International Book Award Finalist 2023
When U.S. Senator William Hughes died in 1918 at just forty-five years of age, working men and women across the United States lamented the passing of a “champion of labor.” For the working-class communities in and around the industrial city of Paterson, New Jersey, the loss was felt especially hard. Some five thousand people attended the funeral of “Our Billy.” A decade later, with the help of funds solicited from around the country, the citizens of Paterson dedicated a prominent statue to his memory.
Hughes rose from the status of a poor Irish immigrant, bobbin boy, and silk weaver to become a local labor lawyer, jurist, and politician. From the silk mills of Paterson to the United States Senate, Made in Paterson traces the short life and significant legacy of Hughes, especially the pro-labor policies for which he advocated so vociferously. Throughout the book, author Daniel Willever weaves together the narrative of his subject’s life with the history of the Silk City during an era of great change, uncertainty, and progress.
Made in Paterson overlays Hughes’s remarkable rise with major societal struggles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: immigration, economic inequality, women’s suffrage, foreign conflicts, and the complexities of the nascent movement for labor rights. A close friend and political ally of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Hughes had outsized influence during his time in office, simultaneously elevating Paterson’s status from an industrial center to a city of political significance as well. Now, the remarkable life and work of this largely forgotten figure is illuminated for the first time, and woven together with the history of his beloved hometown.
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