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Editor: Harley Hammerman
St. Louis, Missouri

Volume 1


From Paterson to P’town: How a Silk Strike in New Jersey
Inspired the Provincetown Players

Rosemary McLaughlin
Drew University

Six o’clock on a February morning. The mill windows all aglow. The mill whistle sounds the signal to begin work. Men and women, old and young, come to work in the bitter cold of the dawn. The sound of looms. The beginning of the great silk strike. The striking workers sing The Marseillaise, the entire audience being invited to join in the song of revolt.

from Episode One, Paterson Pageant[1]

Everyone knows that Jig Cook, John Reed, and Robert Edmund Jones were would-be theatre artists in Greenwich Village before teaming up with Susan Glaspell, Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgood in forming the Provincetown Players and discovering Eugene O’Neill. What is less well-known is how Reed and Jones, working closely with Mabel Dodge, Margaret Sanger, John Sloan and IWW[2] luminaries such as  “Wild” Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, created a performance piece, their first produced work, “the first labor play,”[3] in 1913, in support of a silk strike in Paterson, NJ.

I am in the process of writing The American Moment, a trilogy of plays about silk strikes, salons and the birth of American Drama.[4] The first play, Paterson Falls, commissioned by Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, is set in 1913 and deals directly with the strike. The second play, Mooncussers, set 1914 - 1915, concerns the founding of the Provincetown Players and the discovery of Eugene O’Neill, against the backdrop of the war escalating in Europe. The third and final play, The Art of Conversation, is set in New York, 1913-1920, where in salons headed by Mabel Dodge and Mary Heaton Vorse, artists, intellectuals and activists “talked the talk” that led to some of the most important movements of the early 20th century.

Originally, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was to be at the center of the trilogy. As courageous and brilliant as she is, it’s hard to find fault with her, which makes it difficult to use her as the main character. Also, alas, she wasn’t involved with the Provincetown Players. Mabel Dodge is no one’s idea of a saint; she’s easily as fascinating as Flynn. Mabel is central to the Paterson strike, to the salons in New York and, less obviously, to the Provincetown Players where she served as subject of a play as well as a key to their inspiration.

It was explosive, revolutionary, and creative; its goals were diffuse and sometimes contradictory... it drew together diverse people from different social, cultural, and political streams; and it didn’t make money. It was the Paterson strike pageant... (which) introduced the possibility of what a new theatre could be and helped pave the way for the one Susan and Jig would soon create.[5]

With the letters “IWW” shining bright red on the roof of the old Stanford White designed Madison Square Garden, filled to capacity for an evening’s performance by a thousand weavers and dyers, The Paterson Pageant was a theatrical success. Among those inspired by the collaboration of silk worker, labor organizer and Village “Bohemian” was Susan Glaspell, who described it in The Road to the Temple:

John Reed brought the strikers over for a pageant ….  He put into it the energy of a great desire, and in their feeling of his oneness with them they forgot they were on a stage.  That too was a night when we sat late and talked of what the theater might be.[6]

Although many historians, with the notable exception of Steve Golin, consider the pageant an economic and political failure[7], The Paterson Pageant succeeded in serving as a model for Cook and Glaspell of how theatre could serve not simply as entertainment but as a means to regain the deep connection to community which it had in Cook’s beloved Greece[8].

Who does not know the now routine legend in which the world of 1910 – 17 is Washington Square turned Arcadia, in which the barriers are always down, the magazines always promising, the workers always marching, geniuses sprouting up in nearly every Village bedroom, Isadora Duncan always dancing....[9]

So wrote Alfred Kazin in 1942. In the ninety years since the fledgling Provincetown Players performed Constancy and Suppressed Desires, after the kids went to bed at the home of Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgood[10], there has been a cottage industry churning out volumes on those pre-war years: something about the promise of what America, let alone American theatre, could be. No doubt many of the Harvard-educated rebels and well-heeled Villagers of the time crossed class lines for the romance of it,[11] or, as Christine Stansell has described, to “revivify themselves through contact with supposedly simpler, hardier, more spirited people” [12]. But as Steve Golin asserts in his account of the 1913 strike:

In Paterson more than anywhere else, the friendship of the Wobblies and the intellectuals was fruitful. Their cooperation was based not only on mutual attraction but mutual respect. Writers and artists were able to observe the Paterson strike, to mix in it, to find their own way of contributing. Hence, the IWW was able to serve, for a moment, as a fragile bridge between the Village intellectuals and the Paterson working class.[13]

By 1913, newly-weds[14] Susan Glaspell and her husband, classics professor George Cram Cook, were long since tired of what they were seeing on Broadway.  “We went to the theatre and for the most part we came away wishing we had gone somewhere else,” she writes in The Road to the Temple. Other than a production of the ancient Greek comedy, Lysistrata, neither she nor “Jig” had seen anything remotely worthwhile in longer than they could remember.

Plays, like magazine stories, were patterned. They might be pretty good within themselves, seldom did they open out to—where it surprised or thrilled your spirit to follow. They didn’t ask much of YOU, those plays. Having paid for your seat, the thing was all done for you and your mind came out where it came in, only tireder..... An audience, Jig said, had imagination.[15]

Before the Provincetown Players, American playwriting was largely forgettable.[16] The mid-1800’s saw the huge critical and popular success of Anna Cora Mowatt’s Fashion[17], a send-up of America’s love of all things European, and countless adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.[18]

Russia had Chekhov, we had Clyde Fitch. As Europe was inventing Modernism, with works by Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw,[19] Americans flocked to see sentimental comedies, melodramas, vaudeville[20] and minstrel shows. James O’Neill, of course, father of Eugene, famously toured for years in The Count of Monte Cristo[21], a vehicle more profitable financially than artistically.

