Sunday, April 3, 2011

Providence High School Commemorates Triangle Fire

from threads magazine thistle cottage studio blog


an excerpt from the ny times of 3/22

One hundred years after the Triangle Waist Company fire, the fashion that employed small armies of seamstresses at the turn of the last century endures.
The American shirtwaist was a trend that, quite literally, had legs. This brash but sensible pairing of tailored shirt and skirt offered a glimpse of the ankles, which was as rare in its day as it was freeing.
Designed for utility, the style was embraced at the turn of the 20th century by legions of young women who preferred its hiked hemline and unfettered curves to the confining, street-sweeping dresses that had hobbled their mothers and aunts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Voices: Video Project On Triangle Shirtwaist Fire From Juan Morel Campos School

Slide Show Of Images From Triangle Shirtwaist Project At Juan Morel Campos Secondary School

Excellent Student Newsletter On Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

from Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, 215 Heyward St., Brooklyn, NY 11206
Asst. Principal: John Agnello

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Archival Articles About The Triangle Fire From The Forward

compiled from the Forward

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Relatives Of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Victims Keep Lessons From Tragedy Alive

from ny 1, by roger clark

People who lost family members in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire joined a Friday procession to Greenwich Village to remember relatives lost a century ago, and to stress that New York City cannot forget the lessons learned from the tragedy. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Rosie Weiner, one of 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, was only 19 when she died.
"She jumped from the ninth floor window. According to reports, she was holding her friend Tessie Wisner's hand," said Suzanne Pred-Bass, Weiner's great-niece.
Pred-Bass was one of hundreds marching in a Friday procession from Union Square to the scene of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Another of her great-aunts, Rosie's 17-year-old sister Katie, somehow survived that day 100 years ago.
"She grabbed the cable, really so courageously, of the last elevator to leave the ninth floor and saved herself. It was really remarkable," said Pred-Bass.
Annie Springsock, then 17 years old, also survived. Her granddaughter, Eileen Nevitt, came from California to pay tribute to her and the historical impact of the fire.
"These safeguards in work places, to make sure that our workplaces are safe, were hard-fought-for protections," said Nevitt. "And I think it is very important for all Americans to realize that we should very much make sure that our safeguards continue."
Denise DiCapua and Mary Alice Del Castillo were there to remember 17-year-old Josie Del Castillo, DiCapua's great-aunt who was lost in the fire.
"As a young child I has only knew that there was a relative that died in this fire, but in the past year or so we have gotten to learn more about her life and the events surrounding the fire," said DiCapua.
"I just felt that on the 100th anniversary, some members of the family should be here to remember Josie, and what happened," said Del Castillo, the wife of the victim's great-nephew.
The message from everyone at the procession was to not forget those lessons learned from a tragic day that changed so much for so many.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Ballad Of Joe Zito

Ballad for Joe Zito Music and Lyrics by Annie Lanzillotto © 2011
Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito
The kinda man you wanna know.
Selfless Acts of Courage -- his destiny
Elevator Man -- Triangle Factory!
Born Giuseppe Alessandro Zito, in 1883, fifteen minutes past ten.
Sweet green eyes, strong nose, he’d grow to be the noblest of men.
At 18 he left Sere, Provincia di Salerno, Italy,
Came to America. Got a job at the Triangle Factory.
It was Payday in March, fifteen minutes to quittin time,
when Joe “Fire!” Glass smashing way up high.
Up Up Up to save lives, everyone was screaming, distraught,
Joe never gave his own safety a single thought.
Girls dove into the elevator clutching scissors,
Another guy woulda minded his own bizness.
Lemme tell you bout Joe Zito A better man you’ll never know.
Selfless Acts of Courage -- his destiny Elevator Man--Triangle Factory!
Up Up Up Joe Joe Joe Into fire higher higher he climbed
He went back up about eighteen times.
Why didn’t he go up a 19th you say?
Mezzo Morte at the bottom of the shaft, Joe lay.
Elevator dropped, smashed at basement level.
The cables gave in to fire, an overloading hell hole
Jumping on Joe’s car, girls after girls.
Clothing on fire, hair still in curls.
They dragged Joe out into the street half dead,
Rushed him to Saint Vincent’s, stab wounds on his arms and forehead.
Joe Zito, one of the strong,
We remember his name with a song.
Selfless Acts of Courage was his destiny
He couldn’t a known this when he left Italy.
Povero Giuseppe never recovered since he saw,
“Burning Rockets” from the 8th floor, fall.
He couldn’t forget girls trapped in flames,
Judge Craine said The Shirtwaist Kings weren’t to blame.
Joe left New York City in a state of deprivation,
Shell shocked from Triangle workers’ asphyxiation and decapitations.
Couldn’t get a job, Joe couldn’t keep his wife,
Our noble Joe was scarred for life.
He never recovered from all he saw,
Seven years later he joined the Army, for The Great War.
No rich man could buy Joe’s word
His green sad eyes had saw and heard.
The papers said he died without a penny,
No bribe could change Joe’s testimony.
Povero Giuseppe Alessandro was never the same,
He saved ahun-fifty girls out of the slain.
Joe kept free to tell the truth.
The Shirtwaist Kings took insurance loot.
And like many of our brave Joe was buried in an unmarked grave.
Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito
Italian American Hero!
Selfless Acts of Courage -- his destiny
Elevator Man -- Triangle Factory!
Elevator Man we sing your name
Thanks Joe
Thanks Joe
Thanks Joe
Thanks Joe

Do You Hear The People Sing

From the Centennial Celebration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Visible in the segment are the outstanding students from Maribeth Whitehouse's class from Bronx Intermediate School 190, activist Teddy Auerbach and Professor Richard Greenwald from Drew University

