This is information on the Lecture that Doug Taylor and Michael Johnston are doing at the Gerald R. Ford Museum for the Grand Rapids Historical Society: Wednesday October 29, 2014, 7:00 pm – “C.O. & Mabel Taylor: Power Couple of the Progressive Era” The remarkable story of a extraordinary couple who helped birth the emerging middle class in Grand Rapids in the late 19th and early 20th Century. By his grandson Doug Taylor, historian at large and Michael Johnston, Grand Rapids labor historian.

The Lecture was marked for Thursday October 16th, but their become some conflicting program at the Gerald R. Ford Museum and the GR Historical Society had to change our Program to Wednesday October 29, 2014. I hope this will still work for everybody. Hope to see you there!!!

C.O. and Mabel Taylor:
Power Couple of the Progressive Era
by Doug Taylor and Michael Johnston
Co sponsored by the
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Special Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014: 7:00 p.m.
at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

    The Progressive Era between 1890 and 1920 was a time of both tremendous poverty and fantastic wealth. The middle class was only just emerging, led by a slowly growing labor movement of skilled workers, barbers, machinists, musicians, and the newly emerging college-educated social workers, teachers, journalists, and women from affluent backgrounds. At that time the organized labor movement was about six percent of the U.S. population, similar to what it is again today. The middle class worked to reform politics and business practices, and to end child labor and sweatshops.
    It was from this national reform movement that C.O. and Mabel Taylor emerged as Grand Rapids’ power couple for women’s rights and labor rights. They were not wealthy. C.O. (who’s real name was Claude) was a business agent for the Barbers and Musicians union, and a talented performer. He constantly took on extra jobs to make ends meet for his family of eleven children, including barbering, working for unions, and running a printing business that printed the union paper he edited. He was also a labor leader, civic booster, newspaper editor, political candidate, sports promoter, founder of Michigan’s Workers‘ Compensation System, negotiator, organizer, and prominent participant in the effort to end the great 1913 miners strike in the U.P.
    Mabel was his intellectual and civic partner at a time when women were expected to be seen but not heard. She was a civic do-gooder and a natural leader among women. Both wore many hats – figuratively – but it was also Mabel’s trademark to wear actual large and elaborate hats. Mabel drove the family car as C.O. preferred to be a passenger.
    The Progressive Era defined their lives as a couple. And they typified this newly emerging middle and social class, known as cutting edge players of their time where their activities were widely covered in the city’s press. They represented a whole new emerging social class like many others across the country.
    As President of the Michigan Federation of Labor, Taylor spent seven weeks in the Upper Peninsula desperately trying to end the infamous immigrant copper miners’ strike of 1913. As deprivation stalked their ranks, Taylor implored the copper barons to bargain with the Western Federation of Miners to no avail. Then tragedy struck shortly after he left. It was at Calumet’s Italian Hall on the Keweenaw Peninsula, someone yelled “fire” at a Christmas party being held for the children of the strikers. There was no fire but the subsequent escaping stampede caused the death of 73 people – 59 of them children. The tragedy was memorialized in Woody Guthrie’s song, 1913 Massacre.
    Everywhere C.O. traveled he kept his wife informed with a steady stream of postcards, many of which still exist. The U.P. strike was no exception.
    This was also an era of monopolies, called trusts. They made headlines with their power and greed while a vibrant President named Teddy Roosevelt railed against their unregulated power and became known as the “trust buster.” C.O. and Mable knew this. They read their daily Grand Rapids Press and Herald regularly. Both newspapers did an excellent job of covering national and international news. “Dinnertime meant discussing the day’s events,” remembered one young granddaughter, and she hated it. “It was so boring.”
    Join speakers the Taylor’s grandson/historian at large, Doug Taylor, and local labor historian, Michael Johnston, on a special date (Wednesday, October 29, 7 p.m.) as they use family photos and newspaper articles to tell the story of C.O.’s and Mabel’s lives as movers and shakers in Grand Rapids throughout the Progressive Era, World War I, and through the Great Depression up to World War II.

One Response to THE LECTURE

  1. Dan Salas says:

    sounds very interesting,are you gonna have like a slide presentation along with your presentation? just curious on how I could shoot this.
    I guess the easiest way is to just shoot some interviews before hand and then some of the presentation,sort of a mini-documentary on your event.
    This wouldn’t promote your event in advance thou.the only wat to do that is to shoot everything this we could post it on the netrwork.(Internet).

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