice, published by the Butte Miners’ Union. The article revisits the 1917 Butte Miners’ Strike, where “miners, smelter workers, and mechanics in Butte and Anaconda, betrayed by the American Federation of Labor officials, national, state and local, struck against the rustling card system, for the right to organize and live like human beings.” For “the members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers–the bearer of the militant tradition of the Western Federation of Miners and of the long fight for industrial unionism shared with the United Mine Workers–,” May Day 1937 was “a day of rejoicing over signal victories gained and of confidence of victory in the serious struggles for the extension of industrial unionism to the mines, mills, and smelters as yet unorganized.” The article also expresses support for the Peoples Front in Spain, arguing that “the fight against Spanish Fascism is a fight against Fascist reaction in America.”

Next, we have a flyer from the Daily Worker for the 1948 May Day Rally at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., held on Sunday May 2nd. The rally included speakers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Gerhart Eisler, George Meyers, and William C. Taylor. Written from the perspective of “The Spirit of May Day,” the flyer provides background information on the history of May Day, while calling into question its current legacy, suggesting that mainstream media “spent the last 62 years trying to keep me locked in a closet so the people won’t hear my message.” Echoing the comparison made by Boris Reinstein in 1915, the flyer argues that the media “persuaded the leaders of the American Federation of Labor to change Labor Day from May 1 to the first Monday in September.” The flyer argues that, arriving in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1948, “the Spirit of May Day finds, in fact, that the rulers of America, in the name of sacred American institutions, are out to dominate the world and establish a police state at home,” while providing a short and simple message: “Get together! Organize! Regardless of race, color or creed, unite!”

Next, we have a full-page article from the May 2-8, 1979 issue of In These Times, written by noted labor historian Richard Schneirov (a graduate student at Northern Illinois University at the time), titled “Haymarket: Albert Parsons and the American origins of May Day.” Suggesting that “May Day goes by quietly” in the U.S., Schneirov provides detailed history not only of May Day, or Haymarket, but the broader history behind the labor movement in Chicago, and the history of Albert Parsons, the “most prominent Chicago anarchist of the period.” Parsons’ political career, Schneirov argues, makes it clear that Haymarket radicals “were neither lone terrorists nor isolated radicals removed from mass trade union activity,” further arguing that “Parsons and the Chicago anarchists played a major formative role in the shaping of the American socialist and labor traditions. And it was those traditions that created the May Day labor holiday, celebrated now in almost every country in the world–except the U.S.”

"Haymarket: Albert Parsons and the American origins of May Day."

May 2-8, 1979 issue of In These Times. Haymarket Riot (1886), 1958-1986. George Meany Memorial Archives, Vertical File collection, 1.20.13. Special Collections and University Archives. https://archives.lib.umd.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/386349

For more information on May Day materials in our collections, please contact the Meany Labor Archives!

By Alan Wierdak, Archives Specialist for the George Meany Labor Archive.

 

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New Exhibit for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This blog post and its accompanying exhibit in the main lobby of McKeldin Library chronicle the ongoing student activism at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) to create a culture that actively works to prevent power-based violence and support survivors of sexual assault.

Though sexual assault was not part of the public discourse at UMD prior to the 1970s, examples from the 1950s and 1960s highlight how sexual assault and rape culture impacted student life. This Associated Women Students Revised Dress Code from 1968 highlights the way that women were seen as responsible for the treatment they received based on their personal appearance, and how accepted standards of behavior based on gender roles often reinforced and obscured rape culture. Strict limitations on women’s conduct and dress connect to an ideal of purity and serve to prevent women from having sexual contact before marriage. Women were often blamed for any unwanted contact if they did not abide by these codes. Ideas like these often reinforce the idea that rape is result of the behavior or appearance of the victim, rather than the actions of the perpetrator. It is also important to note that these stark distinctions between men and women can often erase the fact that a person of any gender can be sexually assaulted.

Report from the Association of Women Students
Association of Women Students — Reports, 1954-1964. Division of Student Affairs records, 5.1.4. Special Collections and University Archives. University of Maryland Libraries.