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things We Had When New York Was A Union Town

from, Dr Mark Naison Fordham University
With collective bargaining rights having just been eliminated in Wisconsin by legislative fiat, and with more states poised to do the same; with union teachers everywhere being made scapegoats for the nations educational problems; and with the most powerful business interests in the nation funding movements to privatize government services and decertify public employee unions, I thought be useful to look back at a time in New York City's history when unions had far more power than they have today.
When New York City emerged from World War II, the most dynamic sectors of its economy- garment, electronics, transportation, construction, and food processing- were all heavily unionized. These union gains in the private sector were soon followed by the acquisition of collective bargaining rights by teachers, employees of state and city government and workers in health care.
Given what is being said about unions by elected officials and the media, one might expect that time in New York history- the 1940's 1950's and 1950's- to be one of educational and cultural stagnation. One would expect that New York City today is a much more dynamic and democratic city than it was during a time when more than half the city's work force was unionized.
But when do some historical research and ask yourself the question, "Does New York City have better schools, public services and cultural and recreational opportunities for its poor and working class citizens than it did 50 years ago" the answer you come up with is a resounding NO.
I have spent the last nine years doing oral histories with Bronx residents through a project I lead called the Bronx African American History Project, and to a person, the people I interviewed feel that young people growing up in the Bronx had better opportunities in the 50's and the 60's than young people growing up there today. As Josh Freeman points out in his wonderful book Working Class New York, many of the programs that my interviewees talked about that made their lives better were fought for by the city's labor movement.
Here is a list of just a few of the programs which New York City unions fought for that are no longer with us today. I will leave it to you to decided whether we are better off without them,.
1. Supervised recreation programs in every public elementary school in the city from 3-5 PM and 7-9 PM, which included sports, arts and crafts and music. These programs were free and open any young person who walked through the door.
2. First rate music programs in every public junior high school in the city featuring free instruction for students in bands, orchestras and music classes. Students in those classes could take home musical instruments to practice. Among the beneficiaries of these school music programs were some of the greats of Latin music in NYC, including Willie Colon, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri. Ray Barretto and Bobby Sanabria.
3. Recreation supervisors, as well as cleaners, in every public park in the city, including neighborhood vest pocket parks, who organized games and leagues and prevented fights. One of the greatest of these "parkies" Hilton White, organized a community basketball program that send scores of Bronx youth to college on basketball scholarships including 3 who played on the 1966 Texas Western team which won the NCAA championship.
4. A public housing program that constructed tens thousands of units of low and moderate income housing throughout the city and staffed these with housing police, ground crews and recreation staffs to make sure the projects were safe, clean and well policed
5. Free tuition at the city university, at the community college, college and graduate levels, for all students who met the admissions standards
6. Parks department policies which made sure that parks in the outer boroughs were kept as clean and environmentally sound as Central Park or parks in wealthy neighborhoods
7 Free admission at all the city's major zoos and museums
These policies, all of which were eliminated during the fiscal crisis of the 1970's, when a banker dominated Emergency Financial Control Board was put in charge of city finances meant that children in poor and working class communities had access to recreational cultural and educational opportunities which are today only available to the children of the rich . These programs were not there because of the foresight and compassion of the city's business leadership. They were there because unions fought for them and demanded that elected officials they supported fund them
This is not to say that unions are right in every dispute, or that they are immune from arrogance, greed and crruption. But it should give pause to those who think that our lives would be better in a union free environment
Let me leave you with some numbers. In the early 1950's when 35% of the American work force was unionized, the United States had the smallest wealth gap (between the top and bottom 20 percent of its population) of any advanced nation in the world. Now, when 11.9% of our workforce is unionized, we have the largest.
Is this progress?
Let's think long and hard before we blame unions for the city's and the nation's economic problems
Mark Naison

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meredith Tax: Part Of The Passage From Rivington Street Read At Triangle Commemoration At FIT

Not the entirety of this was read, but a part. My audio was not clear enough to post

Katharine Weber: Reading From Triangle At Commemoration At F.I.T.

part 1
part 2
part 3
some of the pages she read from Triangle

Kevin Baker Reading From Dreamland At Triangle Fire Commemoration At F.I.T.

part 1
part 2
part 3
from March 9
Stories and Songs of the Triangle Fire
5:30 pm, Katie Murphy Amphitheater, D Building
Meredith Tax, author, Rivington Street
Kevin Baker, author, Dreamland
Katharine Weber, author, Triangle
Songs and readings by FIT students
a few of the pages Kevin read

about the Fighting Flames exhibit that Kevin was referring to
from the jcs-group
The success of Luna Park spawned second-rate imitators. Only William H. Reynolds, a New York politician, had the clout and backing to truly compete. Reynolds bought 60 acres of land from the City of New York between Surf Avenue and the ocean. His dream was to build the most bewildering, excessive, visionary park in the world. It would hold 250,000 people. Its one million electric lights would pale Luna Park in comparison. Visitors would feel as if they had been transported to another world, so Reynolds called his park Dreamland which opened in the spring of 1904. The centerpiece of Dreamland was the 375- foot Beacon Tower. At night, its powerful searchlight shone almost 50 miles over the ocean, disorienting ships on their way into New York Harbor. The park featured an imitation Doge’s Palace, an electricity building (housing the generators that kept Dreamland’s power running) and the Fighting Flames exhibit, the six-story tenement replication that was set on fire every day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Triangle Fire Memorial: CUNY TV

Former State Senator Serphin Maltese speaks about his family's connection to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Bread And Roses: Labor History

A slide show I youtubed last year and forgot to post here. May be of interest with the triangle anniversary upcoming.
from Tom Juravich

