“One little girl got into trouble and her baby was born three months after she was married. That baby was only four pounds in weight because the girl was almost starved to death…That little girl’s baby died on the 14th of this month from malnutrition or starvation…if they ask us “are you in favour of a bloody revolution?” why any kind of revolution would be better than conditions as they are now.”
Jean MacWilliam, a labour organizer who had organized laundry workers, had a great deal to say to the theCommission to Inquire into and Report upon Industrial Relations in Canada, chaired by Thomas Graham Mathers, Chief Justice of Manitoba, when it stopped in Calgary in early May, 1919. The commission had been established by the federal government two months earlier to figure out why wartime and post-war industrial unrest was so acute. Jean MacWilliam had lots of first-hand experience to bring to the attention of the commissioners. Her successful efforts to persuade exploited laundry workers that they needed to unionize were undone by ruthless employers who fired the unionized women and replaced them with only workers who spoke no English. Noted MacWilliam: “and of course when they couldn’t talk the English language I couldn’t talk to them and cause the employers any bother.”
Three weeks after she testified before the commission, Jean MacWilliam was a leading organizer of a month-long Calgary General Strike.