A monologue from the play by Rachel Rubin Ladutke
Bridget Gallagher is an Irish mill worker, addressing Congress in 1912.
Representative Berger and members of the Committee. I am Bridget Eileen Gallagher, from Ireland. I am eighteen years old.
When I was fifteen, my mother took me to Cork and put me on a boat to America. She told me there was nothing for me in Ireland.
And she was right. I was so excited to be going to America. Terrified too, o’ course.
When I first got off the boat, I felt like I was in a different world from everyone and every place I’d ever known and loved.
I’ve never felt so alone in my life. And I was right to be scared. I don’t mind hard work, but there’s a difference between hard work and slavery.
You all may think, you may have been told, that this strike is just a group of troublemakers who want to destroy the city.
But it’s not true. The strikers I’ve met have as much of a stake in Lawrence as the mill officials and politicians do.
More, even. We’re the ones that live there, and ship there, and worship there.
Meanwhile, not a single one of the mill officials, from second hand on up, live in Lawrence if they can afford not to. (pause)
Do you know what it’s like inside of a mill? Have you ever had to set foot in one of those hellholes?
Day after day, I can hardly get the sound out of my ears. Thread flying through the air. Thread working its way into my lungs.
I once saw an older woman –she must have had years of experience –get her dress caught in the machinery.
I rushed to turn it off, but it was too late. She died right there, on the floor.
They came and carried her out, and the boss told us just to keep working like nothing had happened. And we did.
We were afraid of losing our jobs if we stopped for five minutes. It could just as easily have been me.
You get tired, and the machines go faster and faster, and there’s no chance of a break. If we want fresh water, we have to pay ten cents a week for it.
And then ‘tisn’t even cold or fresh. Ever since I came to Lawrence I work six days a week in the mill.
Death is all around me, death and pain and suffering. It has been since I first came to Lawrence, and I see no end to it. (pause)
I love this country for what I’ve always known it could be.
But working in the mills kills your hopes and dreams, and even your spirit. Do you love this country as much as I do?
Aye, of course you do. You must. Nobody could live here and not realize what an amazing, wonderful place it is.
You must see that strike had to happen, and that something has got to change. We’ve done what we can.
Now it’s up to you.