Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-544b6db54f-vq995 Total loading time: 0.259 Render date: 2021-10-24T23:22:50.096Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Religion and Trade Union Politics in the United States, 1880–1920

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2008

Ken Fones-Wolf
Affiliation:
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Extract

More than three decades have passed since Marc Karson analyzed the Catholic church's critical role in impeding the growth of socialism in the American labor movement. He was not the first to make the argument; Progressive Era socialists were acutely aware of Catholics' outspoken opposition, and David Saposs outlined Karson's arguments as early as 1933. However, the evidence marshaled by Karson, first in a 1951 article and later in American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900–1918, so clearly detailed facets of Catholic antisocialism that his thesis has become the conventional wisdom. With few exceptions, historians depict the church as a potent enemy of socialism, heartily welcomed by trade union leaders.

Type
Religion and the Working Class
Copyright
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 1988

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1. Karson, Marc, “The Catholic Church and the Political Development of American Trade Unionism,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 4 (1951): 527–42Google Scholar; Karson, , American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900–1918 (1958; rep. ed., Boston, 1965)Google Scholar; Saposs, David J., “The Catholic Church and the Labor Movement,” Modern Monthly (05 1933): 225–30; (06 1933): 294–98.Google Scholar

2. Browne, Henry J., “Comment,” in Failure of a Dream?, ed. Laslett, John H. M. and Lipset, Seymour Martin, rev. ed. (Berkeley, 1984), 103–12.Google Scholar See also Schatz, Ronald W., “American Labor and the Catholic Church, 1919–1950,” International Labor and Working-Class History 20 (Fall 1981): 4647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3. Bender, Thomas, “Wholes and Parts: The Need for Synthesis in American History,” Journal of American History 73 (06 1986): 120–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4. For a recent informative discussion of AFL voluntarism, see Fink, Leon, “Labor, Liberty, and the Law: Trade Unionism and the Problem of Collective Action within the American Constitutional Order” (Paper delivered at the Constitutionalism and Rights Consciousness in American History Conference, Amherst, Massachusetts, 8 11 1986).Google Scholar

5. Karson, , American Labor Unions, chap. 7.Google Scholar

6. Ibid., 242–84; Fox, Mary Harrita, “Peter E. Dietz: Pioneer in the Catholic Social Action Movement” (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1950).Google Scholar

7. Mulcaire, Michael, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Washington, D.C., 1923), 920Google Scholar; Robinson, Donald B., Spotlight on a Union (New York, 1948), 9598Google Scholar; Montgomery, David, Workers' Control in America (New York, 1979), 73.Google Scholar

8. Laslett, John H. M., Labor and the Left (New York, 1970), chaps. 1–2Google Scholar; Brody, David, The Butcher Workmen (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), 5973, 106–20Google Scholar; Graham, Harry, The Paper Rebellion: Development and Upheaval in Pulp and Paper Unionism (Iowa City, 1970), 46Google Scholar; Brooks, Robert R. R., As Steel Goes: Unionism in a Basic Industry (New Haven, 1940), chap. 2.Google Scholar

9. Trades' Union News (Philadelphia), 21 12 1908Google Scholar; Smith, Fred B. to Mitchell, John, 25 01 1912Google Scholar; Stelzle, Charles to Mitchell, , 15 01 1912, in Mitchell Papers, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar

10. Brophy, John, A Miner's Life (Madison, 1964), 100Google Scholar; Tobin, Daniel, in Labor Speaks for Itself on Religion, ed. Davis, Jerome (New York, 1929), 6265.Google Scholar

11. Taft, Philip, The A.F. of L. in the Time of Gompers (New York, 1957), 336Google Scholar; Karson, , American Labor Unions, 253–55Google Scholar; Piehl, Mel, Breaking Bread: The Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic Radicalism in America (Philadelphia, 1982), 2555Google Scholar; Betten, Neil, Catholic Activism and the Industrial Worker (Gainesville, Fla., 1976), 116Google Scholar; Schatz, , “American Labor and the Catholic Church,” 4653.Google Scholar

12. Nash, George H., “Charles Stelzle: Apostle to Labor,” Labor History 11 (Spring 1970): 151–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13. “Minutes,” Urban Archives Center, Temple University, Philadelphia (courtesy of the Philadelphia Council, AFL-CIO). Microfilm.

