Albert Goodwin

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This article is about Albert Goodwin, the Canadian trade unionist. For other similarly named people, see Albert Goodwin (disambiguation).
Albert "Ginger" Goodwin
Albert Goodwin fair use.jpg
Born Albert Goodwin
May 10, 1887
Treeton, Yorkshire, England
Died July 27, 1918(1918-07-27) (aged 31)
"Mount Ginger Goodwin" west of Cumberland
Cause of death
Single gunshot/head trauma
Resting place
Cumberland cemetery
39°51′11″N 81°39′50″W / 39.853004°N 81.66375°W / 39.853004; -81.66375
Monuments Memorial headstone
Nationality English
Other names Ginger Goodwin
Ethnicity English Canadian
Citizenship Canadian dual national
Occupation Coal miner, labour unionist
Years active 16
Known for Advocating organized labour, dying a controversial death, martyrdom
Home town Treeton, Yorkshire, England
Political party
Socialist Party of Canada (SPC)
Movement Organized labour movement
Criminal charge
Evading conscription into the Canadian Army
Criminal penalty
State ordered apprehension
Criminal status Killed during apprehension

Albert "Ginger" Goodwin (May 10, 1887 – July 27, 1918) of Treeton, England was a migrant coal miner who found work in the Cumberland mines, arriving on Vancouver Island in late 1910. Goodwin was disgruntled by the working conditions and management's ubiquitous disregard of all labour factions. Zealous for change, Goodwin became an advocate for workers rights, organizing and promoting the proliferation of trade unions. Goodwin increased in stature to become a highly prominent leader of the social movement that organized labour, but died rather suddenly under highly controversial circumstances that have not been settled to this day. The widely held belief was that Goodwin was murdered in an attempt to stifle collective bargaining; his death inspired the 1918 Vancouver general strike on August 2, 1918, Canada's first General Strike ever. This strike was a precursor to the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, a defining moment in Canadian labour history.

Early life[edit]

Goodwin was born in Treeton, Yorkshire, England, and was a coal miner for most of his working life. Goodwin followed the work, mining in England, Nova Scotia, and from late 1910 on, Vancouver Island. Mayse's book Ginger: The Life and Death of Albert Goodwin says that Goodwin found the working conditions in the Cumberland mines to be "appalling". After only a year and half, he was swept up in the vicious Coal Miners' Strike on Vancouver Island, which began in Cumberland and lasted from September 1912 until the beginning of World War I in 1914. Although the strike did not garner favorable change for workers, it was regarded as an extreme economic burden on Canada. There is not much evidence to suggest Goodwin played a pivotal role in this strike, but the experience no doubt helped to foster his radical views. The strike left him "blackballed" from the Cumberland mines.

Labour Activism[edit]

In 1916 Goodwin moved to Trail, British Columbia, where he worked as a "smelterman" for the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited. He then entered politics and ran as a candidate of the Socialist Party of Canada in Trail's "provincial election of 1916". On December 18, 1916 Goodwin was elected "full-time secretary" of the Trail Mill and Smeltermen’s Union. The following year he was elected vice-president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, and president of both the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers, District 6, and the Trail Trades and Labour Council.

Goodwin was a conscientious objector during World War I, openly stating that the working class were now being employed to kill each other in the war. Goodwin nevertheless complied with the law and signed up for the draft, but was not conscripted after a medical examination found him temporarily unfit for military duty, stating he suffered "black lung" and bad teeth. Shortly thereafter, Goodwin led a strike at the Trail lead/zinc smelter in 1917, bargaining for a standard eight-hour workday. Amidst the strike, Goodwin was notified that his temporary status had been changed and that he was now "fit for duty".

As a pacifist opposed to the war, Goodwin fled conscription by taking refuge in the Cumberland bush, where he avoided capture for some months with the aid of his fellow workers from Cumberland. Hunted by the police for evading the draft, Goodwin camped in the hills surrounding Cumberland. On July 27, 1918, he was shot and killed by Dominion Police Special Constable Dan Campbell.[1] Campbell, who claimed he fired in self-defense, was never tried for the death.

Legacy[edit]

Goodwin was given a large funeral - the procession was remembered to have stretched "a mile" - and his death sparked the Vancouver general strike on August 2, 1918.

The 1980s saw a revival of Goodwin's legacy in Cumberland with the start of Miners' Memorial Day in 1986. Organized by the Cumberland Museum and Archives, this annual event celebrates the memory of Cumberland's Miners, including the 295 who died in various mining accidents over the decades. A "graveside vigil" is also held every year, during which local unions and other organizations place fair-trade flowers at Goodwin's headstone. In 1989, the mountain where Goodwin was shot was named "Mount Ginger Goodwin". A section of Vancouver Island Highway 19 that passes through Cumberland was briefly named Ginger Goodwin Way in the 1990s. On Labour Day, 2001, the signs were quietly removed by the newly elected BC Liberal government. The signs' removal indicates the continuing controversy over Goodwin's death and legacy.

See also[edit]

Fighting For Dignity: The Ginger Goodwin Story. By Roger Stonebanks. Canadian Committee on Labour History, 2004. 206 pages.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Smollett (November 9, 2010). "War resisters also deserve a memorial". Opinion. Toronto Star. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Mayse, Susan, January 1, 1990, Ginger: The Life and Death of Albert Goodwin, Harbour Publishing, 212 pp., with index and bibliography, ISBN 9781550170184
  • Stonebanks, Roger, 2004, "Fighting For Dignity: The Ginger Goodwin Story", Canadian Committee on Labour History, 206 pp., with index and bibliography, ISBN 1-894000-06-4

External links[edit]