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We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women's Factory Strike of 1909 Paperback – January 1, 1998
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Young people feeling like they can't change the world should read Joan Dash's We Shall Not Be Moved. In 1909, teenage girls led some 30,000 shirt cutters, pressers, and finishers in the "largest strike of women workers ever known in the United States." These young women, who lived near poverty and spoke different languages, nevertheless brought the shirt-making industry to a halt for more than 13 weeks. Not only did it unite factory workers, it gained crucial support from college-educated suffragists and from women in high society, often called "the mink brigade." The strike, which began in New York and spread to Philadelphia, ultimately led to a settlement between more than 300 manufacturers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"Dash brings a novelist's skill to her descriptions of Lower East Side streets," said PW of this "colorful and perceptive" account of a factory strike that ended in victory for maltreated female workers. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)r
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book opens with a description of one of the typical factories at the turn of the century, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, one of the largest of 600 factories on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This factory was large, but it was a typical factory of the time. The first chapter, "On the Eighth Floor" describes, in detail, the factory's working conditions for the many young girls who worked making shirtwaists six days a week, and getting paid $6 dollars per week to do it. The conditions were tough for the young women, many of whom were recent immigrants, as they worked long hours in silence, being fined for talking or taking too long in the bathroom. They were undernourished, living in crowded, unsanitary conditions, and at risk for tuberculosis. A shirtwaist union existed at this time, but it was under resourced, disorganized, and of little help to the factory workers. This would all change in the summer of 1909.
The second chapter, "The Homes of the Shirtwaist Girls," describes in detail what life was like in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for a Jewish family. Struggling to maintain their Jewish identity, yet still trying to become American, Jewish families, particularly young Jewish girls struggled to figure out who they were and where they fit in. It describes Clara Lemlich, one of the leaders of the shirtwaist union, the Local 25 of the ILGWU or the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and how Clara had no skill or education in running a union; she simply had the audacity to want change in factories' conditions.
The next chapter speaks of the summer of 1909 and the restlessness that occurred because of the constant protests and pickets. The management of Triangle Shirtwaist Company sent thugs and prostitutes to taunt, berate, and beat anyone attempting to organize or protest the company. However, these antics could not stop other people from noticing and getting behind the union workers, as The Women's Trade Union League took up the local cause, a significant feat since these were respected, educated "ladies."
The next two chapters describe the general strike, itself. This general strike meant that every shirtwaist factory, all 600 of them, would participate in the labor strike, an achievement never before accomplished. The day of the strike, over 30,000 workers walked off the job and then organized. They spent the next days and weeks educating themselves about unions, striking, and deciding specifically what they wanted from the companies. They held meetings in three different languages and refused to budge until their demands were met. As time wore on, women strikers began fundraising for the cause by talking to local women's colleges. This raised political awareness of the cause, and many "college girls," including millionairesses, gave money, joined picket lines, and helped to lead the fight for women. By the end of the strike, modest gains had been accomplished for the workers directly: increased pay, shorter days, and an end to the humiliation and petty fines of the factories. However, the strikers had accomplished a feat that had never before been attempted in bringing the garment industry to a halt for thirteen weeks, creating the nation's first permanent union of working women, and the amazing triumph of thousands of women, of all different backgrounds, standing together for one noble cause.
I believe this book is a compelling and exciting narrative about the garment factory strike of 1909. It paints a vivid picture of the life of a teenage girl at the turn of the twentieth century. Middle school age students, particularly girls, will enjoy this book because its heroines are mostly young women. Women will be able to identify with the characters because although they are living at a different time and experiencing many hardships, the young girls are still young girls. Modern-day girls will still be able to relate to the characters, as when Dash says about the factory girls, "What girl of sixteen or eighteen can do a full day's work without once opening her mouth?" (1). Modern-day girls may make connections to life at the factory compared to life at school. The girls in 1909 also simply wanted to fit in. Dash says about the young Jewish girls: "While their parents had come to escape anti-Semitism and poverty, the daughters had other reasons as well, based on the belief that to be American meant to be modern," (26). These young girls still disagreed with their parents and tried desperately to fit in. They cared about the clothes they wore and about what other people thought of them. Modern-day girls will enjoy this book because they can relate to the characters and issues faced by the teenage girls of 1909.
