Children’s strikes were part of the huge upheaval of labour in the long summer of 1911. The widespread industrial unrest then has often been written about, but children’s strikes are ittle-known. Mass walkouts of schoolchildren took place at least in 62 towns. The majority of the boys who came out were definitely working class lads, mostly dockers’ families, labourers and mill workers in the oil-crushing mills. Remembering how their fathers had been organised they elected a strike committee which presented demands included better school conditions, shorter hours and an end to corporal punishment in the form of the cane and the strap. The children on strike were consciously imitating – or learning from – their elders.
The strikes were not all violent. In some towns the boys walked along the sands and picnicked, taking advantage of the splendid late Summer weather. In other places they went swimming or simply sat around discussing general topics; they played at being soldiers and paraded; some sang patriotic songs.
Strikes’ success was limited, But more important, these children, despite their stifling schooling showed their minds had not been overwhelmed by the gray monotonies of the class-room. They still retained imagination with ideas like the colours in a paint-box. (To the full article – free access)