Equal pay for equal work—an all-too familiar demand. Last week the Forwardpublished its annual survey of salaries in Jewish organizations, and yesterday the New York Times published a piece by Jessica Bennett calling on women to ramp up their negotiating skills.
Today I googled the Wendy’s commercial of the early 1980s were an older woman uses the catchphrase “where’s the beef?!”. This may—or may not—surprise you. What probably will surprise you was the fact that this search was not inspired by my Memorial Day plans of grilling, but because of my job here at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
While exploring our archives I came across a truly remarkable activist, Clara Lemlich Shavelson. Born in 1886, Shavelson was a key player in the labor movement. She was also a suffragist, communist, community organizer, and peace activist. Read on to find out where the beef comes into play!
A fire blazes through a garment factory. The building has too few exits and not enough fire escapes. Fire equipment cannot reach the fire. More than 100 people—many of them young women—die. Bodies, burnt beyond recognition, line the floor of a government building, awaiting identification.
In 1909, Jewish women revolutionized the American labor movement. Before the huge garment industry strike known as the “Uprising of the 20,000,” union leaders saw women workers as irrelevant to the labor movement because they did not fit into the model of the traditional male union member. But these garment workers, many of them young Jewish women, proved that women could, in fact, organize effectively and challenge working conditions, and in doing so, they expanded the definition of worker and union member.