The slogan "Bread and Roses" originated in a poem of that name by James Oppenheim, published in American Magazine in December 1911, which attributed it to "the women in the West."
It is commonly associated with the textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts during January-March 1912, now often known as the "Bread and Roses strike." The strike, which united dozens of immigrant communities under the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World, was led to a large extent by women.
The strikers are credited with inventing the moving picket line, so that they would not be arrested for loitering.
It was settled on terms generally favorable to the workers. They won pay increases, time-and-a-quarter pay for overtime, and a promise of no discrimination against strikers.
It has long been thought that Oppenheim was inspired by a strike sign carried by women with the slogan, "We want bread, but we want roses, too!"
We now know that he did not write it during the strike. But it was embraced by the strikers and the notion of "Bread and Roses" has become a cry for justice and dignity for women workers around the world.
Observer Ray Stannard Baker wrote in The American Magazine:
[Lawrence] is the first strike I ever saw which sang. I shall not soon forget the curious lift, the strange sudden fire of the mingled nationalities at the strike meetings when they broke into the universal language of song. And not only at the meetings did they sing, but in the soup houses and in the streets.
Bread and Roses has since become a women's movement standard with either of two melodies variously attributed to Martha L. Coleman, Caroline Kohsleet, and Carolin Kohlsaat. Utah Phillips also has a melody, as does Mimi Fariña, whose is the most well-known.
Tom Juravich adds:
For me, though, the poetry of Bread and Roses suggests a different kind of melody -- one that lends itself to a more lyrical interpretation than the march cadence of the Fariña tune. So several years ago I wrote a new melody. I also took the opportunity to revise some of the lyrics that had exhibited the sexism and racism of the early 20th century."
Bread And Roses
As we come marching, marching in beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people here are singing bread and roses, bread and roses.

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go rising through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Art, love, and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for but we fight for roses too.

As we come marching, marching, we
battle once again.
We're fighting for our children, our
sisters and for men.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth
until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us
bread, but give us roses.

As we come marching, marching, we're
standing proud and tall,
The rising of the women means the
rising of us all.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that
toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories, bread and
roses, bread and roses.

Personnel: Teresa Healy, vocals; Tom Juravich, vocals, acoustic guitar, producer; James Stephens, fiddle, electric guitar, producer, recording, mixing; David Cain, mastering; Dave Bignell, mixing.

Patrick J. Walsh: Witness To Triangle Fire

His 1946 obituary in addition to a Word War II era photo

Sunday, March 6, 2011

‘Help Us! Help Us! Help Us Now!’ –

‘Help Us! Help Us! Help Us Now!’ –

From The Fire - Intro from Jaime Lebrija on Vimeo.

Composer Elizabeth Swados has dramatized tragedy before, but never the fear that rises from the gut when flames are sweeping nearby and escape is far away.
In creating the music for the most terrifying moments in an original oratorio for the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Swados turned to raw instinct.
“I didn’t think,” she said. “I tried to hear in the inside of my head something very frightening and something all-encompassing and something overpowering and something that was beyond human understanding.”
Her score adds resonance to a scene on the garment factory floor as frightened seamstresses chant, in panic: “Help us! Help us! Help us now!”

Great-Granddaughter of Triangle Factory Employee Acts in a Tribute to Her Relative Whose Colleagues Died in the Fire –

Great-Granddaughter of Triangle Factory Employee Acts in a Tribute to Her Relative Whose Colleagues Died in the Fire –

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frances Perkins

A slide show I put together last year on Frances Perkins after I heard Kirstin Downey speak at the tenement museum.
an excerpt from the afl site

Frances Perkins (1880 - 1965)
Frances Perkins was secretary of labor for the 12 years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency and the first woman to hold a Cabinet post. She brought to her office a deep commitment to improving the lives of workers and creating a legitimate role for labor unions in American society, succeeding admirably on both counts. Always a consummate politician, Perkins profoundly influenced the political agenda of her day, moving it closer to the values she embraced: economic justice and security for all Americans.
Born in Boston in 1880, Perkins grew up in a comfortable middle-class Republican family descended from a long line of Maine farmers and craftsmen. When Perkins was two, the family moved to Worcester, Mass., where her father opened a profitable stationery business. Her parents were devoted Congregationalists and instilled in Perkins an earnest desire to "live for God and do something." At Mount Holyoke College, she began to understand just what that meant. Perkins majored in the natural sciences, but she studied economic history, read How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis' expose of the New York slums, and attended lectures by labor and social reformers such as Florence Kelley, general secretary of the National Consumer's League.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From 2010: NY State Labor Commissioner Recognizes Triangle Anniversary

an excerpt from her address
Albany, NY (March 23, 2010) - State Labor Commissioner Colleen Gardner today joined state legislative and union leaders to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, which led to the tragic death of 146 garment workers. At a ceremony at the Empire State Plaza, Commissioner Gardner acknowledged the importance of the fire, which significantly changed worker protection laws.
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, trapping workers on the top three floors of a 10-story building, where exits were locked and fire escapes were defective. The tremendous public outcry that followed the tragedy led New York State to enact many of the first significant worker protection laws in the nation.
Commissioner Gardner said, "We are here to see that this tragedy never happens again. By enforcing the State's Labor Laws, the Department of Labor ensures safe working conditions for all New Yorkers. New York enacted many of the first significant worker protection laws in the nation. We continue to lead in protecting the health and safety of employees in the workplace. We honor the women who died at the Triangle Fire and stay true to our fight for workers' rights and workplace safety."

Joseph Zito: Hero Of The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

family photos with permission of the Zito family
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Brandos: The Triangle Fire

recorded live at the Rockpalast/Crossroads Festival at the Harmonie in Bonn, Germany on October 20, 2007
(taken from the DVD Town To Town, Sun To Sun)
In Nineteen Hundred-Nine, from Donegal's shore
I sailed to old New York town
In the harbor Lady Liberty stands
I don't believe I'll again see Dear Ould Ireland
But the promise in these city streets is so grand
And it's there I'd wed my dear, sweet lass
A bricklayer's spade, my trade to be
And she slaved at the Triangle Shirt Factory
My God! - the dreadful conditions there
They toiled through dim light and stifling air
And gruelling hours the seamstress gave
To the industrial captains for a trifling wage

Though two years passed, we saw no change
And I grieved for my love's dark misery
Then word ran through the New York streets
There's a fire at the Triangle Shirt Factory
Twas only moments and the factory surrendered to flame
And the fire escapes soon gave way
In the windows huddled girls appeared
Flames licked at their backs, their faces gripped with fear
My God! - don't jump! came the firemen's roar
Whose ladders failed to reach the top floors
A last, shared glance and final embrace
They leaped to their tragic and senseless fate

Now I scream at the sky
There's got to be a reason why
Bewildered and grieved, I'm tangled and mired
My love is gone - oh the Triangle Fire
The world is so cold, desperate and dire
I've lost everything in the Triangle Fire