In the years just before World War I, as small “art theatres” started to emerge in Chicago and Boston, following European models, such as Andre Antoine’s Theatre Libre,[22] in New York, in the thriving bohemian community of Greenwich Village and further East, in the Settlement Houses, non-commercial theatres began opening up.[23]

These theatres were problematic for Jig Cook. For one thing, they were producing mostly European plays.[24] For another, they weren’t producing him. The Washington Square Players, to his irritation, even passed on a chance to cast him in a role for which he felt well suited. Barbara Ozieblo reports that:

Cook was ... perhaps even peeved that they had not named him their director. But he was fascinated by this new American theater and advocated the rejection of European masters in favor of new American playwrights. Thus, when Glaspell suggested they write a play themselves, Cook pounced on the idea; psychoanalysis, a fad that had absorbed Greenwich Village for some time, would provide the material for his renewed storming of the Washington Square Players.[25]

Like Edwin Forrest and Laura Keene before him, he was convinced that to make great American plays one must produce a great many American playwrights. What Cook craved, along with the Wobblies, was free speech.

I told (a friend) of this sadness I felt as ‘Lysistrata’ and tried to explain it as due to feeling through the Greek play something which was in Greek life and not in ours—something we are terribly in need of.... the freedom to deal with life in literature as grandly as Aristophanes. We need a public like his which itself has the habit of thinking and talking frankly of life.[26]

At the time it was a utopian ideal. How could one even begin to go about it? Glaspell quotes him as stating, “One man alone cannot produce drama. True drama is born only of one feeling animating all the members of a clan—a spirit shared by all and expressed by the few for the all.”

The Paterson Pageant gave him if not a clan, a clue.

If there is nothing to take the place of the common religious purpose and passion of the primitive group, out of which the Dionysian dance was born, no new vital drama can arise in any people.[27]

In 1913, if there was one thing which could take the place of common religious purpose and passion, it was labor issues. Even Vaudeville contributed to the dialectic. As Douglas Gilbert writes in American Vaudeville, Its Life and Times:

Almost every ballad sung in the early variety theater, (except the love ditties and there were few of those) carried some reference to labor, sometimes anticipating strife between employer and worker, and hope for settlement.[28]

On January, 27, 1913, 800 employees of the Doherty Silk Mill go on strike, followed by the rest of the Mill workers by the end of the week. Three hundred mills in Paterson, the nation’s Silk Capitol, are forced to close by thousands of workers[29] who protest working six days a week, twelve-hour days, in suffocating conditions on twice as many machines as they have been, for less pay.  In all, twenty-five thousand Paterson workers go on strike[30], with thousands of additional workers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut walking out in support. As Bill Haywood later calls it, it’s the closest thing America has to a general strike. The newspapers, owned by friends of the mill owners and wary of allowing the public to sympathize with an I.W.W. cause (as they decisively did the previous year in Lawrence, Massachusetts) slant what little coverage they do give against the workers and organizers.

By April, Flynn, Haywood and the other I.W.W. advisers along with the strike committee are stymied as to how to move their cause forward. With relief funds and food supplies running low, the children have already been sent away.[31] The meetings held at Turn Hall and the massive outdoor meetings outside of the Botto House[32] in nearby Haledonwhose Socialist mayor honors the first amendment to a far greater degree than Paterson officialshelp to buoy people’s spirits, but the stress and violence especially on the part of the rent-a-cops, are wearing people down.[33] The strikers themselves avoid the use of violence, urged by Haywood and Flynn to use restraint in the face of threats.

You have killed the mills; you have stopped production; you have broken off the profits. Any other violence you may commit is less than this, and it will only react upon yourselves.[34]

Over 3,000 strikers are arrested while picketing, most of them receiving ten-day sentences.[35] A local man named Modestino Valentino, who has nothing to do with the strike, is shot to death by private detectives as he stands on his porch, watching the picketing, his baby in his arms.  Helen Camp’s biography of Flynn describes what followed:

He was not a silk mill worker and not a member of the union but Gurley Flynn went to his home to ask his widow if she would permit the IWW to bury him. Flynn found the woman lying in bed, several months pregnant, separated from her husband’s casket only by a folding partition. She was grateful for the union’s offer….[36]

Mill owners, many of them former silk workers, vow not to have a replay of the I.W.W. victory at Lawrence. One of the strongest leaders among them is 79-year old Catholina Lambert, who is able to divert much of his company’s work from Paterson to a non-union mill in Pennsylvania. Although Lambert himself began working in the mills as a ten-year old, he so vehemently opposes the idea of a settlement that when Henry Doherty proposes to do just that, other mill owners have to hold Lambert back to keep him from striking him.[37]

As the strike grinds on, Haywood reaches out to the so-called Village Bohemians for help to raise funds and get the word out, as the New York newspapers refuse to publish what he considers fair and accurate coverage. At B. Shostac’s Manhattan apartment[38] a group gathers around him.  Mabel Dodge is there:

One night Hutch and Neith came in town to spend the night with me and go to a party at B’s and I ... went along too because I wanted to meet Bill Haywood. Hutch had told me so much about him and the Paterson Silk Strike that he was leading that I was curious to see him for myself. So we walked down to the square and beyond it to one of the quiet streets, and there was a large bare room lighted with candles where a few men and women stood about chatting, or sat together on the floor, for there weren’t many chairs. Haywood sprawled in a few of the chairs, a great battered hulk of a man, with one eye gone and an eminent look to him.[39]

As Dodge describes it, she asks Haywood:

“Why don’t you bring the strike to new York and show it to the workers?” .... (he) turned his eye on me with an arrested look.... “Why don’t you hire a great hall and re-enact the strike over here? Show the whole thing....

