Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Brave Girl:  Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Balzer + Bray, 2013.  Unpaged.  Biography

     Clara Lemlich came from Ukraine to the United States with her family in the early days of the twentieth century hoping to go to school and improve her chances in life, but her father couldn't find work so she got a job as a garment worker in one of New York's clothing factories. Conditions there were hardly fair; in fact, they were brutal. For only a few dollars a month, young immigrant girls worked in stuffy factories with locked doors.  Only two toilets, one sink, and three towels were available to serve 300 workers in Clara's factory, from daylight to dark. But determined to improve herself she goes to school and to the library at night, and after one glass of milk and a few hours sleep, goes back to work.  The rest of the book details Clara's work as a union organizer who finally provoked her fellow garment workers to go on a general strike that finally brought some justice and equity to the nation's immigrant workforce.  Melissa Sweet's illustrations are cheerfully evocative of the time, and a long end note describes for young people how labor unions helped give modern workers a five-day work week with overtime pay. 

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