During the 1970s, with the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, there was an upsurge in student organizing around sexual assault. Considered to be the third peak of sexual violence activism, the 1970s included the first anti-rape efforts on campus. This third peak built off of the first (late 1800s) and second (1940s-50s) peaks of activism led by black women, such as Lucy Smith and Ida B. Wells in the late 1800’s and Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1970s, UMD students worked to create a campus Rape Crisis Center, a Women’s Center, and a Women’s Information Center in collaboration with partners across campus. Student activists have been participating in rallies like Take Back the Night since the 1970s and the Clothesline Project since the 1990s

The “300 March Against Rape” article from the Diamondback reports on UMD’s first Take Back the Night march, which the campus Women’s Center organized in November, 1979. In 1980, the Student Government Association bought and began distributing rape whistles, along with “rape-prevention literature,” in response to the rapes of two women during the Fall 1979 semester. It was suggested that those taking the whistles make a 50 cent donation. Several campus advocates, including a member of the Women’s Center, criticized the effort and suggested that the money could have been spent more strategically to raise awareness about rape prevention, as opposed to risk reduction strategies, like rape whistles, which put responsibility on individuals to prevent sexual assault from happening to them, inadvertently supporting victim-blaming ideology. Since the 1980’s a conscious effort by activists has shifted sexual assault prevention away from putting responsibility on people to prevent assault from happening to them, and now focuses on consent and bystander intervention education.

Article 300 march against rape from the Diamondback
The Diamondback. (November 9, 1979). Special Collections and University Archives. University of Maryland Libraries.
Image of student Sharon Cohen with a box of rape whistles
Student Sharon Cohen shows box of rape whistles at McKeldin Library, 1980.

During the 1990s and 2000s, the dialog on campus turned toward addressing the multiplicity of survivors’ experiences. The Black Explosion article from 2000, reporting on their most recent Take Back the Night, highlights an understanding that the experiences of individuals who have been sexually assaulted and the activists involved are not monolithic.

Community Takes Back the Night headline in Black Explosion from 2000
Black Explosion. (April 27, 2000). Special Collections and University Archives. University of Maryland Libraries.

Due to the continued efforts of student activists, the university created several offices to address power-based violence. In 2002, UMD created The Office of the Victim Advocate, its first office on campus office dedicated to responding to power-based violence. Since then, evolutions in office structure, including the development of a peer program, the creation of a Victim Assistance Fund, a growing staff, and the merging of offices focused on Advocacy and Prevention, has culminated in the Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence office. CARE provides free, confidential advocacy and therapy services to primary and secondary survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, while simultaneously empowering the campus community to prevent power-based violence through educational presentations, events, and outreach activities. Most recently in 2017, continued student advocacy and cultural and political attention resulted in the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, a multi-disciplinary committee of students, faculty, and staff dedicated to coordinating sexual assault prevention efforts on campus.

CARE to Stop Violence service desk

There have been significant changes in how students and administration understand and respond to sexual assault over the past 40 years. When this dialog began, prevention often focused on risk-reduction strategies, like improved lighting and rape whistles. These initiatives place responsibility on individuals to protect themselves, rather than trying to prevent assault in the first place. Today, CARE focuses on providing support services for survivors and educating the campus community on consent and bystander intervention. Focus is also moving toward including the multiple identities and experiences of survivors, rather than framing sexual assault as a women’s issue, which has excluded and silenced many survivors over the years.

Currently, in what is considered the fourth peak of sexual violence activism, the cultural reckoning with the immensity of sexual violence has been overwhelming. As students continue to experience sexual assault at UMD, many survivors choose not to report because of the fears of reliving or extending their trauma. However, changing policy and increased education around sexual assault are bringing more people into the conversation and many members of our campus community continue to dedicate themselves to shifting the culture.

by Clare Kuntz Balcer and Charlotte Sheffield

If you would like to speak to an advocate or want to know more about CARE’s advocacy and therapy services, visit the CARE office in the Health Center Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm (no appointment necessary) or call or text the 24/7 CARE Crisis Cell at (301) 741-3442.

UMD’s Untold History

Have you ever heard of the College of Special and Continual Studies, or CSCS? Chances are, you haven’t. But it has a fascinating history. It was a significant part of the University of Maryland, beginning with its founding in 1947. Originally, CSCS was created to “coordinate the expanding off-campus” courses offered to officers at the Pentagon.

In 1949, CSCS became the first university to send faculty members, dubbed “the Original Seven,” overseas to Europe in order to provide education for the United States’ active-duty military personnel amidst the rubble of war-torn Germany, following World War II.

UMUC Van with hand lettering on the side - "University of Maryland Wants You, Army Education Center"In the 1950s, CSCS expanded its offerings, including providing more locations stateside, as well as opening the Atlantic Division and the Asia Division, where faculty taught soldiers in Japan and South Korea.

At the request of its Dean, Ray Ehrensberger, in 1959 the College of Special and Continual Studies was renamed University College (can you see where this is going yet?).

Fun fact: University College is a term borrowed from British usage; it describes an institution that offers courses to all students, regardless of gender, social class, or religion.

Now for the really exciting stuff: in 1963 “the first classes are held in Saigon as the university extends into a war zone in Vietnam. By the 1969-1970 academic year, enrollments in Vietnam reach 11,000….[and] every new professor has to agree to teach in Vietnam.” Can you imagine getting a new job and being told that your first position would be in a war zone? There was even a professor still in Saigon when it fell on April 30, 1975!

