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Viva Flaherty

Viva Flaherty

GRHC - December 23rd, 2013

Always an outspoken champion of the underdog, Viva Flaherty supported the furniture workers in their 1911 strike.


Social activist, humanitarian, and labor crusader, Viva Flaherty provided encouragement and support to Grand Rapids workers in the first decades of the 20th century. A Grand Rapids native, she attended Central High School, Vassar College, and the University of Michigan before taking a position at the Bissell Settlement House in Grand Rapids in 1903. Several years later she left for New York City to work with newly arriving immigrants. In 1910 she returned to Grand Rapids to work as social outreach secretary for Fountain Street Baptist Church.

Always an outspoken champion of the underdog, her convictions led her to support the furniture workers in their 1911 strike against their employers. This stance placed her in direct opposition to the church’s pastor, Alfred Wishart. He took the side of the factory owners, many of whom were his parishioners. As a result, Flaherty resigned her position at the church.

In addition to her strong pro-labor sentiments, Flaherty was also opposed to American entry into World War I. Along with twelve others she was arrested for distributing anti-draft literature. They were brought to trial by a zealous federal prosecutor, but all defendants were found not guilty of conspiring against the federal government.

After the trial, Flaherty again left Grand Rapids, but certainly to those who benefited from her efforts, her memory was not soon forgotten.

Full Details

TitleViva Flaherty
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Viva Flaherty; furniture strike
Pubdate StringDecember 23rd, 2013

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