There was no reason, there was no rhyme, and now law
To save us from this crime at all
The owner's trial did reveal
That the girls were locked in - the doors had all been sealed
My God! - they've gone free! came our hopeless cry
The bossed won with their lawyers and lies
The Power and Greed again prevailed
And we were left to our sorrow, to our despair

I fear the future, I can envision the time
When our cityscape will touch the sky
Will men of Faith, of Wealth and Power
Spare their people a fate like the Triangle Fire?
My God! - forgive me! these men will cry
In Their final hour as they lay dying
And their victim's ghosts close in around
God alone may forgive their indifference now

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2011 NYC Sweatshops

from the nydailynews: The Killing of Juan Baten, Death in a New York Food Sweatshop
and an extended piece from counterpunch By DANIEL GROSS
When many people think of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it's the fashionable boutiques, music scene, and hip bars that come to mind. But for thousands of recent immigrants, the eastern section of Williamsburg is where you go to find work in food processing and distribution factories that service many of New York City's markets and restaurants. If you've ever eaten a meal in New York, you can be assured that you've consumed food that has been produced and distributed through one of these food companies and those in a few adjacent neighborhoods.
Hundreds of small and mid-sized food warehouses line an industrial corridor starting in East Williamsburg and Bushwick, and extending into the Ridgewood and Maspeth neighborhoods of Queens. Rice, seafood, hummus, soda, onions, tortillas, you name it; massive quantities of those products and everything in between is produced or packed in these factories and then delivered in bulk to restaurants and grocery stores before they end up on our plates. Though not widely-known, this in-between section of the food supply chain plays an absolutely critical role in getting us the food we all need to survive and thrive.
Despite the indispensable role they play, the workers at these food businesses, largely recent immigrants from Latin America and China, constitute an invisible workforce. Out of sight from the consuming public, employers in this industrial corridor often maintain what can be fairly characterized as sweatshop conditions. Wage theft, reckless disregard for the safety of workers, grueling shifts through the night, and abusive management are all common hardships facing workers in the sector. The work is heavy and exhausting, yet workers typically earn poverty wages and almost no one receives any health or retirement benefits.
It was in this industrial zone of food sweatshops that Juan Baten, the 22-year old father of a seven-month old daughter and a devoted husband, tragically lost his life. Mr. Baten, who lived in Brooklyn and was originally from Guatemala, worked at a tortilla factory called Tortilleria Chinantla in East Williamsburg. Last week, Mr. Baten was crushed and killed in a dough mixing machine. Mr. Baten's workplace did not have a union and had never been inspected by OSHA, the federal workplace safety authority.
While it's too early to draw definitive conclusions, troubling facts have emerged indicating that the Chinantla tortilla factory is not unlike many of the other food processing facilities in the Brooklyn-Queens industrial corridor. According to a report in El Diario, Mr. Baten worked incredibly long, twelve hour shifts, from six at night until six the next morning, six days a week. Regardless of what is uncovered in pending investigations, the length of those shifts alone, working through the night on dangerous equipment and with only one day off per week, should be enough to raise alarms. (The factory is currently closed by an order from the New York State Workers Compensation Board because of owner Erasmo Ponce's criminal failure to pay for workers compensation coverage, the very coverage mandated to provide some financial protection to injured workers or to families of workers, like Juan Baten's, in the event of workplace fatality.)
Many questions about Chinantla and Juan Baten's death remain unanswered. What safety procedures and training did management have in place, if any? Was the factory sufficiently staffed so workers could meet demand at a safe speed? Was the equipment properly maintained?
Still, based on what is already known, I have no doubt that Juan Baten's death could have been prevented. He should be with us today, working towards his dream of saving enough money to return to Guatemala with his wife and daughter. Instead, his family is left navigating a profoundly uncertain future with a deep wound in their hearts.
Sadly, it often takes a tragedy to open our eyes to issues normally kept safely out of sight and out of mind. Again, the conditions which likely contributed to Mr. Baten being killed are anything but uncommon. Indeed, they are typical of the food factories in the Brooklyn-Queens industrial corridor whose business models center on exploiting recent immigrant workers. The tragedy of Mr. Baten's death will only be compounded if we treat it as an isolated case rather than a wake-up call to the systemic hardships facing workers along the food chain, mostly workers of color and immigrants.
The workers who work so hard to bring us the food we depend on to survive, often in unsafe conditions and through the night, need your support. Through workplace organizing, grassroots protests, and legal actions, a campaign called Focus on the Food Chain is helping a growing number of immigrant food workers in the Brooklyn-Queens corridor win improved working conditions and increased employer compliance with the law. But these fights always trigger fierce retaliation from employers and require robust worker and community support to win. To lend a hand through solidarity actions, financial support, or to share any other ideas you might have, please connect with the Focus campaign at or
Together we can honor the life of Juan Baten, avoid more senseless loss of life, and ensure that this workforce never becomes invisible again.
Daniel Gross is an attorney and executive director of Brandworkers International, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees. Focus on the Food Chain is a joint campaign of Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Life Of Working Girls In New York In 1910

from McClures' Magazine. This was a resource for Joan Dash's book

We Shall Not Be Moved

a chapter from an excellent young adult book on the shirtwaist workers by Joan Dash, entitled, "We Shall Not Be Moved." I added the graphic on the last page.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meyer London: A Socialist Elected To Congress 1914

London makes it clear that he is not about to start a revolution but to begin formulating and introducing social legislation.