“I’ll do it!” Cried a voice—and a young man detached himself from the group and assumed a personality before my eyes.”[40]

The young man, of course, was 24 year old Jack Reed. He had just begun writing for The Masses, and as Ross Wetzeston notes in Republic of Dreams, Reed’s “exuberant ode ‘A Day in Bohemia’ had established him as the Byron of the Village.”

Reed headed to Paterson the next day to observe the strike and was promptly arrested after a police officer told him to move along and he refused.[41] Reed made good use of his four days in jail, interviewing the strikers and leading them in singing Harvard fight songs.[42] Upon release he plunges into work on the Pageant. The strikers themselves will perform. The I.W.W. leaders, particularly Flynn and Carlo Tresca, have misgivings about the wisdom of diverting the energy of the workers from the strike. If nothing else, Flynn is concerned that those who aren’t invited to participate will feel left out, causing resentment.

She’s not alone in her concerns.

The men and women workers are now to be used as puppets in a “pageant”.... If the strikers can only be induced to exploit their own misery and make a public spectacle of themselves to satisfy the idle curiosity of a New York audience, the I. W. W. agitators will succeed in their last effort to make money out of the Paterson strikers. That’s why the agitators are too busy these days to do anything at the daily meetings but boom the New York show.

The Paterson Guardian[43]

On June 7, 1913, a thousand silk workers led by John Reed and Robert Edmund Jones, with help from Mabel Dodge, John Sloan and Margaret Sanger, and inspired by Flynn and Haywood, enact for an audience of 15,000[44]  The Paterson Pageant, a stylized re-enactment of events in the on-going strike. Many walk the nineteen miles from Paterson while others board a special train to Hoboken to take the ferry from there to downtown Manhattan[45].

George William Shea whose grandfather, William Bruekmann, was the Socialist mayor of Haledon who allowed the IWW to hold their meetings, and whose grandmother, Katherine, attended the Pageant performance, describes the Pageant’s climactic scene, the re-enactment of the funeral of Modestino Valentino:[46]

A long line of men and women all dressed in black paraded behind a band which... played the funeral march.... better than the bands in Paterson had played, and the line of mourners seemed straighter than it had been that day. So my grandmother was reminded of the funeral but didn’t feel somehow the same sadness she had felt then.... (even though) the woman playing the man’s widow wailed even louder than the dead man’s wife had wailed.

As this and other accounts suggest, the staging of the Pageant  anticipates  “epic theatre”, as conceived by Piscator and Brecht. Before coming to New York, Jones had worked with Max Reinhardt, and met with Mabel Dodge’s old friend, Gordon Craig. Avant-garde theatre ideas were in the air in Paterson and Madison Square Garden. The workers played themselves as the mourners they had been, listening first to the speeches of Haywood, Flynn and the others then dropping a thousand red carnations as they filed past the spot-lit grave.

From the solemnity of the funeral to the excitement of children eager to see New York City, Episode Five depicts the workers’ children, wearing red sashes, boarding trains to stay with workers out-of-town. As in real life, this get-away cheers the strikers who feel their children can be better cared for in the spirit of solidarity offered by generous strangers than at home where cupboards are growing ever more bare.[47]

In the last episode the workers seat themselves just in front of the audience in Madison Square Garden as if they were all seated together at Turn Hall for a strike meeting.

... so that the audience itself became a part of the dramatic production. Bill Haywood mounted the platform and spoke... When he finished, everyone rose, thousands of people, actors and spectators, and sang The Internationale again.... [48]

Playwright Percy MacKaye (son of Steele MacKaye) asserted that there were “three kinds of theater as cultural rivals in 1913”[49]: Vaudeville (too commercial for his taste); Ibsen-style “segregated drama” (too pessimistic); and Pageantry, “the drama of democracy”.  MacKaye saw pageants as a means for America to move toward the grand style in all things.

John Reed is rightly given credit for coming up with the idea of having a pageant in response to Mabel’s idea to put on a show in support of the strike.[50] There are some sources which attribute the idea to Reed, perhaps thinking that he, as someone who had studied playwriting with George Pierce Baker at Harvard[51], and participated in several undergrad theatricals, would be more likely than Dodge, who had no theatre background, to suggest it. But Dodge was a great behind-the-scenes organizer, someone who liked in particular, to stand behind a man and inspire and support him. To Linda Ben-Zvi, Dodge “presented a case study of a woman of accomplishments and interests still not free of Victorian upbringing, which had taught her to question her own talents and to live vicariously through a man.”[52]

For all the back-biting about her, there had to be a reason, beside her fortune, that people gathered around her. Both Hutchins Hapgood as well as Dodge’s memoirs credit her with the idea of creating the show.

