Uprising: The Shirtwaist Strike of 1909

03.06.2020 - By The Bowery Boys: New York City History

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EPISODE 311 Nobody had seen anything quite like it. In late November 1909, tens of thousands of workers went on strike, angered by poor work conditions and unfair wages within the city's largest industry.

New York City had seen labor strikes before, but this one would change the city forever.

The industry in question was the garment industry, the manufacture of clothing -- and, in the case of this strike, the manufacture of shirtwaists, the fashionable blouse worn by many American women.

The strikers in question were mostly young women and girls, mostly Eastern European Jewish and Italian immigrants who were tired of being taken advantage of by their male employers.

Leading the charge were labor leaders and activists, and in particular, a young woman named Clara Lemlich who would incite a crowd of thousands at Cooper Union with a rousing speech that would forever echo as a cry of solidarity for an underpaid and abused workforce.

PLUS: A visit to the New-York Historical Society's new exhibition Women March and an interview with Valerie Paley, co-curator and director at the Historical Society's Center for Women's History.

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