Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tenement Talks: Sweatshop Cinderella

While women of the 21st century have more choices and more control over their destinies than ever before, some  societal pressures remain. Immigrant women in particular must struggle to assimilate into American society while continuing to respect the traditions of their home countries. Feminist writer Anzia Yezierska was influential in spurring dialogue during the early 20th century about this very issue

Yezierska was born in Poland; her family emigrated at the turn of the 20th century, settling on the Lower East Side. She, her mother, and her siblings worked while Mr. Yezierska, a Talmudic scholar, studied day and night.

Yezierska envisioned a life different than the one traditionally arranged for young Jewish women during that time. While most women married, then stayed home to have and raise children, she attended Teacher’s College at Columbia University and majored in domestic sciences. She felt a passion for writing and published her first story in 1915.

Bread Givers, her most famous novel, was published in 1925. While the work is fictional, there are many parallels to the author's own life. This coming-of-age story follows Sara Smolinsky, who lives with her family on the Lower East Side in a tenement building. Sara struggles with her father’s domination over her family, her assimilation to American culture, and her fight to be an independent woman.

Suzanne Wasserman recognizes Yezierska’s literary influence on American society. In her new documentary, Sweatshop Cinderella, Wasserman explores Yezierska’s life, literary career, and the way her work still resonates today.

Tonight Tenement Talks is excited to present an advanced screening of the film, followed by a discussion with with the director. Join us! RSVPs are requested to events@tenement.org.

- Posted by Alana

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