Jewish Women on the Map - Jewish Home for the Aging
Clara Lemlich Shavelson, noted labor activist and confirmed radical, died here on July 12, 1982. She was an influential member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), where she protested the virtually all-male leadership's habit of ignoring female union members. In 1909, Lemlich burst onto a larger political stage when her speech in New York's Cooper Union Hall galvanized young, predominantly Jewish, working girls and set off what became known as the Uprising of the 20,000 (See This Week in History for November 22, 1909). During the Depression, Shavelson's insistence on the importance of women's labor in the home laid the groundwork for the later feminist movement's emphasis on gender politics and personal power relations within the family. After a lifetime of strikes, protests, and activism, she spent her last years at the Jewish Home convincing the administrators to honor grape and lettuce boycotts and organizing a union among the orderlies.
She was impatient with those who came to record her historic contributions, telling one researcher: "Why are you here interviewing me about what I did? If you want to do something, do something."
See also: "Clara Lemlich sparks Uprising of the 20,000" ; "Wage Earners' League for Woman Suffrage holds first mass rally"; and "Activist Clara Shavelson leads butcher shop boycott" in This Week in History; Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs; Clara Lemlich Shavelson in the Virtual Archive.