cover image The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker

The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker

Thomson Malkiel, Theresa S. Malkiel. Cornell University Press, $18.95 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-87546-168-7

Written by a Jewish labor activist and socialist militant, this reissue of a fictional contemporaneous account of the 1909 13-week garment-workers' strike on New York City's Lower East Side is a valuable addition to women's and American labor history studies. In an informative but dry introductory essay that comprises half this volume, Basch, a professor of Anglo-American civilization and women's history at the University of Paris, demonstrates how ``the women revolted not only as workers but as women and immigrants, in a space that included home, family, and a new city and country.'' Although most of the strikers were Jewish immigrants, Malkiel's diarist is an American-born Christian whose gradual politicization, feminization and identification with her coworkers is chronicled via the propagandistic, overwritten ``journal,'' as is her resentment toward the millionaire suffragists who supported the strike. The wretched plight of immigrant workers is detailed, from the injustices of the factory itself to the hardships of the picket line, police brutality and mass arrest. The strike effected some concessions from factory owners but apparently not enough, as evinced by the infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. (Nov.)