One of the enduring and iconic images of the 1913 strike is this photograph, of a boy carrying a sign that reads, “Papa Is Striking For Us.” Both the sign and the photograph were probably created by WFM organizers, who were pretty savvy when it came to media relations. (So, for instance, we learned that the WFM shot film of the Italian Hall funeral, which they used to stir public outrage; we looked for a long time but never managed to turn up a single frame of it.)
That’s not to say children did not feel genuine pride or admiration for their striking fathers. The children even followed their parents’ example. On the morning of October 6th, according to a local newspaper, nearly 500 pupils stayed home from school, on strike. “About 9 o’clock they formed a parade, marching about Ahmeek, yelling and employing tactics similar to those of their parents in a federation demonstration.”
And the children were already embroiled in the trouble: about a week after the children’s strike parade in Ahmeek, a group of children in Centennial Heights “attacked the home of a non-union man” and broke several windows.
That marching boy with the hand-painted sign may have helped the WFM win sympathy for the striking miners, but it’s just as important to realize that he was actually in the fight — striking for papa just as papa was striking for him. Children all around the Keweenaw were in it. Entire families were in it, whether they supported the strike or belonged to the Citizens Alliance or wanted nothing to do with either side. Everyone was in it.