Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Labor Unions, Women's Suffrage and...The Cosmo

As we continue our week of highlighting social reforms...
(see yesterday's post if you have not already)

On this day in 1919, the Winnipeg General Strike begins in Winnipeg, Canada.  By 11:00 am, almost the entire town's working population had walked off the job.

Although many Canadian companies had windfall profits on World War I (1914-1919) contracts, the wages and working conditions for the workers did not improve at all while inflation fueled by war dollars had been on the rise . While Canada had two predonimant labour unions at the time, the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) and the American Federation of Labor (AFL), representation of unions in the western part of Canada measured only 45 of the 400 delegates in the 1918 TLC Convention. Also at that year's convention the more socialist president James Watters was replaced with a more conservative Tom Moore.

Western Canada, with its large immigrant population, was leaning Socialist by the end of the war. Dissatisfied with Canada's role in the war and sympathetic to the Bolsheviks in Russia, the Western unions being no exception, decided to hold a caucus, (the Western Labor Conference) ahead of the 1919 TLC congress.

In April 1919, electrical, water works and office workers approached the City Council for a wage increase. The City Council offered war bonuses and a promise to revisit the topic after the war. The municipal Electrical Workers took action and began striking on Thursday, May 15, 1919.

Canada's restrictive labour policies recognized establishment of unions in two ways, voluntarily by employers, or through strike action. Workers from both industrial groupings therefore struck to gain union recognition and to compel recognition of their collective bargaining rights. When the electrical workers struck, the other unions joined in solidarity. Even the police and fire departments voted to strike but went back on the job to preserve public safety. At the height of the strike, roughly 30,000 workers had walked off the job.


Although it started peacefully the strike turned violent by Sunday and was put down by the Royal Mounted Police. The strikers were criticized and called Bolsheviks and anarchists, but in the upcoming Canadian elections the labour movement lobbyied against the conservatives and when the liberal party won in Canada 1921 many of the reforms that the strikers asked for were enacted.


On this day in 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association in New York City. They began their journey when it became apparent that women would not get to play in the 15th Amendment (the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"). It would be another fifty years before the 19th Amendment was passed (August 26, 1920) allowing women to vote.

An interesting article on suffrage in Finland:

Is there a better drink that symbolizes the modern liberation of American women?

The Historical Inebriant:  The Cosmo


  • 1.5 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • 1/4 wedge of a lime, juiced
  • Orange twist for garnish (or lime twist, if preferred)

    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and limejuices.
    Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill, strain into chilled martini glass.

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