Gund ’04 Shares Studies on Lawrence

Susannah Gund ’04, who has had hands on experience in studying poverty in Lawrence, Massachusetts, shared her Abbot Scholar presentation about the history of this city. Gund spent time working at an internship in Lawrence, in which she conducted a case study of poverty in Lawrence. From the time of its founding, Lawrence has been a center of immigration and poverty. Today, Lawrence is populated by immigrants and by impoverished people. Measuring six and one-half square miles and having a population of 72,000, Lawrence ranks the poorest community in Massachusetts and 23rd in the U.S. Poor quality of education also causes severe consequences in Lawrence. In 1997, the Lawrence Public Schools lost their state accreditation and now, less than 60% of Lawrence High School students graduate with a diploma. Mill owners built the city 159 years ago, with a plan to maximize production from the workers that would live there. These mill owners lived across the border in Andover. Even today, the border between Lawrence and Andover divides two areas of starkly contrasting wealth. The 19th century potato famine in Ireland, which coincided with the founding of Lawrence, caused Irish immigrants in desperate need of employment to flood into the mills looking for work. As the 20th century came around, other waves of immigration occurred, and the ethnic tensions rose. Lawrence is most renowned for its famous labor strike, the Bread and Roses Strike, which was the first of its kind in America. “People from over thirty different countries struck the mills together and despite the ethnic differences that divided the city, they managed to unite under the common goal to receive not just fair wages, bread, but also more decent hours, roses,” said Gund. Following the strike, Lawrence improved and even received national recognition. However, the immigration laws of the 1920s severely injured the Lawrence mills, which relied almost exclusively on immigrant labor. The latest wave of immigration has been from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Today, the mills are idle, behemoth reminders of the city’s golden era. Only Malden Mills, the makers of Polartec fleece, survive in the textile industry. Lawrence Community Works, the organization with which Gund was affiliated during her internship, institutes programs and committees to better the Lawrence community. LCW plays a massive role in the clean up and positive reinforcement in the city of Lawrence. ganization tries to “reverse the curse” on the city of Lawrence and move it into a future that holds opportunity and good fortune.