Industrial growth led to the formation of labor unions as workers struggled to change the long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions of the factories. Business owners refused to accept the unions, and from 1881 to 1900 there were more than 1,800 strikes. State legislation forced management to make some reforms, but labor unrest increased in the early 20th century. In 1912 textile workers in Lawrence went on strike when mill owners lowered wages and increased the speed of looms in the factories. The strike, organized by the radical Industrial Workers of the World union, involved 23,000 workers, including many women and children. When some of them were assaulted by state troops and police sent in to keep order, the public was outraged, and mill owners gave in, giving wage increases to thousands of New England workers.
Massachusetts played an important role in World War I (1914-1918). Its 26th, or Yankee, Division fought in major battles in Europe. The Boston and Quincy shipyards worked at full capacity, and state industries manufactured a wide variety of war supplies. The economic boom produced by the war continued into the 1920s, although wages for many workers remained low and strikes were still common. However, the mill cities suffered as the textile industry began to relocate to the South.
In 1919 the Boston police force went on strike for higher wages and the right to form a union. Governor Calvin Coolidge gained national fame when he suppressed the strike, calling out 5,000 militia to patrol the city and refusing to reinstate the strikers. The attention led to his nomination for vice president of the United States in 1920. Elected on a ticket with President Warren G. Harding, Coolidge became president when Harding died in 1923.
By 1920 the state’s population had grown to 3.8 million. Two-thirds of Massachusetts’s residents were foreign-born or the children of immigrant parents.
During the 1920s, international controversy resulted when two anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were tried and executed for murder in Massachusetts (see Sacco-Vanzetti Case). The two Italian immigrants were accused of killing two men during the robbery of a shoe factory. They were convicted on what many people regarded as inadequate evidence and contradictory testimony. Supporters of the two men argued they had been condemned because of political and ethnic prejudice. In 1977, 50 years after their execution, Governor Michael Dukakis signed a proclamation that in effect cleared Sacco and Vanzetti. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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