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’ […]

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Commemorating the Fire

by Esther Cohen RUTH SERGEL is a deeply original visual and performance artist and filmmaker, the author of See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, published last year by the University of Iowa Press. The book, she says, “is a chronicle of how I learned to be an […]

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January 31: Sweatshop-Free but Stained

Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, a trend-spotting clothing company that pioneered a “Made in the USA,” sweatshop-free model of manufacturing, was born in Montreal on this date in 1969. Charney founded his brand in 1991, paid his factory workers between $13 and $18 per hour, and offered them low-cost, full-family healthcare — benefits […]

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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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Jewish Journeys: The “Customer Man” — A Love Story

by Violet Snow “When things were bad, my dad would say, ‘A klog tzu Columbusen‘ — ‘A curse on Columbus,’ remembers my father-in-law, Jack Gorelick, whose parents arrived in the U.S. from White Russia in the early 1900s. “When things were good, he’d say ‘Die goldene medina‘—’The golden country.’” Jack’s father, Avram Gorelick, grew up […]

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October 14: Ralph Lauren

Billionaire fashion designer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz) was born in the Bronx to Polish Jewish emigrés on this date in 1939. He changed his name, he told Oprah Winfrey in 2002, because his given name “has the word shit in it. When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun […]

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