Images Of Meyer London


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Herbert Hill: NAACP Labor Lawyer


Herbert Hill (January 24, 1924 – August 15, 2004) was the labor director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for decades and was a frequent contributor to New Politics (magazine) as well as the author of several books. He was later Evjue-Bascom Professor of Afro-American Studies and Industrial Relations at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and eventually emeritus professor. He played a significant role in the civil rights movement in pressuring labor unions to desegregate and to seriously implement measures that would integrate African Americans in the labor market. He was also famous for his belief that American trade unions had downplayed the history of racism that tarred their reputations, before and after the Jim Crow era.
Hill earned a B.A. from New York University in 1945 and attended the New School for Social Research from 1946 until 1948 where he studied under the distinguished political theorist, Hannah Arendt. During the 1940s, Hill was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. Hill (although white) was appointed Labor Director of the NAACP in 1951 where he worked until 1977 when he departed for a professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He was highly critical of the practice of nepotism in many unions whereby relatives of members were hired. Hill criticized labour relations practises in numerous industries including the film industry as well as the progress of the Kennedy Administration on issues of racial equality in the workplace. Among the many unions he criticized for their record on racial equality were the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the United Auto Workers, the United Federation of Teachers and the United Steelworkers of America as well as the AFL-CIO federation itself. Hill particularly objected to the AFL-CIO position that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act should not interfere with existing seniority systems. He was also a strong supporter of affirmative action. According to a New Politics article by Stephen Steinberg, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once described Hill as "the best barbershop lawyer in the United States".
He also organized pickets to raise awareness of racial discrimination in the construction industry. His conduct was so controversial that some unions threatened to withhold funding of the NAACP unless Hill was fired, but the NAACP leadership under Roy Wilkins supported Hill. Hill published over one hundred articles in journals, anthologies and newspapers and was also known for debates with labor historian Herbert Gutman as well as debates in New Politics (magazine) with union leader Al Shanker and Nelson Lichtenstein, an academic and biographer of Walter Reuther. Hill was especially sharp against Lichtenstein's support for the allegedly racist Reuther and the UAW's activities to betray the civil rights movement. He also served as a consultant for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the United Nations.
One of the most important campaigns led by Hill was his campaign against the discriminatory practices of the ILGWU. Despite the fact that the ILGWU had cooperated with the NAACP with respect to desegregation of union locals in the South, as late as the early 1960s, there were still no African-American nor Puerto Rican officers or executive board members in the ILGWU in its New York City base. The ILGWU was of particular importance because of its major role in the Liberal Party of New York. Hill played a key role in taking on a complaint against Local 10 of the ILGWU of an African American cutter, Ernest Holmes, who had been repeatedly prevented from joining the cutters' union, thereby receiving lower wages and denied the health and welfare benefits associated with union membership. Hill alleged that the ILGWU restricted African American and Puerto Rican workers to low paying jobs. In 1962, the New York State Commission for Human Rights found that Local 10 had violated the state antidiscrimination law. The ILGWU launched a public relations campaign alleging partisanship on the part of the Republican appointed Commission in response and did little to solve the problem. Writing in New Politics (magazine), a leading ILGWU official, Gus Tyler, attempted to show that there were African Americans and Puerto Ricans in the union. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. held Congressional hearings in the House Committee on Education and Labor on the ILGWU practices in 1962. Hill testified at the hearings, criticizing David Dubinsky for his governance of the ILGWU. Even though Hill was Jewish, allegations of anti-semitism were made with respect to the NAACP critique of the ILGWU. Changes to the ILGWU only came about slowly, especially after the retirement of Dubinsky in 1966.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Tainted History Of The ILGWU

Crisis Herbert Hill

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Memories Of The Rag Trade In Save The Tiger, 2

a clip from an excellent movie starring Jack Lemmon and Jack Gilford
from wikipedia

Save the Tiger is a 1973 film about moral conflict in contemporary America. It stars Jack Lemmon, Jack Gilford, Laurie Heineman, William Hansen, Thayer David, Lara Parker and Liv Lindeland. The film is adapted from the novel of the same title by Steve Shagan, (the first book by the author of The Formula and other thrillers, and generally regarded to be his most successful novel by literary standards).
Jack Lemmon plays Harry Stoner, an executive at a Los Angeles apparel company on the edge of ruin. Throughout the film, Stoner struggles with the complexity of modern life versus the simplicity of his youth. He longs for the days when pitchers wound up, jazz filled the air, and the flag was more than a pattern to put on a jock-strap. He wrestles with the guilt of surviving the war and yet losing touch with the ideals for which his friends died. To Harry Stoner, the world has given up on integrity, and threatens to destroy anyone who clings to it. He is caught between watching everything he has worked for evaporate, or becoming another grain of sand in the erosion of the values he once held so dear.

Memories Of The Rag Trade In Save The Tiger

a clip from an excellent movie starring Jack Lemmon and Jack Gilford
from wikipedia

Save the Tiger is a 1973 film about moral conflict in contemporary America. It stars Jack Lemmon, Jack Gilford, Laurie Heineman, William Hansen, Thayer David, Lara Parker and Liv Lindeland. The film is adapted from the novel of the same title by Steve Shagan, (the first book by the author of The Formula and other thrillers, and generally regarded to be his most successful novel by literary standards).
Jack Lemmon plays Harry Stoner, an executive at a Los Angeles apparel company on the edge of ruin. Throughout the film, Stoner struggles with the complexity of modern life versus the simplicity of his youth. He longs for the days when pitchers wound up, jazz filled the air, and the flag was more than a pattern to put on a jock-strap. He wrestles with the guilt of surviving the war and yet losing touch with the ideals for which his friends died. To Harry Stoner, the world has given up on integrity, and threatens to destroy anyone who clings to it. He is caught between watching everything he has worked for evaporate, or becoming another grain of sand in the erosion of the values he once held so dear.

The Uprising Of The 20,000

originally posted on knickerbocker village on Nov. 9th, 2009
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Uprising of the 20,000. Above is the clip from I'm Not Rappaport. from the ILGWU wiki page.

