Karen Silkwood and Bread & Roses in The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker

  • Karen-Silkwood-Table-in-The-Labor-Monument-Philadelphia’s-Tribute-to-the-American-Worker-WWP

Place Category: Memorial & StatuePlace Tags: Philly Places and Places in PA

  • Description

    A monument commemorating American Labor Movements and key events in the labor history stands at the center of Elmwood Park in Southwest Philadelphia, an area of working-class neighborhoods.
    The monument was designed by John Kindness and was dedicated in 2010. It features a circle of seven round knee-level bronze tables resembling work bottoms. The artist was inspired by the blue denim clothing the workers used to wear. Near each table, there is a bench, inviting visitors to sit and interact, touch, and learn from reliefs carved on the tables.
    Each one of the seven tables represents an important person or event in labor history, two are related to women:
    The table of Karen Silkwood commemorates the labor activist who raised safety problems that happened in the fuel fabrication site she worked in as a chemical technician. Silkwood died in a mysterious car accident on her way to a meeting with a New York Times journalist to share her concerns and findings.
    The table of Bread & Roses – Labor & the Women’s Rights Movement – commemorates the famous strike that happened in 1912 by thousands of textile mill workers, mostly women in Lawrence, MA, after their salary was cut. Their slogan was, “We want bread and roses, too.” This event enhanced the contributions of women to the labor force.
    The rest of the tables commemorate:
    – Eugene V. Debs who organized the American Railway Union (ARU), the first industrial union in the US in 1893.
    – The United Farm Workers which organized in 1966 to increase the awareness of the poor conditions of the immigrant farmworkers.
    – Child labor reform.
    – African-American sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, who demanded equality.
    – The Industrial Workers of the World is also known as I.W.W. or “The Wobblies,” established in 1905 to represent all working people, using music to spread their agenda.

    Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO - The Labor Monument: Full Version

    "The Labor Monument: Philadelphia's Tribute to the American Worker" (2010)
    Artist John Kindness (1951-)

    Voices heard in the program:
    John Kindness is an Irish artist who designed "The Labor Monument: Philadelphia's Tribute to the American Worker". Tom Pain Cronin is Director of the Comey Institute for Industrial Relations at St. Joseph's University. Cathy Brady (1956-2018) was a Philadelphia native and the Lead Community Organizer of "The Labor Monument".

    Segment Producer: Kerrie Hillman


    The Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) presents Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO, an interpretive audio program for Philadelphia's outdoor sculptures. Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is presented in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the William Penn Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • More Info
    Address: Buist Ave & S 71st St, Philadelphia, PA 19153
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  • Photo credit - WWP team