“Our Bobby Jones”, as Reed began to call him, insisted on making it a Gordon Craig affair, and having a long street scene right through the audience and up to the stage, and this was a most dramatic idea because the actors entered at the far end of the hall, and the funeral procession marched right though it, so that for a few electric moments there was a terrible unity between all these people.[53]

Robert Edmund Jones, too, had studied with George Pierce Baker, the inspirational teacher of Eugene O’Neill (and later, Hallie Flanagan, head of the Federal Theatre Project). “Baker fancied himself a ‘Pageant Master’... (and thereby) asserted his command of the means to a revolutionary development in American culture.”[54] Pageants were very popular in communities in the early 1900’s. Some saw them as a means of Americanizing new immigrants. The same night as the Paterson Pageant, Henry Street Settlement held its own pageant, compared in at least one newspaper more favorably. The New York Times editorialized:

In the Henry Street celebration the motive was to exalt progress, intellectual development and the triumph of civilization. In the other the motive was to inspire hatred, to induce violence which may lead to the tearing down of the civil state and the institution of anarchy.[55]

We know that Jones designed the now famous pageant poster[56] of a strong, young workman seeming to reach directly out to the viewer. Reed directed the play, though the modern director, as we know it, was still a new configuration in 1913. Jones and Reed had done theatre at Harvard. Of the two, only Jones[57] had any professional experience. Recently back from Europe apprenticing with Max Reinhardt, Jones is alternately credited with designing the set and handling the “logistics” of the production. Most sources cite John Sloan (realist painter of the “Ash Can” school) as the designer. Chances are they all collaborated.[58]

For those more familiar with Mabel Dodge from her activities in Provincetown in the summers of 1914-1917 both as the subject of the Provincetown Players premiere show (Constancy by Neith Boyce)[59] and as the well-to-do exotic dwelling not to say brooding in the dunes, it might be surprising to know how important Dodge was to the efforts in Paterson, and for a time, beyond.[60] She brought her considerable powers of persuasion to help President Wilson “get labor’s point of view onto the Commission on Industrial Relations,” affording him, in the wake of much labor unrest, documentation from the radical/progressive perspectives.[61] Among those she worked with was W.E.B. DuBois, regarding African-American union issues.

 “Most social and cultural historians of the period have tended to disparage Mabel Dodge; she is an easy target because of her tendency for self-parody, and her unbridled enthusiasms,” Ben-Zvi writes[62], noting also that Dodge’s extensive writing ranges from “Gertrude Stein to interior decorating and psychoanalysis, which she knew firsthand as a patient of not one but two of the leading followers of Freud in America” (no doubt providing fuel, even indirectly, for Glaspell and Cook’s Suppressed Desires). Max Eastman had her guest-edit an issue of The Masses[63]. He once noted about her:

Something that creates a magnetic field in which people become polarized and pulled in and made to behave very queerly. Their passions become exacerbated; they grow argumentative, they have quarrels, difficulties, entanglements, abrupt and violent detachments.[64]

Described, derided in myriad ways, from diva to dilettante[65], Mabel Dodge, like Jig Cook, longed to create utopia. In New Woman, New Worlds Lois Rudnick notes Mabel’s plans with Muriel Draper to “create a historical commune that would be a living memorial (to the) eleventh through the eighteenth centuries[66].  Once she discussed similar plans with theatre visionary Gordon Craig he became seized with the idea.


When Mabel tempted (Craig) with ‘taking up’ Florence and re-creating the Renaissance, Craig offered to give up his contract with the Moscow Art Theatre—and to give Mabel his son, Dionysus! if she would work with him on it. For Craig, this idea became an immediate and all-consuming passion. For Mabel it was a passing fantasy, only one among other grandiose schemes.[67]

Upon arriving in New York City toward the end of 1912, lamenting leaving the old world (i.e. civilization) for the sake of her son, John’s education, Dodge closed off any view of Manhattan with heavy drapes and sank into a depression. Yet within a few months Mabel Dodge seemed everywhere at once, from using her Paris connections to help the organizers of the Armory Show to opening her Fifth Avenue apartment for her fabled salons. Lincoln Steffens noted approvingly:

Mabel managed her evenings and no one felt that they were managed. She sat quietly in a great armchair and rarely said a word; her guest did the talk, and with such a variety of guests, her success was amazing. Practiced hostesses in society could not keep even a small table of guests together.  Mabel Dodge did this better with a crowd of one hundred or more people of all classes. Her secret, I think, was to start the talk going with a living theme.[68]

Eugene O’Neill, although a Villager himself and no doubt familiar with many of those attending, kept his distance. As Leona Rust Egan notes, O’Neill “stayed on the fringe of bohemia, scoffing at its political pretensions.” He’d hang out at the Hell Hole or other bars with them but he wouldn’t be likely to go to the gatherings of Mabel Dodge or Mary Heaton Vorse[69] or, for that matter, to come out in support of the Paterson strike.  For part of 1913, of course, he was still recuperating from tuberculosis. He was also writing his first plays.[70]

It seems neither Cook nor Glaspell wanted anything to do with Mabel’s salons. As Barbara Ozieblo writes,She seemed too frivolous for them, and Cook could not tolerate the spotlight shining on someone else for too long.”[71] However, Linda Ben-Zvi thinks that Glaspell and Dodge may have been on friendlier terms, as members of Heterodoxy,[72] a women’s organization, half of whose members were in theatre:

... that drew together the leading feminist activists of the time.... Of all the groups with which Susan was associated in her first years in Greenwich Village, Heterodoxy was the most significant for her theatre work.... Not every member picketed and got arrested, but all supported suffrage, birth control, and women’s rights; and most supported socialism and antimilitarism.

Eighty Heterodites, including Glaspell, worked on the Paterson Pageant. Along with Dodge, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who was also a member, was a lynchpin, providing an avenue for those among the affluent and middle class women who wished to “walk the walk” among the working class of Paterson.