On November 22, 1909, New York City garment workers gathered in a mass meeting at Cooper Union to discuss pay cuts, unsafe working conditions and other grievances. After two hours of indecisive speeches by male union leaders, a young Jewish woman strode down the aisle and demanded the floor. Speaking in Yiddish, she passionately urged her coworkers to go out on strike. Clara Lemlich, a fledgling union organizer, thus launched the 'Uprising of the 20,000,' when, two days later, garment workers walked out of shops all over the city, effectively bringing production to a halt.
A dramatization of that incident, re-created in the Hollywood film I'm Not Rappaport, movingly introduces the documentary portrait CLARA LEMLICH, which recounts the life of the Ukrainian-born immigrant. Like thousands of other young women, Lemlich found work in a clothing factory where she worked 7 days a week, from 60 to 80 hours, for less than a living wage. In her burning desire to get an education Lemlich read widely and organized a study group to discuss women's problems. Her success as an organizer, which included numerous arrests and beatings by strikebreakers, eventually led to her election to the executive board of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union.
Lemlich's story is movingly recounted through interviews with her daughter and grandchildren, dramatic readings from her diary, family photos and archival footage, strike songs in Yiddish, an interview with labor historian Alice Kessler-Harris, a visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and excerpts from silent films of the era.
In addition to its biographical portrait, CLARA LEMLICH also chronicles the historic ILGWU strike, which demonstrated to the male leadership that women could be good union members and strikers. The union negotiated a settlement in February 1910 that led to improvements in wages as well as working and safety conditions. One of the companies that refused to sign the agreement was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where, the following year, a fire resulted in the death of 146 young women, a tragedy that galvanized public support for the union movement

Friday, January 28, 2011

Max Blanck's Tainted Epilogue

contained within the document are pages from David von Drehle's book and google street views of where Max Blanck lived in 1900 and 1910. I don't think amyone would want to chalk those locals.

Look For The Union Label...The Tainted History of The Triangle Shirtwaist Company

from the Survey of August 18, 1914 with a h/t to Jane Fazio-Villeda
The Triangle Waist Company, New' York, was last week temporarily enjoined from using on its goods a label declared to be imitative of that of the National Consumers' League.
This is the same Triangle Waist Company in whose factory a fire killed 140 girls in 1911—it being afterward proved that doors leading from the factory, which was on the ninth floor of a loft building, had been locked.
It is the same Triangle Waist Company that, two years and six months later, was again convicted of having its doors locked, and whose head, Max Blanck, was given the minimum fine on the ground that he was a first offender.
The National Consumers' League authorizes manufacturers to use its label only after investigation has showed that the goods on which it is to be used are made under "clean and healthful" conditions. The Triangle company has never been authorized to use its label.
The label declared to be an imitation, which is here reproduced, was first discovered by the Consumers' League last spring on some goods in a Boston department store. The buyer of the store told a representative of the league that he was buying waists with the league's label on.
It required several months to trace the label to the Triangle Waist Company. An effort was then made to induce employes of the Triangle company to sign' affidavits declaring that the suspicious label was used by that concern. The employes' fear of being blacklisted among manufacturers frustrated this.
A few weeks ago' the Consumers'
League served the Triangle Company with a summons and complaint in an action for a permanent injunction and with motion papers for an injunction pending trial, until final decision could be reached, which will not be till next winter. The league's action is based on the common law rules governing unfair trade and unfair competition. The label is not a registered trademark.
The Triangle company, in its answer, admitted the use of the label, but declared that it had not intended to imitate any other label, and denied knowledge of the existence of the National Consumers' League. It also questioned the right of the league to sue, on the ground that the league is not a manufacturer of shirt waists with a financial stake involved in the protection of its label, and therefore cannot invoke the common law rules cited above.
In granting the temporary injunction. Justice Leonard A. Giegerich, of the Supreme Court of New York county, declared that he was satisfied that the Triangle Company's label was an illegal imitation. While it is felt that this decision strongly presages the granting of the permanent injunction, it is pointed out that the question of law involved is a new one.

The nearest parallel case is said to be that of labor unions, which have been granted injunctions in behalf of their labels. These decisions have, however, rested on the ground that the members of the union had a financial stake, i. c. their wages, involved.
The league contends that it is but a logical extension of the "financial stake" theory to protect it in the use of its label. In anticipation of just this point, however, Bertha Rembaugh, attorney for the league, joined both a manufacturer of waists and a retail store in the action against the Triangle Company. These concerns, it is contended, have a financial interest in the protection of the league's label because their own sales would be affected by its fraudulent imitation. Should the case go against the league, it is feared that the opening which this would give to the imitation of the league's label would go far to destroy the effectiveness of the league's label work.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Frank H. Sommer: Unsung Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Hero


Fannie Lansner: Unsung Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Hero

I received this from Fannie's great nephew along with all the newspaper articles referred to.
Another forgotten hero is Fannie Lansner, whose selfless actions were headlined by on page two of The New York Evening Telegram of Monday March 27, 1911: “Heroic Young Forewoman Loses Her Life to Save Others from Death in Flames: Miss Fannie Lansner Guides Girls to Safety Until Her Own Escape Is Cut Off; THEN LEAPS FROM WINDOW TO DEATH ON PAVEMENT; Calm in Midst of Peril, She Does Her Utmost to Calm Panic-Stricken Women to the Last”.
“Speaking both Yiddish and English to the girls who were huddled about her, all crying and screaming, Miss Lansner guided some of them down the stairways and kept others waiting for the elevator,” the Evening Telegram reported. “Trip after trip of the elevator was made and Miss Lansner remained on the floor, and several girls begged her to go with them down the elevator, Miss Lansner said she would be ‘all right, and told them to go out as quickly as possible.”
In another account on March 30, 1911, The Hartford Courant wrote, “A number of the employees testified at the district attorney’s office to the heroism of Fannie Langner [sic], who rushed scores of girls from the eigth floor to the elevator and superintended crowding them into the car. Again and again she went into the smoke filled cutting rooms and brought out girls. Finally, she fell, exhausted and perished.”
According to the 1910 Census, Fannie live at 78 Forsyth Street.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Edward Croker: Fighting Fire, Boys' Life January 1914


Edward Croker: Fire Chief During Triangle Shirtwaist Tragedy

I too would have assumed that a Tammany relative would have had questionable abilities and/or motives. Boats against the current feels he was a man worthy of praise

