The Rent Striker

On this day in 1907, 16-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 […]

Read More

Clara Lemlich Sparks an Uprising

Clara Lemlich made a spontaneous speech at Cooper Union on this date in 1909 that sparked the “Uprising of the 20,000,” an industry-wide strike of shirtwaist workers mobilized by the new International Ladies Garment Workers Union. “I want to say a few words!” shouted Lemlich, a 23-year-old garment worker, in Yiddish, following AFL leader Samuel Gompers’ […]

Read More

The CIO

Among the labor leaders who founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) on this date in 1935 (the announcement was made November 9th) were Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and Max Zaritsky of the Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers. The CIO […]

Read More

Celia Adler’s Advice to the Players

by Joel Schechter WHEN I DELIVER an introductory lecture on Yiddish theater at San Francisco State University, not all of the students in the class are Jewish, far from it; they come from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Once, after I finished discussing a few Yiddish actors and writers, a student asked me […]

Read More

Photographing the Thirties and Forties

by Marvin Zuckerman All photographs by Katherine Joseph, © Richard Hertzberg and Suzanne Hertzberg, courtesy of the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Discussed in this essay: Katherine Joseph: Photographing an Era of Social Significance by Suzanne Hertzberg. Bergamot Press, 2016, 149 pages. Sing me a song of social significance,/ There’s nothing […]

Read More

November 20: Rose Pesotta, Champion Organizer

Rose Pesotta (Rakhel Peisoty), union organizer, anarchist, and the first female vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1896. Pesotta emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 to avoid an arranged marriage and worked in a shirtwaist factory. She joined ILGWU Local 25 and led […]

Read More

Channel Esther: The Triangle Fire

by Esther Cohen Some stories we can’t tell enough. March 25, 1911 (honoring this story today) 146 people died, jumping falling factory on 23-29 Washington Place NYU now owners locked the doors preventing workers from taking breaks stealing merchandise Fire changed our laws, starting International Ladies Garment Workers (ILGWU) there are still fires still people […]

Read More

December 29: A Socialist in Congress

Meyer London, one of only two Socialist Party members elected to Congress (the other was Victor Berger), was born in Lithuania on this date in 1871. He came to New York at age 20 and worked as a tutor and printer while acquiring a law degree. London was a fundraising activist for the Jewish Bund […]

Read More