A recent Wisconsin law, AB 172, encourages the teaching of labor history and collective bargaining by adding it to the state social studies standards. This month's Surf Report is designed to help you find resources on the Web to engage your students in this study.
Quick Links: Wisconsin | U.S. l Child Labor l Arts and Music l Lesson Plans
Wisconsin Labor History
The Wisconsin Labor History Society supplies resources including a primer on Wisconsin labor history, milestones and a timeline, and Lessons in Labor History, a seven-chapter text and curriculum guide from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, with the cooperation of the Wisconsin Labor History Society.
The Birth of the Labor Movement from the Wisconsin Historical Society features an essay and a collection of primary source documents and images. The website also features a collection of historical images related to labor unions.
Wisconsin passed the nation's first worker's compensation law in 1911; view the law and other documents about Progressivism and the Wisconsin Idea at the Wisconsin Historical Society website.
The Bay View Tragedy was Wisconsin's most violent labor incident. The Wisconsin Labor History Society provides a history a history and links to newspaper reports from the 1886 event.
Madison Labor: Building a City, Building a Movement from the South Central Federation of Labor provides a four-chapter history of the labor movement in Wisconsin's capital city.
In Lowell Mill Girl, students pretend to be Eliza Paige, a farm girl who has just come to Lowell, a brand new industrial city on the Merrimack River in Northeastern Massachusetts, to work in the mills. A collection of letters from girls and boys who worked in the mills is also available on the Mill Life in Lowell site from the University of Massachusetts Center for Lowell History.
Child Labor: Photographs of Lewis Hine from The History Place features historical photographs with their original captions. Some of these photographs are also available from the Library of congress National Child Labor Committee Collection Photographs by Lewis Hine. Lewis Hine was from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Child Labor and Child Labor Reform in American History is part of the University of Ohio's eHistory Multimedia History series. Two first-person accounts (Mr. Coal's Story and The Story of My Cotton Dress) illustrated with historical photographs give students a personal view of the situation of child laborers in the early 1900's.
The Story of Child Labor in the Cotton Mills from the University of North Carolina School of Education includes a narrated slide show, first person audio narratives, and an educators' guide with lesson plans.
Child Labor Resources at the Catherwood Library and the Kheel Center is a resource for teachers and students that provides historical texts, photographs and information on child garment workers, farm workers and other workers, as well as guidelines for document analysis.
Children in Victorian Britain provides an illustrated view including information on children in coal mines, children at work and children in factories. The site is designed for elementary students.
The Child Labor Public Education Project from the University of Iowa's labor Center explores the problem of global child labor. Resources including handouts, slides, instructors’ guides, and a history of child labor in the U. S. are available online.
Child Labor and the Global Village is a collection of photographs with stories of child laborers from around the world, from photographer Julia Dean and the Tides Center.
In Our Own Backyard: The hidden problem of child farmworkers in America from the American Federation of Teachers highlights a current child labor issue. Resources include video clips, photographs, legal documents, migrant youth essays, timelines, reports, media articles, case studies and statistics.
Free The Children was founded by 12-year-old Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labor. The organization now facilitates action by children in North America to improve the lives of fellow children overseas.
Your Rights on the Job from the American Labor Studies Center is designed to help young workers understand their workplace rights, and could be useful for projects relating child labor history to students' own lives.
U.S. Labor History
Mill Life in Lowell from the University of Massachusetts Center for Lowell History provides primary sources including photographs, maps, letters from mill workers and other documents about the working conditions of mill workers and labor reform. Men at Work explores the lives of overseers in Lowell and the city’s textile mills.
Chicago Anarchists on Trial: Evidence from the Haymarket Affair is a collection from the Library of Congress that showcases more than 3,800 images of original manuscripts, broadsides, photographs, prints and artifacts relating to the Haymarket Affair. The violent confrontation between Chicago police and labor protesters in 1886 proved to be a pivotal setback in the struggle for American workers' rights.
Watch a re-enactment of the events at Haymarket and read short biographies of the eight anarchists from PBS at the Chicago: City of the Century site from American Experience.
Learn about the Triangle Factory Fire, an important event in the history of the labor movement, in this multimedia site from Cornell University. The site includes historical photographs and documents, audio files and tips for doing a research paper.
The Colorado Coal Field War Project offers a history of events in the coal field which were of national importance in changing the face of American industry, including its relationships to working men and women and its wider public image.
This summary of the Ludlow Massacre, which began with a miners' strike in Colorado, is from the American Experience website from PBS.
One of the first big sit down strikes, the Akron Rubber Strike of 1936 is described by the Ohio Historical Society.
Remembering the Flint Sit-Down Strike from Michigan State University and Wayne State University features narrated multimedia slide shows, a timeline featuring interviews with participants, and other information about this famous strike at the General Motors plant.
The Monroe County Labor History Museum provides information on the Newton Strike, a 1937 stell plant labor action.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: American Sweatshops online exhibition from the Smithsonian places the current debate on sweatshops in the garment industry in a historical context and explores the complex factors that contribute to their existence today.
The Kheel Center Labor Photos comprises photos gathered by labor unions, management organizations, arbitrators, and others that visually document the history of labor relations.
Labor-Management Conflict in American History from the University of Ohio includes historic documents and photographs on the United Garment Workers and Teamsters strike of 1905 in Chicago as well as the Homestead, Pennsylvania steel mill strike of 1892 strike and other labor-management conflicts. Additional labor history collections from the Multimedia History series include:
- The Strike at Homestead
- History of the American Steel Industry and its People
- Coal Mining in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era
The U.S. Department of Labor History @ DOL section includes The History of Labor Day, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and other resources.
Today in History: September 5 from the Library of Congress American Memory collection provides a brief history as well as links to primary source materials.
