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Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bessie Abramowitz devoted her life to unions, organizing her first strike at fifteen, announcing her engagement on a picket line, and continuing her efforts for workers’ rights until her death. Abramowitz immigrated to America alone at fifteen and found work sewing buttons in a garment factory while attending night school at the famous Hull House, run by suffragette Jane Addams. She spearheaded walkouts over pay cuts and poor conditions, inspiring her future husband, Sidney Hillman, to join and lead strikes himself. Abramowitz organized workers for the Women’s Trade Union League up and down the East Coast before becoming education director of the Laundry Workers Joint Board in 1937, where she balanced training workers in union leadership with cultural offerings like theater. Through Laundry Workers, which had many non-white workers, Abramowitz became involved in civil rights issues, serving with the CIO and AFL-CIO. She also lent her considerable talents to the Child Welfare Committee of New York, the Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Services, and President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, among many others.

Hillman, Bessie 1 - still image [media]
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In 1910, around the time this photograph was taken, Bessie Abramowitz led a walkout of sixteen young women button sewers at the Chicago factory where they worked, protesting a cut in wages. Her rebellion was greeted with amusement by most other workers, but within a matter of months thousands of workers from other factories were also out on strike

Institution: Philoine Fried

Date of Birth
May 15, 1889
Place of Birth
Linoveh
Date of Death
December 23, 1970

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bessie Abramowitz Hillman." (Viewed on September 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/people/hillman-bessie>.

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