Unions

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Collection

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.

Meredith Tax

Meredith Tax used her writing both to highlight the tremendous upheaval of her own times and to reimagine the struggles of suffragists and union organizers.

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz

Both in her activism and in her writing, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz offered Jews new ways to think about and fight racism.

Ruth Rothstein

As chief of Cook County Bureau of Health Services, Ruth Rothstein helped Chicago hospitals create a better safety net for the disadvantaged.

Justine Wise Polier

As the first woman judge appointed in New York State, Justine Wise Polier focused on helping the most vulnerable population: children.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman’s controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies, but their attempts to silence her ironically led to greater protections of free speech in America.

Rose Finkelstein marries in true union style

December 25, 1921

Union organizer Rose Finkelstein Norwood said, "When I saw a detective coming, I’d hide in the coats."

Meredith Tax

It was too good a story to leave in a history book.

Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement

What is the meaning of work? What conditions cause workers to suffer and what inspires them to take action to improve their lives? What can Jewish history teach us about contemporary labor issues and our responsibility towards workers around the world? Watch interactive activities and see an experienced facilitator model investigations of several historical artifacts you can put to use in your classroom.

Birth of Vera Weisbord, Radical

August 19, 1895

Birth of Vera Weisbord, Radical

Freelancers Union Logo

Building a new social safety net: Sara Horowitz and the Freelancers Union

Judith Rosenbaum

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.

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Dr. Judith Rosenbaum Talks Living the Legacy with Jewschool

Gabrielle Orcha

This fall, the Jewish Women’s Archive released its latest online curriculum in the Living the Legacy series, a Jewish social justice education project.

Marilyn Sneiderman Organizing with Labor circa 2008-2009

Understanding the Past, Imagining the Future

Marilyn Sneiderman

Images and scenes etched in the minds of generations of Jewish activists--immigrant workers marching, sitting in, and striking; tear gas filling the air as riot police attack, beat and arrest union protesters; and battles with gangsters to free unions of mob domination. Freedom rides across the South, rabbis and religious leaders arrested in protests, and a generation of Jews--rank and file workers, organizers, and emerging leaders--swept up and inspired by a movement to win economic, racial, and social justice.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions
Chicago Teacher's Strike, September 2012

What's With All The Teacher Hate?

Sarah Seltzer

Sarah Seltzer, contributing writer to the The Sisterhood, shares her thoughts on education, class, gender, unions, and workers' rights.

"The Return from Toil," July 1913

Labor Day and Leisure

Judith Rosenbaum

Labor Day. In America, this holiday is more often associated with barbeques, sales, and the farewell to summer and white linen than with the contributions of workers. By design, it’s a less overtly political holiday than the workers’ holidays in Europe—the U.S. intentionally picked a day other than the International Workers’ Day of May 1st to avoid any whiff of radicalism.

Joyce D. Miller, 1928 - 2012

In addition to being a great friend to many and a loving mother, daughter, and sister, she was a <em>Tzaddik.</em></p>

Rose Finkelstein leads successful strike

April 20, 1919

On April 20, 1919, the young women who worked as telephone operators at New England Telephone and Telegraph walked off the job.

Top 11 Labor History Landmarks in New York City

Labor History Landmark: No. 4 The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Headquarters

Leah Berkenwald

The Top 11 Labor History Landmarks in New York City is a blog series on Jewesses with Attitude created in honor of Women's History Month and the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Waist Factory fire. Learn more about the series here, or check out JWA's online walking tour.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Fannia Cohn

Leah Berkenwald

Her life offers evidence of the possibilities and limitations of women’s activism in the American labor movement.”

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Pauline Newman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1890, Pauline Newman was barred from the local public school because she was Jewish. As a girl, her opportunities for a Jewish education were limited. Her father tutored well-to-do boys in Talmud; he eventually allowed her to attend Sunday classes, where she learned to read and write both Yiddish and Hebrew. The obstacles she faced in getting an education motivated her to fight for gender equality later in her life.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Clara Lemlich

Leah Berkenwald

When Clara Lemlich was growing up in the Ukraine, her religious parents did not want their daughter learning Russian, the language of an antisemitic empire. But the strong minded girl was drawn to Russia’s literary masters—Tolstoy, Gorky, and Turgenev—and to the revolutionary literature being written in Russian. She took on odd jobs—sewing buttons, teaching folk songs, writing letters for illiterate women—to pay for Russian lessons and later for books she kept hidden from her family.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in 1889, Bessie Abramowitz Hillman grew up in the Russian empire, in the city of Grodno, now part of Belarus. When she was 15, she immigrated to America “to escape a marriage broker,” she later said. She settled in Chicago, where she had distant relatives. She was soon involved in the fight for better wages and working conditions.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Rose Schneiderman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in 1882 into a devout Jewish family in Saven, Poland, Rose Schneiderman was raised from an early age to believe she was capable of doing anything a man could do. Her parents enrolled her in a Jewish school at the age of four. Two years later, the family moved to the city of Chelm so that Rose could attend a Russian public school and receive an excellent secular education.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Rose Pesotta

Leah Berkenwald

Rakhel Peisoty, who later changed her name to Rose Pesotta, was born in 1896 in a Ukrainian railroad town that was then part of the Russian Empire. Even as a child, she had the passionate convictions that would guide her later life as a labor activist and anarchist. Rose’s older sister, who belonged to an underground anarchist group, encouraged her to read the works of social revolutionaries. Rose attended a school for girls that taught a standard Russian curriculum, while offering secret lessons in Jewish history and Hebrew.

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