Today in labor history: Labor organizer "Mother" Bloor born

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On July 8, 1862, labor organizer and leading communist Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor was born on Staten Island, N.Y.

As a labor activist, she investigated child labor in glass factories and mines, and worked undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle.

Bloor was an advocate for political prisoners and conscientious objectors as well as an organizer of mining, textile, and farming strikes. She ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the socialist ticket in 1918 and participated in the formation of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. in 1919. Two years later, she served as a union delegate to the Second International. Upon her return from the Soviet Union, Bloor hitchhiked throughout the United States while writing articles for the Daily Worker. Bloor returned to the Soviet Union for the twentieth anniversary celebration of the October Revolution. When Bloor returned to the United States she retired to April Farm, Pennsylvania in 1937.

Ella Bloor was a leader in the Communist Party, a member of the party's central committee during the critical years of 1932 to 1948.

At the age of 78, Bloor wrote her autobiography. We Are Many was published in 1940 by International Publishers, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, like Bloor another legendary union organizer and leader of the Communist Party.

The book inspired the Woody Guthrie song, "1913 Massacre," about the deaths of striking copper miners and their families in Calumet, Michigan, at a Christmas party in 1913 that Bloor attended..

After her death in 1951, poet Langston Hughes wrote of Bloor, "She battled the capitalists tooth and nail for seventy years."

Helen Winter Remembers Mother Bloor from Louis V. Galdieri on Vimeo.

The Ella Reeve Bloor Papers are held at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

Photo: Paul Robeson and Ella Reeve Bloor

 

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