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December 26: Pauline Newman, Rent Striker

Lawrence Bush
December 26, 2009

PaulineNewmanOn this day in 1907, sixteen-year-old Pauline Newman launched a rent strike involving 10,000 families in lower Manhattan, after months of organizing among housewives and teenage sweatshop workers. The strike lasted two weeks and won rent reductions for about 2,000 households. Leaders of the settlement house movement then urged capping rents throughout the city at 30 percent of a family’s income — an essential principle of rent control, which was finally implemented in the 1930s. Pauline Newman went on to help organize the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000, the first industry-wide garment workers strike, which led to the establishment of the ILGWU — the union for which she worked for seven decades. She and her partner of more than 50 years, Frieda Miller, lived in Greenwich Village and raised a daughter together.
Her contributions as an organizer, a legislative expert, a writer, and a mentor to younger women activists were profound and wide-ranging. Her historical significance far exceeds any official title that she held.” —Annelise Orleck, Jewish Women’s Archives

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.