Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Coal Strike of 1902

I posted here the article Rev. William Harshaw published in Christian Work and Endeavor on the anthracite strike.  Here's an editorial piece in the same issue.  (The thrust is the "Church" should bear the burden of educating the immigrant children, not the state.)

A Lesson of the Strike.
The weighty article which we publish elsewhere in this issue throws a ray of light on the dark question of the present difficulties in the coal regions. A disease must be diagnosed before it can be cured, and the author of this article, a young minister living in the mining region and making it his business to know the people and their problems, brings an important contribution not only to the diagnosis but to the cure of the frightful malady from which not that district only but the whole country is suffering.
That the miners are mainly foreigners is well known, and was cogently shown in these pages a few weeks ago. But the profound significance of the fact that right in the heart of our country a great body of 150,000 people, upon whom the nation depends for the fundamental necessary of life and of business activity, are absolutely incapable of becoming a part of our social fabric, and under existing conditions must remain an alien mass in the body politic, undigested and indigestible, has not been made clear until now. These people do not speak English and are not learning to speak it. Their children do not go to school because there are no teachers who can understand the languages they speak—Lithuanian. Hungarian, Polish and the like. And as the children never come in touch with English-speaking children they cannot absorb the language as foreign children in our cities do by contact. So they go on from father to son living in filth and squalor, in intemperance and lawlessness. However inadequate the miners' wage may be to provide the necessary means of decent living it is more than sufficient for these people because they do not know how to live decently and have no example of decent living before them. Hence intemperance and lawlessness in the highest degree.
It is therefore Mr. Harshaw's conviction that even before the ministries of religion these people must have education, must be taught to speak English; and he is doubtless right. Nevertheless it appears to us that the situation is one rather for the Church than for the Government to deal with in its initial stage. Just as the first Sunday-schools, with their primers and spellers, were the entering wedge for the common-school and universal compulsory education, so it would appear that in the present situation it is the Church, with its voluntary teachers and its genius for self-abnegation, that must pioneer the way for a practical system of public education among these foreigners. The local churches are beginning to recognize this need, and Mr. Harshaw is only one of several ministers who are manfully doing their part in humanizing these people and making them otherwise capable of citizenship than by mere residence in the country. A movement for educating as well as evangelizing the Poles, started three or four years ago in Pittsburg, is spreading eastward through the State and westward into Ohio and further. The Presbytery of Lackawanna, in the heart of the mining district, has taken up the matter, and is making at least preliminary arrangements toward effective action. Among the Magyar population is one minister, possibly there are more, endeavoring to educate and enlighten the people of that speech. But individual action, however intelligent and and devoted, will not meet the need; the disease is too violent and too contagious for any but large and comprehensive measures. Not even a single denomination may be able to cope with the situation. The imminent and urgent call is to all denominations represented in the coal regions, acting in concert, and strongly backed up by their national bodies, to undertake the eminently religious work of making English-speaking Americans of such isolated and alien populations as are found in our mining districts. If the strike shall so call attention to these populations as to bring about such action it will not have been an unmixed evil.

I liked the "young minister" reference--W.R. was 47.

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