Women's Activism NYC

Clara Lemlich

1886 - 1982

By: Preston F | Date Added:

Clara Lemlich was a key figure in the women’s Labor movement. She immigrated to the United States just six years earlier, fleeing anti-Semitism in Ukraine, and worked at a shirtwaist factory in New York for meager wages. She joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) when she was 17 and wrote passionate editorials and organized a series of strikes to improve working conditions, often risking her life in the process: She was once hospitalized after being badly beaten at a picket line. In November 1909, Lemlich led the Uprising of the 20,000 in New York City, a strike lasting months, with a rousing speech in her native Yiddish: “I am a working girl, one of those who are on strike against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall strike or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared now.” She and 15,000 others marched the following day and won concessions from several factories for higher wages and shorter work days.

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