In the months of 1913, Mabel drove people (or had her driver drive) back and forth from Paterson, and planned the Pageant with Reed and friends at Margaret Sanger’s, whose apartment served as headquarters. Reed rehearsed daily and though Dodge was concentrating on fund-raising and publicity, she had occasion to observe Reed at work. “One of the gayest touches was seeing him teach the strikers to sing one of their lawless songs to the tune of ‘Harvard, Old Harvard’”[73]. Reed had no trouble finding mill workers to play mill workers; however, he nearly had to cast associates such as Hapgood, Steffens and Upton Sinclair to play the parts of cops and scabs.[74]

….Imagine suddenly teaching 2,000 people of various nationalities how to present their case in a huge, graphic, orderly art form! Imagine planning an event to fill Madison Square Garden, a whole city block, where we were used to going to see Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, with three rings and two bands going at once and have it audible, visible and composed enough to be convincing![75]

While Cook and Glaspell supported the strike, going to hear speakers in the big rallies in Paterson/Haledon, there is no record of his being directly involved in the Paterson Pageant, except, significantly, as audience. Here in Madison Square Garden, with amateur actors and a great communal passion and sense of purpose was the very thing George Cram Cook had been longing for.

They were one: the workers who had come to show their comrades what was happening across the river and the workers who had come to see it…..[76]

The Villagers weren’t the only ones singing the praises of the Pageant. It drew raves from some in the press.

There was a startling touch of ultra modernity—or rather of futurism—in the Paterson strike .... Certainly nothing like it had been known before in the history of labor agitation. The I.W.W. has not been highly regarded hereabouts as an organization endowed with brains or imagination. Yet the very effective appeal to public interest made by the spectacle at the Garden stamps the I.W.W. leaders as agitators of large resources and original talent.. ..Saturday night’s pageant transported the strike itself bodily to New York. . . .

The New York Tribune[77]

The high praise was not universal, unfortunately. The New York Times hated the Pageant, calling it “a series of pictures in action...  with the design of stimulating mad passion against law and order and promulgating a gospel of discontent.[78]”  Some Paterson papers viewed it as an occasion to heap more scorn on the I.W.W.

With so much at stake, why risk diverting the attention of workers from their actual strike to a performance of their strike-in-progress? Again, this was the question of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Although acknowledging there were a number of things she would have done differently, she ascribed a good deal of what she saw as the ultimate failure of the strike to what she considered this mis-direction of energy. She did think, perhaps ruefully, that the pageant was a terrific artistic success.  At 22, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, was already a labor veteran, having become an IWW organizer at the age of 17.  In Paterson and Haledon she was a very popular “jawsmith” urging the strikers to remember the power of the folded arms—non-violence.

It was not easy, before the days of microphones, to make oneself heard or understood by thousands, especially when their knowledge of English was rudimentary. Early in her career, Flynn had learned from an old soapboxer how to bring her voice up from the diaphragm instead of trying to supply the power with her vocal chords.[79]

Dubbed “an Eastside Joan of Arc” by Theodore Dreiser, Gurley Flynn’s mother raised her on Irish playwrights, patriots and Socialists.[80]  She had nothing against theatre—her sister Bina was an actress. She herself had been discovered on a soap box, wowing the crowds at Time Square by impresario David Belasco.  She “took a meeting” with him[81] but passed on his offer to make her a star.  She’d consider it, she said, only if he’d let her write her own speeches.

From Haywood, in Lawrence, she had learned how to use simple words, short sentences and repetition, so that recent immigrants could follow what she said. She had also become expert at finding out details of local conditions and weaving them into her talk.[82]

Big Bill Haywood was a rough-hewn hulk of a man with one eye, whose fame rested not only in his labor organizing (co-founding the International Workers of the World) but upon his murder trial at which none other than Clarence Darrow argued that Haywood had been framed. He won an acquittal and gained legendary status now on a national level. He put it to good use first in Lawrence, then in Paterson. “These children have been starving from birth,” he said. “They have been starving in their mother’s wombs and their mothers have been starving before the children were conceived.”[83]

Introduced to some of the finer things in life through the Village Bohemians, Haywood seemed to enjoy this new stage.

... both Lincoln Steffens and (Hutch) Hapgood later told Mrs. Dodge that Big Bill never made a convincing or impassioned speech against capitalism after attending (her) Evenings. He had loathed capitalists until he really met one. After that, his hatred lost its bite.[84]

After the strike failed that July, just a month after the Pageant, Flynn saw Haywood’s romance with the Villagers as part of the cause, as it deflected his attention from organizing. By that time, Haywood’s strength was at a low ebb. Christine Stansell describes how the fiery radical went about his recovery:

... in Greenwich Village (he) not only dined at Mabel Dodge’s but... scribbled poetry in Washington Square. Haywood prominence in bohemia led Dial to gibe that he was... like a sports hero on a college campus[85]

Others of a more suspicious mind thought Haywood may have diverted some funds as well, to keep up with his bourgeois friends but this view was discredited. Although the Garden “sold out” many of the seats were “comped” for union members and there were so many expenses, from rental to publicity, that a one-day performance couldn’t possibly recoup the cost, let alone produce a profit.

