home | many pasts | evidence | www.history | blackboard | reference
talking history | syllabi | students | teachers | puzzle | about us
search: go!
advanced search - go!

A Show of Support: Farmers Feed Homestead Strikers

In 1892 the possibility of a Labor-Populist alliance circulated. Populist orators like Mary Lease sought to build ties between the Farmer’s Alliance and the labor movement by mobilizing farmers to send wheat and corn to striking workers at Carnegie’s Homestead steel mill outside Pittsburgh. Despite the support for such an alliance among many in the labor movement, American Federation of Labor leader Samuel Gompers opposed such political action. Gompers insured that the A.F.L maintained, in his words, “a masterly inactivity” on political involvements. In this appeal to Kansas farmers, published as a letter to the editor in the Topeka Advocate, Lease attacked the “misrepresentations” of those who claimed that farmers did not understand and sympathize with workers.

To-day the world stands aghast at the murderous attempt of a Scotch baron entrenched and fortified by Republican legislation, to perpetuate a system of social cannibalism, and force, by the aid of Pinkerton cut-throats, the American laborers to accept starvation wages. . . . We have been told by those who deal in misrepresentations that the farmers were not in sympathy with the wants and demands of laborers in town and city. Let us hurl this falsehood back, and show to the world that the farmers of Kansas are imbued with the spirit of 1776, and in sympathy with the toilers and oppressed humanity everywhere by sending from this state such a train load of wheat and corn to our Homestead brothers as will make hungry mothers and their little ones laugh with glee.

Source: Mary Lease to editor, Advocate (Topeka), 27 July 1892, Kansas State Historical Society. Reprinted in Norman Pollack, ed. The Populist Mind (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1967), 450.

See Also:Shying Away: Labor Leaders Steer Clear of the Farmers' Alliance