Friday, January 08, 2010

Today -100: January 8, 1910: Of the limits of solidarity, cherry trees, and organized rowdies


Mrs. Belmont suggests to a meeting of women teachers called to consider how to help striking shirtwaist workers that all employed women in the NYC go on strike until the shirtwaist workers’ demands are met. Turns out that wasn’t quite what the teachers had in mind. Actually, many of the shirtwaist workers are themselves no longer on strike. Some of the employers have given in; the rest are still resisting the demand for closed shops.

The city of Tokyo gives 2,000 cherry trees to Mrs. Taft and the District of Columbia.

An editorial in the London Times on the disturbances at British election meetings claims that Tories are being shouted down “not by genuine ‘hecklers,’ but by organized rowdies”. Note the distinction: hostile questioning, or heckling (the quotation marks showing that the Scottish term was fairly new in England) of candidates was considered a legitimate part of the rough and tumble of campaigning, but not if it was organized or intended to prevent speech. The Times complains that Asquith was not repudiating such tactics. “If there is anything for which that party [the Liberals] is supposed to stand, it is the right of free speech, and especially free speech in elections. The howling down of speakers and breaking up of meetings is the suppression of free speech by force. ... Objections are a common and one might almost say regular feature of ordinary election meetings. ... Objectors who have nothing to say express their feelings by an occasional shout of dissent, those who have something to say ask questions; there may be a little cut-and-thrust but it is all orderly and in good part. No genuine audience spontaneously howls and whistles down a speaker or breaks up a meeting. The thing is got up and planned, if not paid for, by somebody”.

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