14. Hartford, William Francis, “Paper City: Class Development in Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1850–1920” (Ph.D. diss., University of Massachusetts, 1983)Google Scholar; Silvia, Philip T. Jr., “The Spindle City: Labor, Politics, and Religion in Fall River, Massachusetts, 1870–1905” (Ph.D. diss., Fordham University, 1973)Google Scholar; Bedford, Henry F., Socialism and the Workers in Massachusetts, 1886–1912 (Amherst, 1969), 185–96Google Scholar; Montgomery, , Workers' Control, 7679.Google Scholar

15. For an example of the former, see Oestreicher, Richard J., Solidarity and Fragmentation: Working People and Class Consciousness in Detroit, 1875–1900 (Urbana, 1986), 3960Google Scholar; for the latter, see, among others, Walkowitz, Daniel J., Worker City, Company Town (Urbana, 1978), chap. 4.Google Scholar

16. Seaton, Douglas P., Catholics and Radicals (Lewisburg, Pa., 1981)Google Scholar; Schatz, Ronald W., The Electrical Workers (Urbana, 1983), chap. 8Google Scholar; Schatz, , “Connecticut's Working Class in the 1950s: A Catholic Perspective,” Labor History 25 (Winter 1984): 83101.Google Scholar

17. Gutman, Herbert G., Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America (New York, 1976), chap. 2Google Scholar; Epstein, Barbara Leslie, The Politics of Domesticity (Middletown, Conn., 1981), 137–17Google Scholar; Buhle, Mari Jo, Women and American Socialism, 1870–1920 (Urbana, 1983), chap. 2Google Scholar; Salvatore, Nick, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (Urbana, 1982)Google Scholar; Green, James R., Grass-Roots Socialism (Baton Rouge, 1978), chap. 4Google Scholar; Winters, Donald E. Jr., The Soul of the Wobblies: The I.W.W, Religion, and American Culture in the Progressive Era (Westport, Conn., 1985).Google Scholar

18. Jones, Gareth Stedman, Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832–1982 (London, 1983), chap. 3.Google Scholar

19. Gutman, , Work, Culture, and Society, 113–14Google Scholar; Carter, Paul A., The Spiritual Crisis of the Gilded Age (De Kalb, Ill., 1971), 138–45.Google Scholar

20. Foner, Eric, “Class, Ethnicity, and Radicalism in the Gilded Age: The Land League and Irish-America,” Marxist Perspectives 1 (Summer 1978): 655.Google Scholar Some of the recent work on the Knights includes Fink, Leon, Workingmen's Democracy (Urbana, 1983)Google Scholar; Kealey, Gregory S. and Palmer, Bryan D., Dreaming of What Might Be (New York, 1982)Google Scholar; and Oestreicher, , Solidarity and Fragmentation.Google Scholar

21. Neasham, to Powderly, , 5 01 1888Google Scholar; Church, to Powderly, , 9 01 1888Google Scholar; Costello, to Powderly, , 8 01 1888Google Scholar; all in Terence V. Powderly Papers, reel 24, microfilm edition. See also Cumbler, John, A Moral Response to Industrialism: The Lectures of Reverend Cook in Lynn, Massachusetts (Albany, 1982).Google Scholar

22. See, for instance, the debates in The Tocsin (Philadelphia) in 18861887Google Scholar, and Nelson, Bruce C., “‘We Can't Get Them to Do Aggressive Work’: Chicago's Anarchists and the Eight-Hour Movement,” International Labor and Working-Class History 29 (Spring 1986): 1112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar For perceptive suggestions about the use of the Gramscian concept of hegemony, see Lears, T. J. Jackson, “The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities,” American Historical Review 90 (06 1985): 567–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

23. Gutman, , Work, Culture, and Society, 108Google Scholar; Van Tine, Warren, The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat (Amherst, 1973), chap. 2.Google Scholar

24. For examples, see Oestreicher, , Solidarity and FragmentationGoogle Scholar; Kealey, and Palmer, , Dreaming of What Might BeGoogle Scholar; Ross, Steven J., Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788–1890 (New York, 1985).Google Scholar

25. Illustrated History of the Syracuse Central Trades and Labor Assembly (Syracuse, 1896), 215–83Google Scholar; Illustrated History of the Rochester Trades Assembly and Building Trades Council (Syracuse, 1897), 155215Google Scholar; Ward, David, Cities and Immigrants (New York, 1971), 5759.Google Scholar I do not wish to downplay the resurgence of nativism that helped cement Irish-Protestant cooperation at the expense of new immigrant groups, but nativistic tendencies also existed in the Knights; see Mink, Gwendolyn, Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development (Ithaca, 1986), chap. 3.Google Scholar