Labor History and Culture from the AFL-CIO includes a labor history timeline, biographies of men and women who helped shape America's labor movement, such as Cesar Chavez, Eugene Debs, Samuel Gompers, Martin Luther King and many others.
The United Mine Workers of America History page includes information about the role of the UMWA in U.S. labor history and the Ludlow and Lattimer Massacres, and Matewan, Mother Jones and other topics.
The United Farm Wokers union provides historical information, including a biography of founder Cesar Chavez.
The Industrial Workers of the World union website provides a library of current and historical documents including the information on the origin of the term "Wobbly," an IWW chronology, and biographies of IWW members such as Eugene Debs, Lucy Parsons and Judi Bari.
Learn about the role of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in the labor movement from the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site website.
The Teamsters: A Historic Legacy and The Real Story of the 20th Century come from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters website.
The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) presents the Interactive Labor Trail, an on-line map-based history resource including 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. This map could also be used as an example for student projects to map labor history events in their own region.
The Illinois Labor History Society provides a U.S. labor history curriculum, articles on labor history topics and individuals such as Mother Jones, Samuel Gompers and Fannie Sellins, and a map of Illinois Labor History Sites that includes information on events such as the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and the Pullman strike of 1894.
The American Labor Studies Center at the Kate Mullany National Historic Site is a clearinghouse for information, lesson plans and links on labor history.
Canadian Labour History is an online exhibit from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Music and the Arts in Labor History
Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways provides listening clips, songs for purchase, and liner notes for this collection of songs of the American labor movement over the 20th century that called for just wages, dignity, and a fair shake. Other labor history-related albums from Smithsonian Folkways include:
- Don't Mourn-Organize!: Songs of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill
- American Industrial Ballads of Pete Seeger
- Bound for Glory: Songs and Stories of Woody Guthrie
History in Song: The Labor Movement offers lyrics to folk songs that were an important part of the labor movement in the U.S. Sorry, this site does contain advertising and obnoxious pop-ups.
Using Songs to Teach Labor History from the American Labor Studies Center gives ideas for using labor songs to uncover the story of American working-class life, work, culture, ideology, and organizations.
The Woody Guthrie Educational Curriculum from the Woody Guthrie foundation includes a lesson on Unions for elementary students.
Labor Arts displays cultural artifacts of working people and their organizations. Included in the collection are buttons, cartoons, leaflets, songs and more.
Look for the Union Label: a Celebration of Union Logos and Emblems from San Francisco State University's Labor Archives and Research Center presents over 150 images and surveys union labels, their history, and related artifacts.
Cultivating Creativity: The Arts and the Farm Workers' Movement During the 1960's and '70's from San Francisco State University's Labor Archives and Research Center explores the artistic symbols that helped raise the profile of the United Farm Workers and launch a new style of Chicano art.
Documenting the Other Half: The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine provides slide shows and commentary on the efforts of these artists to document the effects of industrialization and urbanization on working-class Americans.
The University of California-Berkeley provides an annotated list of Labor Themes in the Movies and on TV .
People in Labor History
The Samuel Gompers Papers from the University of Maryland features a biography, timeline, and other research tools for the study of Gompers, the Knights of Labor, and other labor history topics.
No Greater Calling: The life of Walter P. Reuther provides a biography, image gallery and speeches from the collection of Wayne State University.
Learn about the organizer of first laundry union at the Kate Mullany National Historic Site website.
Emma Goldman was a Russian immigrant who championed women's equality, workers' rights, and free universal education. This site from PBS American Experience provides a map, timeline and biography.
The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle from PBS features a biography and timeline. The Library of Congress America's Library site also features a biography of Cesar Chavez for children.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Human Rights and Workers' Rights provides information about the first lady and her work on labor issues, from the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University.
Biographies of three labor reformers from the Smithsonian spotlights Frances Perkins, Samuel Gompers, Cesar Chavez.
The American Labor Studies Center provides a list of individuals important in labor history, with biographical information or links to biographies. This is a good starting point for students looking for individuals to research.
Strike 3 is a lesson plan for elementary students from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Students learn about Wisconsin labor history through charades, a baseball game and reading historic documents.
Students compare two memoirs about the demonstrations in Milwaukee in The Bay View Tragedy of 1886, a lesson plan for secondary students from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Introduce third- through fifth-graders to the labor movement in the U.S. with How Labor Got Its Day, a lesson plan from Thinkfinity's Econ EdLink. The lesson includes an illustrated text for young people from the Council on Economic Education.
Students explore these questions about The Industrial Age in America: Sweatshops, Steel Mills, and Factories in this lesson plan from EdSitement that focuses on the Haymarket Affair, the Homestead Strike, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: What were working conditions like during the Age of Industrialization? How did workers respond to these conditions? Where do we draw the line between acceptable business practices and unacceptable working conditions?
Integrate the study of labor history into middle school language arts with this lesson plan on Giving Voice to Child Laborers Through Monologues from ReadWriteThink.
Worker Safety: The Triangle Fire Legacy is a lesson plan for grades 6-12 from EconEdLink. Students identify eerie parallels between the Triangle Fire and more recent workplace events with safety implications, and assess the costs, benefits and effectiveness of various government and labor actions.
How did work affect the American child within a rapidly growing industrial society between 1880 and 1920? This is the question students must investigate in Who really built America?, a lesson from the Library of Congress Learning Page.
United We Stand asks students to examine the working conditions of U.S. laborers at the turn of the century and to develop their own answers to a question: "Was there a need for organized labor unions?" This lesson from the Library of Congress Learning Page includes links to photographs and document in the American Memory collection dealing with labor history.
The National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places has a section with lesson plans on Labor History.
Last updated 5/2010