Some early softcover copies of Cracked Reflections were sent out without the acknowledgments, and with an outdated version of the Author’s Note which, among other shortcomings, misstates the name of the Lawrence History Center. The Lawrence Historical Society is a different organization. Read on for the full Author’s Note and acknowledgments. For links to more information on the Bread and Roses strike, click here.
The Strike for Three Loaves in Lawrence—now better known as the Bread and Roses Strike—really did happen when and how I’ve described it. So did the God and Country campaign which tried to retroactively paint the strike as a reign of terror. All excerpts from actual newspapers covering that strike, as well as from the Lawrence Citizens Association pamphlet, are accurately quoted, not invented. The references to terrorism and class war, contemporary as they may sound, come from primary sources from that time. (While both “terror” and “terrorism” were mentioned often, I didn’t see “terrorist” in the original documents, though I have used it in dialogue in this book.)
Much of what I know about the Lawrence strike comes from Bruce Watson’s detailed, thoughtful, and very readable book Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream. The website of the Lawrence History Center, https://www.lawrencehistorycenter.org/, offers concise historical summaries, primary source links, and vivid images. Camella Teoli’s testimony to Congress can be read online on the History Matters website for students and instructors at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/61/
Strikes broke out in textile towns all along the eastern seaboard, as well as in Lawrence, in 1911-1912. That much is true. But the town of Guerdon is a figment of my imagination, as are all the specifics of its strike and all its people, including Kass Leonhart and her family. In writing Kass I have drawn on my own experiences of irrational anxiety, and also of the uneasy combination of an active imagination, an active conscience, and a struggle for justice which involves decent, brave, beloved people on both sides.
The Guerdon Times, the Guerdon Tribune, and the Kurier von Guerdon, as well as Rassvet and Stella Mattutina, are imaginary, as are all their articles—with the exception of the reprinted piece from the trade journal Fibre and Fabric which is quoted in chapter 2. But the working conditions, living conditions, wages and cost of living in Guerdon, as well as its immigrant communities and the mixed reception they received, are based on historical information. So is the ambiguous nature of the victory of labor there. The epilogue of Watson’s Bread and Roses quotes a worker named Antonietta Capriola remembering the strike decades later: “It was a victory, sure, but what did we really get? So much misery, so much… so much hope. My brother he still die the next year. We are still hungry.”
And more than a century later there is still much misery, much hope and much conflict; people working hard and not earning enough to live on; children growing up in conditions that make them sick. We are still arguing about the benefits and dangers of protest, about how much we trust the police, about how much we trust immigrants, about what it means to be Christian and American. Perhaps it may help to remember that these questions are not new, to look back at how they played out in an earlier time when our own neighbors and family members, our own fears and shames and hopes and loves, were not directly involved. I hope it may be so.
I wrote this book in 2015, before the anti-immigrant fervor of the Trump presidency. I wrote the note above in 2019, before the massive protests for racial justice of the summer of 2020 and the white/Christian nationalist violence of early 2021.
I am still wondering, still fearing, still ashamed, still loving, and still hoping: hoping, among other things, that stories which acknowledge both the struggle for justice and the humanity of people on all sides may help a little.
–Joanna Michal Hoyt, Orwell, NY, January 2021
Many thanks to:
Lorraine Hoyt, who taught me to love language and enabled my first clumsy attempts at storytelling. She also read the unwieldy behemoth that was the first draft of this book and suggested that, while solid background research was a very good thing for a historical novel, shoehorning every interesting discovery made in the course of that research into the novel was not. As usual, she was right.
April Weeks, who gave thorough, unsparing and helpful feedback on a later draft, and who printed up a bound copy when I doubted that this story would ever actually be published in book form.
Zachary Hoyt, Russell Adams, Darlene Ivy, Frank Labarre, and Sonja Birthisel, who read drafts and offered helpful suggestions on matters ranging from concision and punctuation to family dynamics and Lutheran thought.
Susannah Sheffer, Elye Alexander, and Stephanie Tolan, patient and inspiring writing mentors who helped me understand language and story better, and Benjamin Gorman, who took time to walk me through book contracts.
The librarians, at the Windham library and elsewhere, who helped me find a wide variety of stories and histories from different perspectives during my homeschooling.
The team at Propertius Press, who took a chance on my odd earnest story whose likely audience I was unable to precisely define.
Amita Kiley and Kathy Flynn of the Lawrence History Center, who answered questions and sent me maps so that I understood the location and the changing nature of Lawrence’s various ethnic neighborhoods.
The guides at the Lowell National Historical Park who showed visitors through the mills and canals, told us stories, and sang us songs about the daily life of the mill girls and about the labor struggle. I was ten years old and I have forgotten their names but I vividly remember the stories and the questions they raised in my mind.
The friends, neighbors, guests, speakers, and writers whose stories have helped me to imagine what it might be like to be an immigrant in this country whose attitudes toward immigration are still so contradictory and complex.
I’m grateful to and for you all.