All through elementary and secondary school, I heard nothing about this crucial event in American history. In fact, the first time I came across it was in the superlative chapter on Alfred E. Smith in Robert A. Caro’s biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker.
I would hope that modern texts remedy this problem, but I doubt it—kids nowadays are lucky they can figure out in which century the Civil War occurred. In certain ways, however, I believe that March 25, 1911 should be committed to memory as surely as July 4, 1776.
Both dates, in their ways, marked a movement away from heavy-handed control by an elite and toward greater freedom—in one case, for white American males of property; in the later one, for the economically oppressed laborer, frequently female and foreign-born.
So, if I were to design a syllabus to teach this event, what would I choose?
Well, I’d start with So Others Might Live, a fine account of New York’s Bravest by journalist-historian Terry Golway. The section on the Triangle fire is short—only a half-dozen pages—but they give an excellent précis for the conditions that led to the blaze and the Fire Department’s helpless anger in combating it.
It also discusses an Irish-American Cassandra, department head Edward Croker, a chief as blunt as he was fearless, who, for his repeated warnings about high-rise office and factory buildings, had to endure constant smearing by business interests for being the nephew of past Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker—until events proved him right.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Joseph Zito: Hero Of The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Joseph A. Zito was a hero of the "Triangle shirtwaist fire" NYC, of 1911. He stayed at his post in the elevator from the moment he heard "Fire" bringing it upward -through flames- several times until the weight of fallen bodies on the top of the elevator forced it down to the bottom of the elevator shaft. Between him and the other elevator operator, Gaspare Mortillalo-they saved 150+ lives- more than half of all who survived the fire. His story, and the story of the fire can be found in many sources including the following: Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David Von Drehle , as well as The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein Joseph is also mentioned on Cornell's excellent site on the fire

Labor History In NY Schools: It's Not Happening

I don't know how the reporter of this story got this impression just by observing one class at last year's ceremony!

If you are a kid and go to a public school in New York City you will probably know this date by heart because every year there will be a field-trip with your classmates to the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street; under the rain or the sun, or fighting against the wind, you would proudly put on a red fire-fighter hat holding your teacher's hand or curiously looking at the much older NYU students crowding around campus, walking by....
I've contacted about a dozen schools to volunteer my services to teach about the Triangle without any success. I'm a former dept of education history grant coordinator and a district technology teacher trainer. I have materials and lesson plans, as the expression goes, "up the wazoo." The principal down the block from my home, a nice guy who I knew when he was a rookie teacher, didn't even know what the fire was, nor did his leadership academy trained AP. In addition there appear to be organizations created to educate about the fire but there is no apparent sign of that being done other than to pad a resume or make a fast buck.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mary Fell: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Poet

from Janet Zandy's Triangle Fire Poetry site
.....Out of the darkness of the sweatshop these poems exist. Although spirituality and workers consciousness are not often juxtaposed, I want to recognize the interplay of secular and religious literary tropes as evidence of a secular spirituality calling for economic justice. Consider the element of ritual in these poems. This fire poetry calls to the reader as the events called to the writers to engage in a ceremony of mourning, remembrance and continued struggle. I imagine these poets--however diasporically situated--as conveying a women's minyan--individual voices coming together to engage in a ceremony of definition.19 Each poem is a kind of midrash on the event, a commentary on and dialogue with other voices across time. These poets do not attempt to compensate for the fire, or replicate the event. They take on the burden of mourning and memory, and the poems become a kind of Kaddish, a secular prayer evoked out of class and gender memory, and of shared knowledge of the dangers of unprivileged work. The poems are a symbolic action and a public utterance by the survivors, all the symbolic daughters of the Triangle workers. Their poetry is not a praisesong to death or to God, but a way to use language (replete with religious allusions) as a force against historical oblivion. Mary Fell begins her beautiful nine part fire poem with: "Havdallah"
 This is the great divide
    by which God split
    the world:
    on the sabbath side
    he granted rest,
    eternal toiling
    on the workday side.

    But even one
    revolution of the world
    is an empty promise
    where bosses
    where bills to pay
    respect no heavenly bargains.
    Until each day is ours
    let us pour
    darkness in a dish
    and set it on fire,
    bless those who labor
    as we pray, praise God
    his holy name,
    strike for the rest.

about Mary Fell
Mary Fell (born September 22, 1947 Worcester, Massachusetts) is an American poet and academic.
The city of Worcester has always had its fingers in all areas of the arts and literature. It has been the home and the resting place of many great writers and poets. When most think of the poets in Worcester, names like Kunitz, Bishop, or Olson surface, but what has kept that fire alive has been the less known, less published poets of this generation. Mary Fell was born in and grew up in Worcester, and she is one of these poets.
Fell was born to Elizabeth “Betty” and Paul Fell in Worcester City Hospital on September 22, 1947. Betty had come from Fairhaven, Massachusetts to Worcester during the Great Depression in order to find work. Once there she met and married Paul, an Irish American “Worcester kid.” Paul worked as a custodian in Worcester, was on the city Retirement Board, and had become chairman by the time he passed away.
Fell grew up mostly in Main South Worcester with her older brother Paul. She attended Downing Street School for kindergarten, and then went to St. Peter’s through high school. Though their mother was a Protestant she sent her children to St. Peter’s because at the time children had to come home for lunch at Downing St., but St. Peter’s allowed them to bring their lunch. This was important because her mother needed to work and couldn’t be home for the children at lunchtime.
Fell spent most of her childhood days in Main South at the St. Peter’s School and church and in the local landmarks like the Park Theater, Coes Pond, Beaver Brook, and Crystal Park. Because they never owned a car, any family excursions were taken on the bus. She remembers downtown Worcester being magical with ice skating in Elm Park, and the Charity Circus at the Auditorium. .......After high school Fell attended Worcester State College and majored in English. Throughout most of her childhood the children she encountered were just like her “second or third generation Americans who were rarely ethnically diluted by more than half – Irish or Polish or Italian.” It wasn’t until she attended college that she was introduced to many of the other ethnicities and people of the world. College in the 1960s meant the anti-war movement, free speech, civil rights, and feminism. These were all accepted as part of daily life.
It was in college that Fell began writing poetry. She studied, loved and tried to write it. However, she felt that it wasn’t possible for someone like her to write poetry. It wasn’t until the Women’s Movement in the 1970s that she realized that she could write poetry about the things she wanted to write about: mostly, the life and people she had grown up with. This movement made Worcester a great place for a budding poet in the 70s. The Worcester County Poetry Association brought many of Fell’s heroes to Worcester for readings. Poets like Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Ann Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, Robert Bly, Michael Harper, Galway Kinnell all came to Worcester during this time....
She currently teaches at Indiana University

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tainted Testimony At Triangle Shirtwaist Trial

Triangle Black Witness                                                            
The testimony of a porter named William Harris is highlighted. It appears the veracity of his statements were questionable. It's strange that the address given by Harris is the address of another porter from the factory named Reginald Williamson. The Times' reporter's transcription of the testimony smacks of yellow journalism.
I'm sure other immigrants who testified used broken English, yet their transcriptions seemed to have been treated more delicately.

