Most of the 20,000 garment workers who walked a picket line for fourteen weeks in the cold winter of 1909-1910 were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. The strike started in November, when a twenty-three-year-old Jewish immigrant garment worker from Russia named Clara Lemlich sat in the Great Hall at Cooper Union. She listened with hundreds of fellow shirtwaist workers as Samuel Gompers and others debated whether their union, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, should call a general strike. Suddenly she raced to the platform and, speaking in Yiddish, she said:

"I am a working girl, one of those striking against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in generalities. What we are here for is to decide whether or not to strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared--now!"

The crowd went wild. When the chairman finally restored order, he asked for someone to second the motion. The entire assemblage shouted its response. The young strikers walked the picket line all winter, beat off employer thugs, and shocked onlookers with their determination. They won a settlement that improved working conditions, though the union was only recognized in some shops. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was one shop that did not improve conditions.

Plaque Sources
Four Women
STRIKE Marcher
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