Date of Thesis

2011

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

John Enyeart

Abstract

This thesis explores the Boston Police Strike of 1919 through the lens of class struggle and ethnic tension. Through an examination of the development of Boston’s class structure, particularly focused on the upper class Brahmins and the Irish working class, it concludes that the Brahmins’ success in suppressing the police strikeallowed for their maintenance of socioeconomic power within the city despite their relatively small population. Based on their extreme class cohesion resulting from the growing prominence of Harvard University as well as the Brahmins’ unabashed discrimination against their ethnic neighbors in almost every sphere of society, theBrahmins were able to maintain their power in Boston’s cultural world. The Irish working class, on the other hand, which attempted to use the increasing popularity of public and police unionization to challenge the status and power of the Brahmins through the creation of the Boston Police Union and subsequently through the notorious Boston Police Strike of 1919 was ultimately unsuccessful, and it was left in the same position in which it started, at the bottom of the social ladder. The suppression of the strike by members of the upper class and their allies, particularly those in high government positions, served to preserve and affirm the socioeconomic power of the Brahmins over much of Boston society and brought the era of public police unionization to a close.

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