Although I highly enjoyed reading this book and believe that many other middle age students will as well, I have a few criticisms of the book. My main complaint is that certain parts of the story seem a bit disconnected. A new paragraph often will jump to an entirely new, seemingly unrelated topic, with little transition. Furthermore, Dash would be better suited to provide more details about the lives of the main contributors of the factory strike. She introduces so many female characters, without properly developing them, that it becomes confusing to keep track of each player in the strike. It would be more interesting to narrow the focus to the key players of the strike, and delve into more depth about the key characters' lives, rather than skipping from person to person so frequently. This would make the story overall less confusing and more compelling with fewer, but more developed characters.
The story is a very influential and heartbreaking; however it is all of this as well as more all while being incredibly precise. It explains that not only hardworking "men" get tired but hardworking women need a break also. Though it is indeed a story of triumph it sends an important and strong message across to its readers. The story starts in a shirtwaist building as many, many girls started their days in 1909. Young women, so deep into their silent yet busily done work they almost overlooked one little fact. The almost did not and at times ignored the simply stated fact that they were being "pushed around". Any one of the girls could have told a story of going hungry, not having a home and numerous more mishaps that occurred. All of them due to a extremely unfortunate cause, the very undersized amount of pay they received, especially for such carefully done work. Finally, a fed up girl speaking and crying out in Yiddish tongue announced her pain to the entire room of people, each and every one with the same exact opinion on the subject matter. Soon, that one girl would change the world.
Dash's writing plainly shows her passion and beliefs on the subject matter. The author uses descriptive and vibrant words to express emotion and feeling. Very specific detail and accurate facts also contribute to the wonderful story. In addition, occasional quotes and/or excerpts from original speeches dating back as far as the late early 1900's add to the exceptional story line. One of the plentiful examples include: "Many were paralyzed by their ignorance of the new country". This quote is not only strong and powerful but truthful all at the same time. It has a deeper meaning than what it says, it goes way beyond that simple meaning it seems to have. It conveys the seriousness of young girls (immigrants) coming to America with no skills and whatnot trying to make a living anyhow. She accurately and intensely captures what exactly the girls went through at the time period.
Dash uses real life situations that many of the young adults were faced with. For instance "One girl is given the factual name of Rea Lupatkin. She is nineteen, and like thousands of other young, single Jewish women she has come to America entirely on her own. Working in a shirtwaist factory, Rea earns four dollars for a fifty-six-hour week. Out of this she pays four dollars a month for lodging in a tenement apartment shared with a married couple and their child. She walks forty-five minutes to work each day to save the expense of carfare. Her food costs $2.25 a week so her regular weekly costs of living are $3.25, leaving seventy-five cents for every other expense. All the same Rea sends an occasional two dollars abroad to her family in Europe." This story is just one of the several young shirtwaist girls' stories. It proves that there were treated unfairly by their bosses and such. In addition it demonstrates that the young women were living and supporting not only themselves, but usually their family as well on close to nothing! These are just some of the various stories and testimonies of the shirtwaist makers.
Clara Lemlich, the one how happened to luckily start the strike and ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) movement, clearly had spirit and nerve! She would go on to lead the young women and countless others in a march that not only changed the world for their advantage, but for the better!
I liked the book very much. It was very educational. It was also exciting and exhilirating. I liked the book because it had girl power. It told me of how men dominated the world from women. It showed me to be very strong about something you believe in. It was a big morale booster, especially for girls.
I chose this book because of the cover. I thought the cover was very much enticing.The cover of this book caught my eye. Also because when I read the back of the book it grabbed my attention. I like historical books. I read some reviews of this book and it looked pretty good.