26. Powderly, Terence V., Thirty Years of Labor (New York, 1889)Google Scholar; Epstein, , Politics of Domesticity, 137–47.Google Scholar

27. Dulles, Foster Rhea and Dubofsky, Melvyn, Labor in America: A History, 4th ed. (Arlington Heights, Ill., 1984), 184–90.Google Scholar

28. Green, James R., The World of the Worker (New York, 1980), chap. 2Google Scholar; Brody, David, Workers in Industrial America (New York, 1980), 2132Google Scholar; Tomlins, Christopher L., “AFL Unions in the 1930s: Their Performance in Historical Perspective,” Journal of American History 65 (1979): 1021–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fones-Wolf, Kenneth, “Trade-Union Gospel: Protestantism and Labor in Philadelphia, 1865–1915” (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1985), chap. 8.Google Scholar

29. Phillips, Harlan B., “A War on Philadelphia's Slums: Walter Vrooman and the Conference of Moral Workers, 1893,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 70 (1952): 4762.Google Scholar

30. Crafts, Wilbur F., Practical Christian Sociology (New York, 1895), 119–29Google Scholar; Willey, Freeman Otis, The Laborer and the Capitalist (New York, 1896).Google Scholar

31. May, Henry F., Protestant Churches and Industrial America (New York, 1963)Google Scholar; Handy, Robert T., A Christian America: Protestant Hopes and Historical Realities (New York, 1984), chap. 6Google Scholar; Jacklin, Thomas M., “The Civic Awakening: Social Christianity and the Useable Past,” Mid-America 64 (1981): 319Google Scholar; McCormick, Richard L., “The Discovery that Business Corrupts Politics: A Reappraisal of the Origins of Progressivism,” American Historical Review 86 (04 1981): 247–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bocock, Kemper, “The Social Question and the Christian Answer,” Sewanee Review 10 (10 1902): 454–57.Google Scholar

32. Towne, Benjamin B., “Terre Haute's Labor Parliament,” Survey, 19 04 1913, 113–14Google Scholar; Richard, Livy S., “A People's Sunday Evening,” Survey, 24 07 1909, 579–82Google Scholar; “Church and Labor,” Survey, 5 12 1908, 405–6Google Scholar; Five Years of Summer Services: Third Annual Report of the Second Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia, 1906), pamphlet in the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.Google Scholar

33. Bittar, Helen, “The Y.W.C. A. of the City of New York” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1979)Google Scholar; Fones-Wolf, , “Trade-Union Gospel,” chap. 7.Google Scholar For a different view of the Ys, see Korman, Gerd, Industrialization, Immigrants, and Americanizers (Madison, 1967), 141–48.Google Scholar

34. Davis, Allen F, Spearheads for Reform (New York, 1967)Google Scholar; Crunden, Robert M., Ministers of Reform (Urbana, 1982)Google Scholar; Boyer, Paul, Urban Masses and Moral Order, 1820–1920 (Cambridge, 1978)Google Scholar; Davis, Lawrence B., Immigrants, Baptists, and the Protestant Mind in America (Urbana, 1973).Google Scholar For a critique of the alleged success of these efforts, see Couvares, Francis G., The Remaking of Pittsburgh (Albany, 1984), chap. 7Google Scholar; Rosenzweig, Roy, Eight Hours for What We Will (New York, 1983).Google Scholar

35. Nash, , “Stelzle,” 151–74Google Scholar; St. George's Church, A Record of the Pastorate of Rev. A. J. Arkin, unpaged, undated pamphlet in the Urban Archives Center, Philadelphia; Corbin, David A., Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields (Urbana, 1981), chap. 6Google Scholar; Philadelphia Central Labor Union, “Minutes,” 25 04 1909.Google Scholar

