Monday, April 11, 2011

The Marot Family - Gardens & Unions

Helen Marot [far right] with other leaders
of the Women's Trade Union in 1907

A good place to start posting articles I've written for the Powelton Post is the article on the Marot family. This was one of my first posts. It is also very timely. In recent weeks there has been a lot of media attention to the anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory on March 25, 1911. That horrendous event led to important changes in labor laws. Helen Marot played a central role in union organizing and was a member of the official commission that investigated the fire and recommended new protections for workers.

The Marot Family of 33rd St.

Charles and Hannah Marot lived at 317 N. 33rd St. from about 1865/66 until his death in 1888. He was the publisher of The Gardeners Monthly from 1859 until 1887 when it was folded into American Garden. In 1904, the Cyclopedia of American Horticulture stated that “[i]t had a long and useful career under the editorial management of one of the most accomplished and conscientious of American horticulturists, Thomas Meehan, whom all the younger generation has learned to love.” In 1890, his widow lived at 3513 Hamilton St. and in 1900, she lived at 315 N 33rd, which she owned. They had five children, one died young.

One of their daughters, Helen Marot, was educated at Quaker schools and the Drexel Institute Library School. In 1899 she published a Handbook of Labor Literature then moved to New York where she investigated child labor. She was part of the group of women who founded the Women's Trade Union League and headed its New York branch. She was largely responsible for creating the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants Union of New York, a pioneering effort in organizing white-collar women. She was a leader of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, and organized and led the 1909-1910 Shirtwaist Strike in New York. In 1912, she was part of a commission that investigated the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in which 146 garment workers died. From 1913 on, she devoted herself to writing, primarily about the labor movement. She was also a member of the U.S. Industrial Relations Commission (1914-16). In 1914 she published American Labor Unions, a tract on the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World written from her standpoint as a Fabian socialist.

In Creative Impulse in Industry: a Proposition for Educators (1918) she wrote that "[a]s people become inured to machine standards, they lose their sense of art values along with their joy in creative effort, their self regard as working men and their personal equation in industrial life." (p 14) She rejects the usual alternatives writing that "[i]f America is ever to realize the concept of political democracy, it can accept neither the autocratic method of business management nor the bureaucratic schemes of state socialism. It cannot realize political democracy until it realizes in a large measure the democratic administration of industry." (p 67) Her solution begins with trade schools for teenagers to give them work experiences in special firms set up for the dual purpose of education and production of a product. Half of the students’ time would be for standard school subjects, but these would be taught in relation to industrial production. "It is the intention of this educational experiment to bring down the great enterprise and industry, [and] to give the young people the experience of the industrial adventure in full achievement, lest they become the subjects of those who control the movements of industry and determine the character of its advance." (p 133)

Garden journals and social activism were clearly part of the Powelton experience from the beginning.

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