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Arturo Giovannitti at the time of his September 1912 trial.

Arturo M. Giovannitti (1884 - 1959) was an Italian-American union leader, socialist political activist, and poet. He is best remembered as one of the principle organizers of the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike and as a defendant in a celebrated trial ensuing from that event.



Early years

Arturo Giovannitti was born January 7, 1884 in Ripabottoni, in what is now the Province of Campobasso, Italy, at the time part of the Abruzzi, but now part of Molise. He emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1901.

He studied in Union Theological Seminary.

Political career

On January 1, 1912, in accordance with a new state law, the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts posted new rules limiting the hours of workers to 54 a week, down from a standard of 56 previously in effect.[1] It soon became clear that the employers had no intention of adjusting wage rates upwards to compensate for the lost work time, and a strike ensued.[1]

On January 12, 1912, the Italian-language branch of IWW Local 20 decided to send to New York City for Joe Ettor, the organization's top Italian-language leader, to come to Lawrence and lead the strike.[2] With Ettor came Giovannitti, who was at the time Secretary of the Italian Socialist Federation, a language federation of the Socialist Party of America, and editor of the federation's newspaper Il Proletario [The Proletarian], even though Giovannitti was not yet himself a member of the IWW.[2]

The trial of Giovannitti, Ettor, and Caruso was the cause of much agitation in the fall of 1912.

During this labor action, a striker named Anna LoPizzo was shot and killed. Giovannitti and Ettor were arrested and imprisoned on the charge of inciting to a riot leading to the loss of life. They were tried and acquitted in November, 1912. At the time of the trial, a 24-hour general strike was called in Lawrence. Their imprisonment attracted nationwide attention and inspired activists who called for the guaranteeing of free speech.

When the trial of Ettor, Giovannitti, and a co-defendant accused of firing the shot that killed the picketer, began in September 1912 in Salem, Massachusetts before Judge Joseph F. Quinn, the three defendants were kept in metal cages in the courtroom. Witnesses testified without contradiction that Ettor and Giovannitti were miles away while Joseph Caruso, the third defendant in the case, was at home eating supper at the time of the killing. Giovannitti and Ettor both delivered closing statements at the end of the two-month trial.

All three defendants were acquitted on November 26, 1912.

Death and legacy

Artunro Giovannitti died on October 31, 1959.

Giovannitti's papers, consisting of a typescript play called "The Alpha and the Omega (In Memory of a very Rich Holy Man)," are housed at the University of Minnesota.


  1. ^ a b >Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement of the United States: Volume 4: The Industrial Workers of the World, 1905-1917. New York: International Publishers, 1965; pg. 315.
  2. ^ a b Foner, History of the Labor Movement of the United States: Volume 4, pg. 317.

See also


  • Ettor and Giovannitti Before the Jury at Salem, Massachusetts, November 23, 1912. With Joseph J. Ettor. Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, n.d. [1912].
  • Address of the Defendant Arthuro M. Giovannitti to Jury. Salem Court House, November 23, 1912. Boston: Boston School of Social Science, 1912. —reissued with new title, 1913.
  • Arrows in the Gale. Introduction by Helen Keller. Riverside, CT: Hillacre Bookhouse, 1914.
  • The Cage. Riverside, CT: Hillacre, 1914.
  • Come era nel principio (tenebre rosse): Dramma in 3 atti. Brooklyn: Italian IWW Publishing Bureau, 1918.
  • "Communism on Trial," in The Red Ruby: Address to the Jury by Benjamin Gitlow. [New York]: Communist Labor Party, n.d. [1920]; pp. 14-15.
  • Eugenio V. Debs: Apostolo del socialismo. With Girolamo Valenti. Chicago: Italian Labor Publishing Co., n.d. [c. 1920].
  • Parole e sangue. New York: Labor Press, 1938.
  • Quando canta il gallo. Chicago, E. Clemente, 1957.
  • Collected Poems. Chicago, E. Clemente, 1962.


  • Émile Pouget, Sabotage. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1913.

Further reading

External links

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