36. Kessler-Harris, Alice, Out to Work (New York, 1982), chap. 7Google Scholar; Phelan, Craig, “William Green and the Ideal of Christian Cooperation,” in Labor Leaders in America, ed. Dubofsky, Melvyn and Van Tine, Warren (Urbana, 1986), 141–43Google Scholar; Zieren, Gregory, “The Labor Boycott and Class Consciousness in Toledo, Ohio,” in Life and Labor, ed. Stephenson, Charles and Asher, Robert (Albany, 1986), 148–51Google Scholar; Oestreicher, , Solidarity and Fragmentation, 233–37Google Scholar; Dubofsky, Melvyn, “Abortive Reform: The Wilson Administration and Organized Labor, 1913–1920,” in Work, Community, and Power: The Experience of Labor in Europe and America, 1900–1925, ed. Cronin, James E. and Sirianni, Carmen (Philadelphia, 1983), 197220.Google Scholar

37. Trades' Union News (Philadelphia), 21 12 1908.Google Scholar

38. AFL, Proceedings, 1908, 125Google Scholar; Trades' Union News, 3 09 1908, 17 09 1908, 17 12 1908, 21 01 1909, 11 02 1909Google Scholar; The Lighthouse (Philadelphia), Tenth Annual Report (1905), 1920Google Scholar, pamphlet in Urban Archives Center, Philadelphia.

39. AFL, Proceedings, 1911, 183.Google Scholar Similar tensions between social-justice and social-control thrusts of Progressivism are discussed in Boyer, , Urban Masses, 175–87.Google Scholar

40. Social Service Committee, “Minutes,” 6 12 1911Google Scholar, in National Council of Churches, Records, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia. The Men and Religion Forward Movement's impact on labor is discussed in Lefever, Harry G., “The Involvement of the Men and Religion Forward Movement in the Cause of Labor Justice, Atlanta, Georgia, 1912–1916,” Labor History 14 (1973): 521–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Elizabeth, and Fones-Wolf, Kenneth, “Trade-Union Evangelism: Religion and the AFL in the Labor Forward Movement, 1912–1916,” in Working-Class America, ed. Frisch, Michael and Walkowitz, Daniel (Urbana, 1983), 155–57.Google Scholar

41. See, for example, Mitchell, John, The Wage Earner (Washington, DC., 1913), chap. 9.Google Scholar Mitchell, for one, thought that “the recognition given recently by such bodies [church councils] to trade unionism forms a noteworthy sign of the times” (167).

42. Bonnet, Clarence E., Employers' Associations in the United States (New York, 1922)Google Scholar; Brody, , Workers in Industrial America, 2132Google Scholar; Green, , World of the Worker, 6165Google Scholar; Fones-Wolf, , “Trade-Union Gospel,” chap. 8.Google Scholar

43. Tomlins, Christopher, The State and the Unions (New York, 1985), chap. 3.Google Scholar

44. Weinstein, James, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925 (New York, 1969), 2953Google Scholar; Montgomery, , Workers' Control, chap. 3.Google Scholar

45. Maurer, James H., It Can Be Done (New York, 1938), 166–67Google Scholar; Electrical Worker, 04 1911, 160–61Google Scholar; AFL, Proceedings, 1909, 7682.Google Scholar

46. On the radical challenge generally, see Montgomery, , Workers' Control, 6774Google Scholar; Brody, , Workers in Industrial America, 3239.Google Scholar Material on local situations can be gleaned from Perry, Louis B. and Perry, Robert S., A History of the Los Angeles Labor Movement, 1911–1941 (Berkeley, 1963)Google Scholar; Fink, Gary, Labor's Search for Political Order (Columbia, Mo., 1973)Google Scholar; Maurer, , It Can Be DoneGoogle Scholar; Smolen, Joseph S., Organized Labor in Minnesota (Minneapolis, n.d.).Google Scholar

47. Lefever, , “Involvement”Google Scholar; Potter, Zenas L., Industrial Conditions in Topeka (New York, 1914)Google Scholar; Hopkins, Charles Howard, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865–1915 (New Haven, 1940), 296–98Google Scholar; Taylor, Graham, “Organized Industry and Organized Religion,” Survey, 6 07 1912, 543.Google Scholar Of course, socialists understood that Men and Religion Forward was anathema to their political goals; see Coleman, William Macon, The Snare of the ‘Men and Religion Forward Movement’ (Washington, D.C., 1912).Google Scholar

48. See Dolan, Jay R, Catholic Revivalism: The American Catholic Experience, 1830–1900 (Notre Dame, 1978)Google Scholar, and Smith, Timothy L., “Lay Initiative in the Religious Life of American Immigrants, 1880–1950,” in Anonymous Americans: Explorations in Nineteenth-Century Social History, ed. Hareven, Tamara (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971), 214–43Google Scholar; McDannell, Colleen, The Christian Home in Victorian America (Bloomington, Ind., 1986)Google Scholar; Zunz, Oliver, “The Synthesis of Social Change: Reflections on American Social History,” in Reliving the Past: The Worlds of Social History, ed. Zunz, Olivier (Chapel Hill, 1985), 8299.Google Scholar

