Memorial, Plot E, Section 49, Lot 4, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

John Armstrong (1846-1910) was a leader of the Toronto Typographical Union who was also a strong advocate of labour organization for women workers.  An unusual granite stone and truncated pillar lie horizontally on the burial site evoking the rolling printing presses of his day, placed here by Minnie Lambert, his partner and companion in organizing women workers in city sweatshops such as those of the T. Eaton Co.

In his early days as an apprentice John Armstrong was fired by George Brown of the Globe for union activity. In 1872 he was one of the 22 union leaders who were jailed for their part in the historic strike for the nine-hour day. Then Prime Minister John A. Macdonald cleverly introduced the Trade Union Act to win workers to the Tory Party. It was the end of unions being described as a “conspiracies” and charges against the printers were dropped. Armstrong was twice president of the Toronto Typographical Union, and as a long-time delegate to the Toronto Labour Council he pioneered organization of women workers, fought for tough laws on child labour, shorter hours and workers’ compensation, as well as a universal strike fund. He was proud of organizing women workers in the only women’s union, the Female Shoe Operatives, where he championed equal pay for equal work. In 1882 he served as president of the Toronto Labour Council, and in 1878-79 he rose to head the International Typographical Union. He played a major role as a commissioner on the 1886 Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital.

At the old Church Street Labour Temple, a plaque honouring his role had greeted visitors for many years. When the building was sold, the memorial plaque was removed and later put up for sale. It was bought by a member of the union and is now on display in the offices of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP), Local 591G, 324 Prince Edward Drive, Ste. 10, Toronto.