Rose Pesotta: 1930

In 1930 Rose was living in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn, an atypical address for an anarchist labor leader at that time.
more of her biography from the Jewish Women's Encyclopdia
Shortly before her death, Rose Pesotta was asked how she would live her life if she could live it over again. She replied, “I have no regrets of my chosen path of the past. I would choose the same path, trying perhaps to avoid some of the mistakes of the past. But always having the vision before me—in the words of Thomas Paine, ‘The world is my country. To do good is my religion.’” The sweeping idealism of that statement tells us much about Pesotta, anarchist, labor activist, immigrant, internationalist. Known primarily as one of the first female vice presidents of the international ladies garment workers union (ILGWU), Pesotta saw her union organizing as an opportunity to fulfill the anarchist mandate “to be among the people and teach them our ideal in practice.”
Rose Pesotta was born in 1896, the second of eight children, into a middle-class family in Derazhnya, a railroad town in the Russian Ukraine. Her father, Itsaak Peisoty, was a grain merchant, and her mother, Masya, was active in the family business. Pesotta attributed her lifelong concern for social justice to her “dynamic and unconventional” father, but seemed unaware that the shtetl tradition of women’s work outside the home represented by her mother may have also facilitated her career.
Pesotta attended Rosalia Davidovna’s school for girls, with its Russian curriculum and its clandestine classes in Jewish history and Hebrew. After two years at the school, she was needed at home to help care for her siblings, and home tutoring replaced formal schooling. But her political apprenticeship in one of the many leftist groups in the Russian Pale of Settlement was as important as her formal education. She joined her older sister, Esther, in the local anarchist underground. The group’s discussion of well-known leftists Pyotr Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and the political activities of young radicals, opened a window on the possibilities of a wider world.
Her parents’ plan to marry her to an ordinary village boy precipitated her decision to join her sister in America. In 1913, her parents gave her permission to embark for the New World. Once in New York, Pesotta began working in various shirtwaist factories, and struggled to learn English. Soon, she joined Local 25 of the ILGWU. The local became a base for her union career. In 1915, she helped the local form the first education department in the ILGWU, and in 1920 she was elected to Local 25’s executive board. In 1922, Pesotta completed the program at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Workers, and between 1924 and 1926, she was a student at Brookwood Labor College. During the 1920s, she played a key role in the union’s chronic struggles with communists. Grateful union officials recognized Pesotta’s contributions by appointing her as an organizer in the late 1920s.
Pesotta brought a charismatic personality, boundless energy, and a unique ability to empathize with the downtrodden to the organizing field. In 1933, she spearheaded the Dressmakers General Strike in Los Angeles in the face of antipicketing injunctions, hired thugs, and communist dual unions. She mobilized the largely Mexican labor force through Spanish-language radio broadcasts and ads in ethnic newspapers. Although the strike was not successful, Pesotta’s leadership established her as one of the most gifted organizers of the union.
Pesotta’s visibility in California led to her election in 1934 as a vice president of the ILGWU, serving on the general executive board. Pesotta was conflicted about her ten years of service in that position. Sexism and a loss of personal independence continually troubled her, until she finally resigned from the position in 1942.
Between 1934 and 1944, though, Pesotta was one of the most successful organizers in the United States. She carried the union message to workers in Puerto Rico, Detroit, Montreal, Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. On loan from the ILGWU to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), she joined the great labor upheavals of the 1930s in Akron, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan. In 1944, Pesotta refused a fourth term on the CIO General Executive Board, with a brief critical statement that “one woman vice president could not adequately represent the women who now make up 85 percent of the International’s membership of 305,000.”
Following her resignation from union office, Pesotta published two memoirs: Bread upon the Waters (1945) and Days of Our Lives (1958). She worked briefly for the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League and for the American Trade Union Council for the Histadrut, Israel’s labor organization. But she supported herself during those years largely as a factory operative. Her life, in a sense, had come full circle—she embraced what she called “the freedom of a plain rank and file member of the union.”
Anarchism and Judaism are key to understanding Pesotta’s identity and sense of self. Although first introduced to anarchist philosophy in Europe, Pesotta found community and support for her libertarian beliefs in the alternative culture of American anarchism. Anarchism was her ethical center. It celebrated the inherent goodness of the individual and rejected private property, the state, and authority. Like emma goldman and other women attracted to the movement, Pesotta found support for a sexually free life-style embedded in anarchist tenets of personal freedom. She was secretary of the anarchist paper The Road to Freedom and was a key member of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee.
For Pesotta, anarchism was inextricably enmeshed with Jewish culture and communities. Although not religiously observant, Pesotta always identified herself as Jewish. The Holocaust and the foundation of Israel deepened her sense of herself as a Jew. It seems ironic that her second memoir casts Judaism in a central role after a lifetime spent in secular activism and outside of the family roles critical to Jewish practice. Closer scrutiny reveals the congruence between Pesotta’s idealized past and her American life. In her books, her need to understand “external power relationships” as a Jew in czarist Russia meshed neatly with the Jewish labor union in tension with American culture.
In the fall of 1965, Pesotta was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen. Quietly she resigned from her job and went to Miami to “recuperate in the sun.” On December 4, 1965, she died alone in a Miami hospital.

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