49. The Syndicalist, 1 05 1913.Google Scholar See also Robert, S. and Lynd, Helen M., Middletown (New York, 1956), 323–29Google Scholar; Pope, Liston, Labor's Relation to Church and Community (New York, 1947)Google Scholar; Davis, , ed., Labor Speaks for Itself, Pope, Liston, Millhands and Preachers (New Haven, 1942)Google Scholar; Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), 9498.Google Scholar

50. Gompers, Samuel, “Labor Forward Movement,” American Federationist 19(10 1912), 828–31.Google Scholar

51. Brady, Peter J. to Mitchell, John, 2 04 1912, 6 04 1912Google Scholar in John Mitchell Papers, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; Industrial Weekly (Syracuse), 3 01 1913Google Scholar; Iron City Trades' Journal (Pittsburgh), 18 04 1913, 25 04 1913.Google Scholar

52. Minnesota Labor Review (Minneapolis), 12 04 1912, 26 04 1912Google Scholar; Chrislock, Carl H., The Progressive Era in Minnesota, 1899–1918 (St. Paul, 1971), 113–18Google Scholar; Smolen, , Organized Labor, 1115.Google Scholar

53. Perry, and Perry, , History of Los Angeles Labor, 114–15Google Scholar; Brody, , Steelworkers in America (New York, 1969), 146–49.Google Scholar

54. Machinists' Monthly Journal, 02 1913, 167, 03 1913, 286Google Scholar; Fones-Wolf, Kenneth, “Revivalism and Craft Unionism: The Syracuse and Auburn Labor Forward Movements of 1913,” New York History 63 (10 1982): 389416.Google Scholar

55. Foner, Philip S., History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Vol. 5: The AFL in the Progressive Era, 1910–1915 (New York, 1980), chap. 6Google Scholar; Seraile, William, “Ben Fletcher, I. W.W. Organizer,” Pennsylvania History 46 (1979): 213–32Google Scholar; Garment Worker, 5 12 1913Google Scholar; Trades' Union News, 16 03 1911Google Scholar; Fones-Wolf, , “Trade-Union Gospel,” chap. 8.Google Scholar

56. Fones-Wolf, , “Trade-Union Gospel,” chap. 8.Google Scholar

57. Reed, John, “Back of Billy Sunday,” Metropolitan Magazine (04 1915): 912, 6672Google Scholar; Disbrow, Donald “The Progressive Movement in Philadelphia, 1910–1916” (Ph.D. diss., University of Rochester, 1956), 207–14Google Scholar; Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York, 1980)Google Scholar; Higham, John, Strangers in the Land (New York, 1963), 194233Google Scholar; Murray, Robert K., Red Scare: A Study of National Hysteria, 1919–1920 (New York, 1964).Google Scholar

58. For this trend in Pennsylvania, see Zieger, Robert, Republicans and Labor, 1919–1929 (Lexington, Ky., 1969), chaps. 7 and 8Google Scholar; Maurer, , It Can Be DoneGoogle Scholar; Fones-Wolf, , “Trade-Union Gospel,” 321–23.Google Scholar

59. A fuller overview would speak much more to religion among women, blacks, and southerners and, perhaps less, to the labor institutions of the working class.

60. If one were to divide cities along the lines of figure 2–6 of David Ward's Cities and Immigrants (77), one would have a fairly close approximation of successful and unsuccessful Labor Forward campaigns.

61. Hobsbawm, Eric, Workers: Worlds of Labor (New York, 1984), 33, 48.Google Scholar

62. Philadelphia Central Labor Union, “Minutes,” 9 11 1913.Google Scholar

63. Phelan, , “William Green,” 143–44.Google Scholar The inadequacies of liberalism, with its emphasis on public and private spheres, to address the potential for domination in a “private” economy is argued forcefully in Bowles, Samuel and Gintis, Herbert, Democracy and Capitalism (New York, 1986), 1418.Google Scholar

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Religion and Trade Union Politics in the United States, 1880–1920
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Religion and Trade Union Politics in the United States, 1880–1920
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Religion and Trade Union Politics in the United States, 1880–1920
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *