Jewish Women on the Map - Carnegie Hall
On January 2, 1910, as the shirtwaist strike dragged on, the Women’s Trade Union League, the Political Equity League, New York’s Liberal Club, and the Socialist Women’s Committee sponsored a meeting at Carnegie Hall to protest the mistreatment of strikers and to raise funds to help women who had been arrested.
The hall was filled to capacity with both workers and their upper-class supporters who had come together to discuss the police and magistrates’ abuse of power in the arrest of female strikers, some of whom had been sentenced to hard labor at the workhouse.
Over 300 women sat on the stage with paper sashes bearing the word “Arrested,” while 20 women in the front row wore sashes that said “Workhouse.” Banners reading, “A Striker is Not a Criminal” and “Everyone Has the Legal Right to Picket” hung from the walls.
Speakers decried the actions of police, judges, and other city officials. “We are here because the weakest and most defenseless of our people have been denied the equal protection of the law,” one man said. “Strikers described their experiences on the picket line and in the courthouse. An officer of the Women’s Trade Union League spoke of the unity and sisterhood displayed throughout the long weeks of the strike.
The unity was already frayed however. Some in the audience were alarmed by socialist undertones in the speeches. J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, who had strongly supported the strikers, told the New York Times, “I believe they have been very badly treated by the courts… but it is reprehensible for the Socialists to take advantage at this time to preach their fanatical doctrines.” After the Carnegie Hall meeting, Morgan and other like-minded women tempered their support for the strike.
On the other hand, labor papers questioned whether the upper-class reformers genuinely supported their working-class sisters or were more interested in pushing a suffrage agenda. These divisions would continue to grow in the months ahead.
Photograph by David Samuel.