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Remembering the Waistmakers General Strike, 1909

In Memoriam: Clara Lemlich Shavelson (March 28, 1886 — July 25, 1982) Originally published in the November, 1982 issue of Jewish Currents. Read the original, in PDF with footnotes. WHEN CLARA LEMLICH SHAVELSON DIED in a Los Angeles nursing home July 25th, the death notice of the family in the New York Times July 30th […]

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Joe and Me: Two Generations on the Left

by Kenneth Kann WE SAT ARGUING AT JOE’S KITCHEN TABLE, with my tape recorder ready for an interview session. Joe had called our publisher to demand that they replace me with another writer for his autobiography. I flung pencils at the wall in exasperation. We were fighting about an attack on Ukrainian peasants. By Jews. […]

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July 10: Sidney Hillman

Labor leader Sidney Hillman, head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and a key organizer of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), died of a heart attack at 59 on this date in 1946. Hillman was born in Lithuania and groomed to be a rabbi, but became a Jewish Bundist by age 16 and, after coming […]

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September 10: Rose Norwood, Lifelong Organizer

Rose Finkelstein Norwood, who led a six-day strike of 8,000 telephone operators in 1919 — one of the largest strikes ever initiated and led by women — was born in Kiev on this date in 1889. Throughout the 1920s she was a leader within the Women’s Trade Union League, the Women’s International League for Peace […]

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August 1: “How a Great Union Works”

The August 1, 1938 issue of Life magazine featured a 12-page cover story on the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (“How a Great Union Works”) that showcased the ILGWU’s Unity House, a vacation retreat in the Poconos, and contrasted the extreme exploitation of immigrant garment workers in the recent past with a happy vision of […]

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July 7: The Great Revolt

The Cloakmakers Strike, known as the “Great Revolt” and involving more than 50,000 workers, began in New York with a mass walk-out on this date in 1910. The strike had been carefully planned by the new ILGWU, which had learned a great deal from the previous year’s “Uprising of the 20,000,” the strike of women […]

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June 3: The ILGWU

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) was founded on this date in 1900, bringing together several smaller labor groups representing Jewish and Italian workers, predominantly young women. They “worked nine-hour days,” writes Cody Bay, “probably crammed into some moldy basement with locked doors and a complete dickhead for a boss who was likely also a […]

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February 25: On Strike!

Veteran union activist Rose Pesotta arrived in Akron, Ohio on this date in 1936 to give support to Goodyear Rubber workers who were on strike. Active in the anarchist movement and a close friend to Emma Goldman, Pesotta worked for the ILGWU from 1913 until 1944 (she became a vice-president of the union in 1934 […]

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April 5: Fannia Cohn

Labor organizer Fannia Mary Cohn was born on this date in 1885 in Russia. She emigrated with her family to New York at age 19 and worked with the American Jewish Women’s Committee on Ellis Island before making up her mind to become a labor organizer and taking a job in a garment factory. From […]

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March 25: The Triangle Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire took the lives of at least 146 workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls (as well as thirty men), on this date in 1911. Many of the trapped workers were forced to leap from the upper floors of the burning building, which fire truck ladders could not reach; other […]

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