Other blame for the strike’s defeat (and here most critics rely mostly on Flynn’s account) can be placed on the exhausted Reed taking off shortly after the pageant for the Villa Corona, with Mabel, Jones and Carl Van Vechten;[86] The strikers had come to rely on Reed’s exuberance; his sudden absence just added to their despair about the pageant’s financial failure.[87] While people’s attentions were elsewhere the mill owners were better able to bring in scabs.[88]

Golin disputes the common assumptions about the money factor and makes a convincing argument that in relying exclusively on Flynn’s account, many have overlooked what to him seems obvious: the pageant was intended to raise awareness about the strike and in that way, did help to raise funds.[89]


Citing a pivotal 1974 article by Linda Nochlin, he reminds us that the original purpose was simply to get the word out about the strike, since the media, when covering the strike at all, grossly distorted their coverage to savage the I.W.W., which was seen, not without cause, as a threat not just to the mill owners of Paterson, but to capitalism itself.


It was hoped that the pageant could be used to eventually attract funds, since the strikers were hungry. However, the pageant committee knew all along that they’d be lucky to break even—twice they came close to canceling the show. Since the $1,000. rent for one night in the Garden had already been paid, the organizers decided to go ahead with the show, with the help of last-minute loans.


It was only when members of the audience saw hundreds turned away that they, naively, assumed there must be a big profit looming, when actually most of the dollar seats were sold for a quarter or given away  to strikers who didn’t have a coin to spare. The press, only too happy to attack again, fanned the flames that as a fund-raiser the pageant was a bust and that “all that money” must have gone someplace; presumably into the leaders’ pockets. In fact, Tripp asserts, Lincoln Steffens, Reed and Dodge were among those unable to recoup the loans they’d given the project.

Sadly, the artistic triumph of the Pageant was seen, by some as further cause of the strike’s defeat. Giving voice to more than a thousand workers, the artistic success caused jealousy among the others who were left off-stage.

In trying to affix blame, even years later, the powerful iconography of Jones’ poster, used for years by the I.W.W., has been called into question, along with his sexual orientation. Discussing Jones, Martin Green gives more disparagement than credit in the manner he cites the

... suspicions among the strikers of some inauthenticity in the commitment of their Village friends. Bobby Jones, for instance, had drawn that cover for the Pageant poster, on which the young worker figure was an emblem of virility but he himself was anything but that. [Emphasis added.][90]

What would have constituted a victory?

For Flynn, speaking about the Paterson strike the following year, it was:[91]

... a twofold thing. Workers must gain economic advantage, but they must also gain revolutionary spirit..... For workers to go back with a class-conscious spirit, with an organized and determined attitude toward society means that even if they have made no economic gain they have the possibility of gaining in the future.

By this high standard, the strike and Pageant were a failure. Any chance of “revolutionary spirit” arising for long in America was quashed by too many military, political and socio-economic circumstances to discuss here. It could be argued, however, that victory, at least in part, was achieved not only in the economic gains eventually made, including the eight-hour work day[92] but in the huge amount of press the Pageant generated. This had been one of its primary goals, to get the word out. At the time Mabel Dodge hypothesized that, “In the future we may well find strikers spending their best efforts to get their causes ‘staged’”. Stansell notes, “In a sense, Dodge was not wrong, as the success of labor in the twentieth century came more and more to hinge on mobilizing middle class sympathizers and the media.[93]

She was the first to admit she was easily bored, her restlessness having less to do with socialite ennui than with her sense of a big picture needing to be brought into focus. As Ross Wetzsteon writes,

More than any other person, Mabel recognized, if only intuitively, that the repressive traditions against which the Village radicals were rebellingpolitical, economic, sexual, artisticwere inextricably linked, and that the most immediately necessary radical act was not to focus on specific reforms but to break down the barriers between the radicals themselves, to affirm both the range and the unity of the insurgent spirit itself.[94]

Mabel Dodge never gave up her dreams of utopia, she just moved them west, to Taos. But before she did she got some dreams stirred up in New York, New Jersey and the tip of Cape Cod.

Because of her and the others who took part in the Paterson Pageant as participant or observer “what awaited O'Neill at Provincetown in 1916 was a highly class-conscious group of politically engaged artists who were particularly receptive to the notion of dramatizing working-class experience”.[95] Starting with Bound East for Cardiff , Eugene O’Neill found a home for his bag of unproduced scripts.

For a few electric moments there was a terrible unity between all of these people. They were one: the workers who had come to show their comrades what was happening across the river and the workers who had come to see it. I have never felt such a pulsing vibration in any gathering before or since[96].

Mabel Dodge Luhan


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[1] Frederick Boyd, ed.,  The Pageant of the Paterson Strike, (New York, 1913). Reprinted in Joyce L. Kornbluh, ed.  Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964): 210-214).


[2] International Workers of the World, also known as “Wobblies”.


[3] Jig Cook quoted in Susan Glaspell, Road to the Temple (Toronto: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1927).

[4] This play draws its inspiration from many people and places: frequent conversations with  the late Adele Heller, summer, 1987, when she was urging me, as an arts reporter for the Provincetown Advocate, to give ample coverage to the O’Neill conference being held there; a call from Angelica Santomauro of the American Labor Museum to work with honor students at East Side High, in Paterson, NJ, to write and perform a play about the Paterson Pageant; an English course with Bob Arey, whose classes focused, invariably, on labor issues; a stroll in the East End of Provincetown, ca. 1997, coming upon a plaque identifying Susan Glaspell’s house and a long-abiding love for irascible Irishmen, O’Neill, included.

[5] Linda Ben-Zvi, Susan Glaspell, Her Life and Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005): 129.

[6] Glaspell: 250.

[7] Steve Golin, The Fragile Bridge (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988).
Anne Huber Tripp, The I.W.W. and the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987): 143.

[8] Glaspell, 248.

