1864 Knights of St. Crispin Founded in Milford
"Among the things we advocate is that women should have equal suffrage with men.... We not only work for equality of suffrage, but work to fight and obtain equal wages for women."
~Daughters of St. Crispin
In the post-Civil War years, many labor organizations began to take hold and become more influential. Newell Daniels, a shoe worker, was the founder of a new labor organization called the Knights of St. Crispin in 1864 in the town of Milford, Massachusetts. “The Crispins grew to seventy thousand members by 1870, when they spread beyond the Commonwealth to other New England states.” As the movement grew bigger it attracted more and more people, including women stitchers, who formed the Daughters of St. Crispin in 1869. The two groups functioned together, and “the leaders of the Knights pledged the vote of thirty thousand Crispin men in favor of women’s suffrage.”
The Crispins rose to be a very formidable force in the Massachusetts economic and political scene. They struck successfully for higher wage for all shoe workers. The unity and solidarity shown by the Crispins allowed for shoe workers to remain in their towns rather than have to look for work in other towns and larger cities. One of the largest victories for the Crispins was the creation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which created research and studies of working people. The establishment of this Bureau led to the 10 hour day for women and children in manufacturing in 1874.
Employers began to react to the Crispins influence and power. Shoe employers blacklisted any union members from their shops, and drastically cut wages. The Crispins did not survive this attack by employers. Some say that their demise was partly their own fault because of their lack of acceptance of minority groups, such as Chinese labor that eventually replaced them in the shoe industry.
Although the Crispins lasted only a few short years, their influence and legacy has lasted. Another group called the Knights of Labor was formed just before the demise of the Crispins, who were heavily influenced by the Crispins power and efforts in the defense of working people. The Knights of Labor would later come to an end as well, but would be influential to the American Federation of Labor and today’s AFL-CIO. The Daughter’s of St. Crispin were highly influential to women’s rights as well as workers’ rights in general. The Daughters were one of the first women’s labor groups to organize, and they were highly effective and influential in their time. They garnered support from their male counterparts for the Women’s Suffrage Movement which would not truly be considered by the rest of America until after World War I. They championed women’s rights and were truly ahead of their time.