The Clara Lemlich Awards honor women who have been working for the larger good their entire lives, in the tradition of those who sparked so many reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire over one hundred years ago.

 On Wednesday April 3, 2013, 6-8pm we held the third annual awards ceremony, at the Museum of the City of New York, in its new Puffin Gallery for Social Activism.  Honorees:  Molly Klopot, Natalie Gordon, Lois Gray, Glendora Folsom Buell, Julia Rosario Jorge, and Marian Thom.  An exhibit about them will be ready soon.

On March 20, 2012 we honored — in the words of the poet Marge Piercy — people who "jump into work head first / without dallying in the shadows…who do what has to be done, again and again."

Lemlich Awards 2012  Lemlich Awards 2012  Lemlich Awards 2012
   Photos by Ashley Perry. Click here to view all.


The 2012 Honorees

Click each to learn more

Judy West

Judy West

Jazz Singer / Tenant Organizer

Jacqueline (Jackie) Steiner

Musician / Anti-Fascist Activist

Betty A. Reardon

Feminist Peace Educator

Juanita Nelson

War Tax Resister

Connie Ling

Garment Worker Organizer

Connie Hogarth

Agitator for Civil Rights and the Environment


View honorees from other years here





Clara Lemlich“I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY” shouted the 23-year old Clara Lemlich in her native Yiddish during a tense, crowded meeting of garment workers in Cooper Union’s Great Hall in 1909.  Rising from the audience, she interrupted Samuel Gompers and the other union leaders on stage.  Her speech inspired the crowd, leading to an unexpected vote to strike, and to what would become known as the Uprising of 20,000.  

Born to a Jewish family in the Ukraine, Lemlich migrated to the U.S. in 1903, found work in the garment industry, and soon became active in the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. The 1909 strike led to reforms – but the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a hold-out and did not implement safety improvements.

The fire that took 146 lives on March 25, 1911 was seen across the country as a tragedy that could have been avoided, and it sparked a movement that pushed politicians to accept a new notion about the responsibilities of government.  Lemlich continued to be active in the labor movement until she was pushed out for her leftist politics. She continued to work for women’s suffrage, led a boycott of butcher shops to protest meat prices, campaigned for unemployment relief, and fought for tenants’ rights.

One hundred and one years later we are proud to honor her legacy and to honor those who follow proudly in her footsteps.


2012 Event Program

Bread and Roses
A song with Jacqueline Steiner, Henry Foner, and Richard Corey

Donald Rubin and Evelyn Jones Rich

Presentation of Honorees
Judy West......Eleanor Tilson
Jackie Steiner......Amy Muldoon  
Betty Reardon......Jane Margules
Juanita Nelson......Evelyln Jones Rich
Connie Ling......Rose Imperato
Connie Hogarth......Tanya Beltran

LaborArts......Rachel Bernstein  

Poem......Esther Cohen

Which Side Are You On?
A song with Steiner, Foner, Corey

Henry Foner is a retired labor leader, historian, songwriter and activist. He retired as president of the Fur, Leather and Machine Workers Union in 1988 after 27 years in that position. He has worked as co-founder and co-historian of the website "Labor Arts" since its founding in 2000. Currently serving as president of the Paul Robeson Foundation, he also is a member of the editorial board of Jewish Currents magazine and the board of the New York Labor History Association. Foner is an accomplished songwriter, and continues to write and perform songs. With Norman Franklin, he was co-writer of a musical, "Thursdays 'Til Nine," presented in 1947 by the Department Store Employees Union, CIO.

Richard Corey, guitarist, is former Co-Chair, with Leonard Lehrman, of the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case. He has set a number of works to music, including Ethel Rosenberg's last letter, and a Shakespeare sonnet. He has performed, with his son, Ami, at the Carter Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, home of the famous Appalachian folksingers, the Carter Family.

Donald Rubin is co-founder of the Rubin Museum of Art and co-chair of the Board of Trustees, and he serves as the museum’s CEO. Shelley and Donald Rubin started collecting Himalayan art in the early 1970s and amassed a large and significant collection, a major portion of which was given to the museum to seed its nascent collection. He was the founder of MultiPlan, Inc., a major general service PPO health provider. He serves on the board of The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and is a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle.

Evelyn Jones Rich is a retired NYC social studies teacher and high school principal, an historian of African history, and retired as Associate Dean, Division of programs in Education, Hunter College (CUNY). She is the former executive director of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. She is co-founder and director of LaborArts  and a lifelong troublemaker and activist in the fight for civil rights, effective education for all, and for the rights of all people to have their say in our society.

Eleanor Tilson was a 2011 Lemlich honoree. Her first job was in a department store part-time, and she I ultimately became the director of their health and pension fund, which provided the best level of healthcare and pensions for 1199 SEIU members and their families in all of New York State. In 1974 she took part in the creation of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and she is proud to be an active trade unionist her whole life — even in retirement!

Amy Muldoon has been a repair technician for Verizon in Queens for 12 years.  She is an active member of Communication Workers of America Local 1106, and is the CWA District 1 Liaison to Occupy Wall Street. Muldoon has been an activist since high school and has fought for women's rights, gay rights, and racial justice in New York for almost 20 years. She is also a proud socialist who has shaped numerous educational programs for young activists.

Jane Margules is the daughter of 2011 honoree Rita Margules, and proud granddaughter of Clara Lemlich Shavelson.  With degrees in Deaf education from NYU and in School Psychology from Teachers College/Columbia University, she spent her career working with deaf children of all ages as a teacher and later as a school psychologist. In 1997, she was injured on the job and had to stop working.  Thanks to her grandmother's activism and the work of other activists she is able to receive workers compensation today.

Tanya M. Beltran is an unpublished writer, poet and photographer who takes pride in never having submitted her work until now. She's editor in chief of Inkwell Magazine, a literary journal affiliated with the graduate writing program at Manhattanville College. She has been an active volunteer tutor in NYC schools since the age of 14. Her biggest goal is to launch her very own literary magazine.

Rachel Bernstein is a public historian who researches, writes about and teaches American working class history, with a particular focus on New York City.  She is co-founder and co-director of LaborArts, has taught in the graduate program in public history at NYU for decades, and works on public history projects with the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU and elsewhere. She is author, with the late Debra E. Bernhardt, of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives:  A Pictorial History of Working People in New York City (2000).

Rose Imperato is a feminist activist, a founding member of and the current Operations Director for the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition.

Esther Cohen writes, teaches, raises money, curates, art directs, and works hard to secure roses for every struggle. She was the former executive director of Bread and Roses 1199SEIU, a co-founder of Labor Arts, and author of five books.



The second annual Clara Lemlich Awards were hosted by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, The 8th Floor, Labor Arts, and the Triangle Coalition, and were organized by Evelyn Jones Rich, Sherry Kane, Rose Imperato, Henry Foner, Esther Cohen and Rachel Bernstein.

Our deepest thanks all who have helped, including Anne Newman Bacal, May Chen, Anna Shelkin and the staff of the Rubin Foundation, especially Anna Gonick, Elise Roedenbech, Rachel Weingeist and Melody Ward.