[9] Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., Harvest Book, 1995): 134.

[10]  Robert Karoly Sarlos, Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players (Boston: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982).
Leona Rust Egan, Provincetown as a Stage; Provincetown, the Provincetown Players and the Discovery of Eugene O’Neill (Orleans, Mass., Parnassus Imprints, 1994): 2.  First performance of Neith Boyce’s Constancy and Suppressed Desires by Jig Cook and Susan Glaspell, July 15, 1915.

[11] Patrick J. Chura, “Vital Contact: Eugene O’Neill and the Working Class”. Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 49, Iss. 4. (Winter 2003): 520.

[12] Christine Stansell, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. 1999): 61, 64.

[13] Golin, 7.

[14] Sarlos, 44. Another Jersey connectionthey wed in Weehawken, NJ, 4/14/1913, then honeymooned in Provincetown, MA.

[15] Glaspell, 248.

[16] Jack Poggi. Theatre in America—The Impact of Economic Forces, 1870 – 1967 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1968), 103 and Golin, 164.  Percy MacKaye, who advocated for pageants and for  “civic theatre”, and William Vaughn Moody were two theatre artists of the time who were trying to strike a balance between commercial and non-commercial efforts.

[17]  Judith Barlow, Plays by American Women 1900 – 1930 (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1985): ix.  Barlow in her introduction enumerates a number of the reasons, religious, financial, cultural, that theatre and playwriting in particular took a long time to excel in the US. Although Mowatt’s use of comic stereotypes help to date the play, its humor is otherwise quite fresh.

[18] Stephen Railton, et al, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture; Introduction;  (University of Virginia, 2005).

[19] Thomas H. Dickinson, Chief Contemporary Dramatists: Twenty Plays From the Recent Drama of England, Ireland, America, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden & Russia (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915). Europe had Ibsen; we had Clyde Fitch. In this 1915 volume plays by Chekhov, Strindberg, & Oscar Wilde are represented as among the twenty most important playwrights of the time along with: Clyde Fitch, Granville Barker, Augustus Thomas and William Vaughan Moody.

[20] Douglas Gilbert, American Vaudeville, Its Life and Times (New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw Hill,1940): 7.   In Vaudeville one might be treated not only to ethnic humor and physical comedy but to star turns by imports such as Sarah Bernhardt.

[21] Louis Schaeffer, O’Neill, Son and Playwright (Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1968): 367. When the Players began producing in New York, James O’Neill offered to help coach the actors.

[22] Adele Heller, “The New Theatre”; “Against Broadway: The Rise of the Art Theatre in America (1900 – 1920); Adele Heller and Lois Rudnick, eds., 1915— The Cultural Moment (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991): 217 - 249.  Theatre Libre, France (1887); The Independent Theatre, England; Freie Buhn, Germany, were three of the most important. Elsewhere in the US, small theatres were beginning, in Chicago, notably, with Jane Addams at Hull House and Maurice Browne whose Little Theatre (1912) produced classic and European plays; also Toy Theatre, Boston (1911).

[23] Wisner Payne Kinne, George Pierce Baker & the American Theatre (Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 1969): 200.

[24]  Poggi: 108. The Washington Square Players, also emerging in the Village, were more concerned about production values than producing new playwrights. It gradually evolved into the Theatre Guild.

[25] Barbara Ozieblo, Susan Glaspell—a Critical Biography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000): 64. The Washington Square Players’ loss was the Provincetown Players’ gain.

[26] Glaspell, 249.

[27] Jig Cook, qtd by Mary Heaton Vorse, Time and the Town, a Provincetown Chronicle (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991): 120.

[28] Gilbert, 70.

[29] Golin.

[30] Golin, conversation at Botto House/American Labor Museum, July 13, 2005, said 20,000 workers went out on strike willingly. Five thousand others, largely skilled workers suck as loom fixers, did not wish to strike but had nothing to fix if the weavers weren’t at their looms.

[31] Golin, 141.

[32] Pietro and Maria Botto offered the use of their house, their second floor balcony serving as a podium for the speakers addressing thousands of strikers and their supporters on the grounds below. Their home is now the site of the American Labor Museum.

[33] George William Shea, Spoiled Silk—The Red Mayor and the Great Paterson Textile Strike. (New York: Fordham University Press. 2001).

[34] Haywood, qtd. in Boyd, 5.

[35] Martin Green, New York 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Program. (New York: Collier Books, 1988).

[36] Helen C. Camp. Iron in Her Soul, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left ( Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1995): 53.

[37] Flavia Alaya, Silk and Sandstone: The Story of Catholina Lambert and His Castle (Paterson, NJ: Passaic County Historical Society, 1984)Passaic County Historical Society, Lambert Castle, Paterson, NJ.Despite Lambert’s wealth and influence he suffered financial reversals beginning in 1914. The labor movement has been given the blame for this, but his lavish spending (a castle filled with Rembrandts, Renoirs and Monets) and  the wartime-disruption of his business in Italy were key factors.

[38] Tripp, 266; 138–139.

[39] Dodge qtd. in Lois Palken Rudnick, ed. Intimate Memories—the Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999): 130.

[40] Mabel Dodge Luhan, Movers and Shakers, Volume Three of Intimate Memories (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1936): 188–189.

[41] Allen Churchill, The Improper Bohemians, Greenwich Village in Its Heyday (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Ace Star, 1959).
Ross Wetzsteon, The Republic of Dreams; Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002);   Friend from Harvard days spoke of his "inordinate desire to be arrested".

