HAMPTON FALLS, N.H. — US Senator Elizabeth Warren recalled the origins of Labor Day and the early days of unionized workers at a campaign rally here Monday, connecting the struggles of striking Massachusetts millworkers more than a century ago to those of modern Americans.
“Children were working. One in every three adult workers . . . at that mill lost their life by the time they were 25 years old. That’s how dangerous the machines were. That’s what it meant to breathe the dust that they were all breathing,” Warren said of Lawrence mills in 1912.
Faced with such conditions, the workers — mostly women and nearly all immigrants, decided they had had enough, Warren said.
“And first in twos and threes, and then by the dozens, and then by the hundreds, they got up and they walked out. And that’s what started the strike that changed America.”
Before the outdoor event was cut short by rain, Warren drew a line from millowners of the early 20th century to corporate behemoths of the early 21st, saying the disproportionate influence of the wealthy is responsible for many of the nation’s ills.
“Whatever issue brought you here today — whether it’s guns, health care, climate — whatever issue gets you up in the morning, if there is a decision to be made in Washington, I guarantee you it’s been influenced by money,” she told the crowd, pledging to tackle corruption.
As summer gives way to fall — and the next phase of the campaign — the 70-year-old is seeking to build on her rising poll numbers and successful fund-raising. Warren is among 10 Democratic presidential candidates who have qualified to appear in the Houston debate next week.
In interviews, voters here said they were either leaning toward Warren in the still-crowded Democratic race or had already made up their minds.
“I have admired her for a very long time,” said Jan Knox, 68, of Newmarket, N.H. “She’s the real deal.”
Knox said she had supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 and remains an admirer, but she shifted to Warren in part because “we need to get testosterone out of government.”
Gabriel Freedman-Naditch, 15, and his mom, Beth Naditch, 48, had driven to the event from their home in Newton, Mass. Her family has long supported Warren’s Senate campaigns, she said, and is leaning toward her in the presidential race.
“We really support her positions on pretty much everything we know about: education, gun control . . . health care, climate change,” Naditch said.
Gabriel said two of his central issues are “gun control and climate change, ’cause that’s really in my future. And also, the wealth tax is really smart.”
“When I get to vote in 2024 — that’ll be my first presidential election — I really hope that I’ll be able to vote to reelect President Warren,” he added.
Amber Hastings, 26, was on vacation from Orlando, when her aunt suggested she check out the event.
“I’m definitely wanting to see if she’ll address police brutality issues . . . and race issues,” Hastings said. “As a black person, I’m very interested to see what she has to say.”
Hastings said she doesn’t believe New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Senator Kamala Harris, the African-American candidates in the Democratic race, have a realistic chance of winning, and she has misgivings about Harris’s record.
“If you look at her policies on justice reform and the things she’s done as a prosecutor in California, it’s kind of concerning for me,” she said. “Her track record doesn’t line up with what she says she’s selling.”
Before Warren spoke, Hastings said she was “a loose supporter” of the Cambridge Democrat. Afterward, though Warren didn’t directly address issues of race during the shortened event, Hastings said she was fully sold.
“Warren is my first choice,” she said.