Friday, March 27, 2009

In Their Own Words – New York Women's Lives

Museum Shop Manager Katherine Broadway guest-blogs about some of her favorite Shop books.

The film that plays in our Visitor’s Center talks about immigrant life on the Lower East Side. One such story is that of Rahel Gollup (known as Rose Cohen after a name change and marriage), who emigrated from Western Russia in 1892 at the age of 12. Rahel was part of the wave of Eastern-European Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms following the murder of Tsar Alexander II. Her memoir Out of the Shadow chronicles her journey to New York and her life as a garment worker.

My other favorite memoir of women and labor in the New York is The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker. In November 1909 a massive strike of garment workers, mostly female immigrants from Eastern Europe and Italy, brought the shirtwaist industry to a standstill that lasted into February of 1910. Diary is Theresa S. Malkiel’s 1910 account of this “Uprising of the 20,000,” accompanied by Francoise Basch’s historical analysis.

The Tenement Museum Shop has a great collection of memoirs written by immigrants and children of immigrants, many of them by women. Here are some others that we carry at the shop:

Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side, by Bella Spewack
The Red Leather Diary, by Lily Koppel
Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family, by Patricia Volk
Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl

PHOTO: Shirtwaist workers elect to strike. Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Archives, Labor-Management Documentation Center, Cornell University.

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