[42] Granville Hicks, John Reed: The Making Of A Revolutionary  (NY: Macmillan, 1936).

Robert A. Rosenstone, Romantic Revolutionary, a Biography of John Reed  (Random House, 1975; Vintage Books edition, 1981).


[43] Tripp: 143. In her account of the strike, Tripp quotes the Paterson Guardian’s dismal accounting.


[44] Ibid, 145.


[45] Shea, 85; Boyd, 105; Green.


[46] Shea, 85:

.... my grandmother recalled that the real funeral had not been that way. Instead the mourners had wandered off among the headstones, looking a little lost and ashamed that they were leaving the dead man behind with only the other dead beside him....

[47] Boyd, The Paterson Pageant Program.

[48] Shea.
One may recognize the influence of this staging on later productions, such as The Cradle Will Rock, where the real-life actors, in order to avoid arrest, perform from their seats in the audience at a borrowed theatre; Waiting for Lefty where a Broadway audience rose to its feet at the climax to call “Strike! Strike!” and more recently in Mike Nichol’s production of Death and the Maiden. where a man who used torture on behalf of his government appears through a trick with mirrors, to be one with the audience.

[49] MacKaye, qtd in Kinne, 165.


[50] Tripp, 138; Golin, 159.


[51] Hicks.
Robert A. Rosenstone, Romantic Revolutionary, a Biography of John Reed, Random House, 1975; Vintage Books edition, 1981.


[52] Ben-Zvi, 124-125.


[53] Dodge qtd. in Lois Palken Rudnick, ed. Intimate Memories—the Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.


[54] Kinne, 140.


[55] New York Times, June 9, 1913; “A Wave of Love in Henry Street”, Survey, 30 (June 28, 1913), 428; qtd in Tripp, 147.


[56]  Boyd, 201;
Green, 211.


[57] Tripp, 141, calls Reed the writer and Jones the director.


[58] Boyd, Golin, Green, et al.


[59] Ozieblo, Susan Glaspell, 70-71.
Robert Karoly Sarlos, Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players (Boston: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982).


[60] In a conversation during the June 2005 Eugene O’Neill Society conference with Glaspell biographer Linda Ben-Zvi she agreed that Dodge has been given short shrift by many whose views may be skewed by gender-bias.


[61] Stansell, 109.


[62] Ben-Zvi, 124-125.


[63] Stansell, 174.


[64] Churchill, 37.


[65] Max Eastman qtd. in Churchill on his fictionalized version of Dodge:

She has neither wit nor beauty nor is she vivacious or lively-minded or entertaining. She is comely and good-natured and when she says something, it is sincere and sagacious, but for the most part she sits like a lump, and says nothing.

[66] Rudnick, New Woman, New Worlds, 38.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Lincoln Steffens qtd. in Rudnick, 74.

[69] Egan, 97.

[70] Arthur and Barbara Gelb, O’Neill—Life with Monte Cristo. New York: Applause, 2000:721.  O’Neill plays completed in 1913 are: A Wife for a Life; The Web; Thirst.

[71] Ozieblo, 60.

[72] Ben-Zvi, 126-128; 412;  Conversation, June 15, 2005, Provincetown, MA;

Golin, 124; Conversation, Steve Golin July 13, 2005, at the American Labor Museum. Golin confirmed that Glaspell and Dodge associated with each other. Although a great many people worked on the Pageant, which would allow them the possibility of avoiding each other, he believed that the two women were on good terms, at least at this time.

Judith Schwartz, Radical Feminists of Heterodoxy, Greenwich Village, 1912 – 194 (New Victoria Publishers, New Hampshire, 1982).


[73] Luhan, 187.


[74] Tripp, 142.


[75] Dodge qtd. in Rudnick, Intimate Memories: 131-133.


[76] Ibid.


[77] Ibid.


[78] Current Opinion and Survey, June 1913. Reprinted in Joyce L. Kornbluh, ed., Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co. 1998).


[79] Golin, 55.


[80] Camp.


[81] As her mother, wisely, was with her Flynn most likely didn’t meet with him in the infamous apartment/love-nest he kept above his theatre.


[82] Camp.


[83] William Haywood, Cooper Union Speech qtd. in Justus Ebert, The Trial Of A New SocietyBeing a Review of The Celebrated Ettor-Giovannitti-Caruso Case, Beginning with the Lawrence Textile Strike that caused it and including the general strike that grew out of it (Cleveland, Ohio:  I. W. W. Publishing Bureau, 1913): Ch. 1.


[84] Churchill, 41.


[85] Stansell, 151.


[86] George Chauncey. "Long-haired men and short-haired women: building a gay world in the heart of Bohemia." p.151-164. In Greenwich Village: culture and counterculture. Edited by Rick Beard and Leslie Cohen Berlowitz. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, for the Museum of the City of New York, 1993): 155

Carl Van Vechten... played a key role in organizing Mabel Dodge Luhan's famous salons on lower Fifth Avenue in the teens and helped introduce the white public to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

[87] Golin, 160-161.


[88] Tripp: 143.


[89] Golin, 176-177.


[90] Green, 211.


[91] Flynn addressing the New York Civic Club Forum January 31, 1914.


[92] Although not a goal specific to the Paterson strike Haywood strongly believed in the radical idea of “Eight hours of work, eight hours of play, eight hours of sleep.”


[93] Stansell, 184.


[94] Wetzsteon.


[95] Chura.


[96] Luhan.

[This paper was originally presented at the Sixth International Conference of the Eugene O’Neill Society in Provincetown, Massachusetts in June, 2005.]



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