"There were five hundred garment factories in New York. A woman later recalled the conditions of work:
". .. dangerously broken stairways . .. windows few and so dirty.. .. The wooden floors that were swept once a year. . .. Hardly any other light but the gas jets burning by day and by night. . . the filthy, malodorous lavatory in the dark hall. No fresh drinking water.. . . mice and roaches. . . . During the winter months . . . how we suffered from the cold. In the summer we suffered from the heat. . ..
In these disease-breeding holes we, the youngsters together with the men and women toiled from seventy and eighty hours a week! Saturdays and Sundays included!... A sign would go up on Saturday afternoon: "If you don't come in on Sunday, you need not come in on Monday." ... Children's dreams of a day off shattered. We wept, for after all, we were only children. ... ""

"At the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, in the winter of 1909, women organized and decided to strike. Soon they were walking the picket line in the cold, knowing they could not win while the other factories were operating. A mass meeting was called of workers in the other shops, and Clara Lemlich, in her teens, an eloquent speaker, still bearing the signs of her recent beating on the picket line, stood up:
"I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared now!" The meeting went wild; they voted to strike. ""

"Pauline Newman, one of the strikers, recalled years later the beginning of the general strike:
"Thousands upon thousands left the factories from every side, all of them walking down toward Union Square. It was November, the cold winter was just around the corner, we had no fur coats to keep warm, and yet there was the spirit that led us on and on until we got to some hall. . . . I can see the young people, mostly women, walking down and not caring what might happen . .. the hunger, cold, loneliness.. .. They just didn't care on that particular day; that was their day. ""

"The union had hoped three thousand would join the strike. Twenty thousand walked out. Every day a thousand new members joined the union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which before this had few women. Colored women were active in the strike, which went on through the winter, against police, against scabs, against arrests and prison. In more than three hundred shops, workers won their demands. Women now became officials in the union. Pauline Newman again:

"We tried to educate ourselves. I would invite the girls to my rooms, and we took turns reading poetry in English to improve our understanding of the language. One of our favorites was Thomas Hood's "Song of the Shirt," and another . . . Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Mask of Anarchy." ...

"Rise like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number!

Shake your chains to earth, like dew.

Which in sleep had fallen on you-

Ye are many, they are few!" "




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