Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology

Recalling events that happened on this day in history.
Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

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May 11, 1894
Start of the Pullman Strike. The strike begins in Pullman, Illinois, when some 3,000 railway workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company go out on a wildcat strike after the company moves unilaterally to cut their wages. The strike escalates into an industry-wide confrontation between the American Railway Union, led by Eugene Debs, and the railway companies. At its peak, 250,000 railway workers are out on strike, and east-west railway traffic comes to a halt.
After a time, the federal government intervenes in the strike on behalf of the companies, sending in federal troops to arrest the strike leaders and break the strike. 18 workers are killed.
Eugene Debs is sent to prison for his role in the strike. In prison, he reads the works of Karl Marx and becomes a socialist.
May 11, 1894
Birth of Martha Graham (1894-1991), dancer and choreographer.
Quote: Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
Related Topics: Dancers
May 11, 1970
The Abortion Caravan arrives at its destination in Ottawa. The carvan was initiated by members of the Vancouver Women’s Caucus, who want to draw attention to the current abortion law in Canada, allowing abortion only in cases where a woman's health is endangered by her pregnancy. Abortions could only be performed after being approved by a three-member Therapeutic Abortion Commiteee in a hospital.
The Abortion Caravan aims to emulate the On-to-Ottawa Trek of unemployed workers in 1935. It sets out from Vancouver in mid-April 1970 and travels across the country, holding meetings every night in different communities, and raising public awareness of the abortion issue.
On May 11, when the Carvan arrives in Ottawa, some women gather outside the Parliament Buildings and demonstrate, while another three dozen quietly enter the vistors’ gallery of the House of Commons and chain themselves to their seats. Then, one by one, they rise from their seats, read out statements, and then chant “Free Abortion on Demand” as they are gradually removed by security guards. Their action forces Parliament to adjourn involunarily for the first time in its history.
May 11, 1973
A court throws out the Espionage Act charges laid by the federal government against Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo. The two were charged for releasing the ‘Pentagon Papers’ to the media.
In the late 1960s, while working as a military analyst, Ellsberg becomes increasingly disturbed by the U.S. war against Vietnam, and by the way the truth about the nature of the war was being kept from the public. He eventually decides to copy the secret documents he has access to and make them available to the press. Ellsberg openly admits giving the documents to the press, saying “I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.” The charges against Ellsbery and Russo are thrown out after grotesque government misconduct in the case is revealed.

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For more information about people and events in Seeds of Fire, explore these pages: