First Advisor

Tim Alan Garrison

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Labor laws and legislation -- United States -- History, Labor unions -- United States -- History, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), Octave Thanet (1850-1934)



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 199 pages)


Historical studies of Theodore Roosevelt's views about labor and labor unions are in conflict. This was also true of contemporary disagreements about the meaning of his labor rhetoric and actions. The uncertainties revolve around whether or not he was sincere in his support of working people and labor unions, whether his words and actions were political only or were based on a philosophical foundation, and why he did not propose comprehensive labor policies.

Roosevelt historiography has addressed these questions without considering his stated admiration for Octave Thanet's writings about "labor problems." Octave Thanet was the pseudonym of Alice French, a popular fiction writer during Roosevelt's adult years. Roosevelt on several occasions praised her knowledge of factory conditions and discussions of labor problems, and he invited her to the White House. The thesis analyzes her labor stories, Roosevelt's comments about her labor writings, and their relevance to how he responded to the growth and tactics of organized labor. It also addresses the influence on Roosevelt of contemporary writing on labor unions by John Hay, Henry George, and Herbert Croly, as well as his relationship with labor leader Samuel Gompers.

The thesis concludes that Roosevelt was sincere about improving the social and industrial conditions of workers, primarily through government action. It further concludes that his support of labor unions in principle was genuine, but was contingent on organized labor's repudiation of violence and attempts to justify violence; and that he opposed union boycotts and mandatory union membership as inimical to his vision of a classless society. The thesis additionally considers the extent to which Roosevelt's views were embodied in national labor legislation after his death.


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