Photo of the Center of Adult Education on the UMUC campusFinally, in 1970, University College was, once again, renamed, becoming the University of Maryland University College, an independent and accredited institution, separate from the University of Maryland at College Park. That’s right, UMUC was originally part of the University of Maryland! In fact, the Center for Adult Education was built in October of 1964 to be used as the UMUC headquarters in College Park.

You can explore a more detailed history of the University of Maryland University College here: https://www.umuc.edu/about/mission-and-history/timeline.cfm

And for something even more interesting, you can watch our fascinating documentary “Over There: The Adventures of Maryland’s Traveling Faculty”: https://video.mpt.tv/video/over-there-the-adventures-of-marylands-traveling-faculty-qwxacw/

Map entitled "University of Maryland, University College, Global Campus, 1949-1964" indicating locations of overseas programs

All images are from the UMUC Archives


Post by Meaghan Wilson
Assistant Archivist, University Archives, University of Maryland University College

The Illustrated Wartime Correspondence of Hendrik Willem van Loon

One of my favorite duties as a graduate assistant is working the reference desk in the Maryland Room. Having only been a part of Special Collections and University Archives for less than a year, there are still a number of collections I haven’t seen, and helping others with their research is one way that I get to learn more about our holdings. Recently, a researcher introduced me to the illustrated letters of Hendrik Willem van Loon in the Helen Sioussat papers. I was delighted by the brightly colored, whimsical illustrations van Loon drew on the envelopes he sent Sioussat, and seeing them inspired me to learn more about the two friends, both of whom were compelling historical figures I knew little about.

Illustration of a whale on an envelope by Hendrik Willem van Loon, sent via airmail to Helen Sioussat in Nassau, Bahamas

Envelope from a letter from Hendrik Willem van Loon to Helen Sioussat, February 24, 1941

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Processing the Papers of a Maryland Environmentalist, Merilyn B. Reeves

In June 2016, Merilyn B. Reeves donated a collection of personal papers and publications to the University of Maryland’s Special Collections.  Reeves was a prominent member of the environmental movement in Maryland through her involvement in the League of Women Voters. She was Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland and a member of the national board, where she was in charge of the Natural Resources Portfolio. Additionally, she was President of the American? Lung Association of Maryland and on the national-level board of the American Lung Association.  She tackled environmental issues such as the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River and the defense of the Clean Air and Safe Water Acts before Congress, where she testified on several occasions. More locally, Reeves was a member of the West Laurel Civic Association and she acted as a tour guide for the Piscataway Wastewater Treatment and Patuxent River Water Filtration plants.

Reeves photo

Merilyn B. Reeves asking a question to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at the League of Women Voters National Convention, May 1978

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Fifty Years Ago: Cynthia Rosenwald and the Newspapers’ Image of a Female Speechwriter

 Twenty years before Peggy Noonan and Mary Kate Cary – speechwriters for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, respectively – there was Cynthia Rosenwald. From 1966 to 1970, she formed a speechwriting partnership with Spiro T. Agnew, whose papers are housed within the Maryland and Historical Collections unit in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland libraries. Contained with the Agnew papers are manuscript speeches – some never delivered – which help illuminate the work of Rosenwald. She served as Agnew’s main speechwriter, throughout his years as Maryland’s Governor (1967-1968) and during the first year in which he served as Vice President (1969-1973). Continue reading

African-Americans in the Early Labor Movement

DYK that labor unions did not allow African-Americans to become members back in the day? Being a member of a union was important to be able to bargain for workers’ rights and fight against the discrimination that black workers faced. Many skilled black workers sought to join unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) between 1881 and 1915. But, white craft union members, who were primarily affiliated with the AFL, were afraid of the competition and didn’t allow African Americans to join. On the other hand, industrial unions were more accepting of black workers.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) union members pose with locomotive firemen, ca. 1940. AFL-CIO Photographic Print Collection (RG96-001)

Who were early allies?

The Knights of Labor, the AFL until 1915, the United Mine Workers of America, the International Longshoreman’s Union, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Some black workers allowed to join:

The Teamsters, the Cigar Makers, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, the Carpenters, and the Printers.

Very few black workers allowed to join:

The Pressmen, the Lithographers, the Photo-Engravers, the Iron Steel and Tin Workers, the Molders, the Pattern Makers, the Glass Workers, the Boot and Shoe Workers, and the Wood Workers

For more information about the relationship of the civil rights movement and the labor movement, visit our exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” in person or online or email us at askhornbake@umd.edu.


Jen Eidson is a Special Collections Processing Archivist in the University of Maryland Libraries.