Transcript:

Speaker My name is Hacia Diner and I teach and write in the fields of American Jewish history, American women's history, American immigration and ethnic history. I teach at New York University.

Speaker How is it possible that Sociometric is that howzat?

Speaker That's not actually a new one. I can actually go without the glasses. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you still. I can't. I just can't. Yeah I yeah. I don't really need them. I mean I need them but not need need. OK, ok. That makes it even easier. OK. So sorry to have to start.

Speaker My name is Hozier Diner and I write and teach American Jewish history, American immigration, ethnic history, American women's history. I am a professor at New York University.

Speaker And how did you choose this discipline?

Speaker I think I was always interested in history as a kid. I just fell in love with a set of books that were at the public library. They were called by, I think, biographies of famous Americans, something that they all had orange covers and all the illustrations were silhouettes. And I'm sure they were quite dreadful. If we go back and look at them now in terms of issues of gender and race and so on, but I just was I devoured these books and I read books about people who did you know, who were involved in things I wasn't at all interested in, like sports or explorers.

Speaker But the idea that somehow these people, they'd once been children and something happened to them in childhood which set them off on a path to do something important, I just really grabbed me. And then I like the landmark series. And again, it could be World War two or the War of 1812. I just like the idea of throwing myself into a time that was so different. And I think I just love thinking about what was similar, what was different about that time. And so what I went to college. I didn't even think twice that I'd be you know, I'm a history major.

Speaker And what challenges have you faced in your career as a woman historian?

Speaker Well, as a woman historian, I've faced, I'd say first the challenges that all historians have faced in the last 40 years or so, which is a relatively stagnant and then shrinking job market. That is from the time I got out of graduate school to this very day, there were many fewer jobs for people with PhDs in history than there were positions. And so really very limited opportunities. So I think many men felt they felt that as well. They probably had greater flexibility in terms of picking up and moving to jobs that did come available. But as a woman, I think many times people just don't take you seriously. And I don't know how many meetings I'm out of other academics in academic departments where I or some other woman will make a suggestion we should do. They come up with a really good idea. Nobody responds. None of the men responds at all. And then for speakers later or for participants later will give the same idea and then they'll say, oh, yes, that's a great idea. And even though a woman has said the same thing before and gotten no response whatsoever, I think in general the kinds of topics that I've been interested in have been somewhat dismissed, as silly, as not very important, as just kind of on the margins of what really constitutes historical scholarship. So I definitely met objections and problems, but in the larger sense, I've been really lucky and I really attribute what I've achieved to look fit in the right place at the right time and determination. I was not giving up.

Speaker Yes. Yes, my hair.

Speaker No, your hair is great. Them like with the shadow. I got a haircut a week ago and I didn't pay any attention to what she was doing. And it's like dramatically shorter than I've wanted a dependent. So where is it? Usually another inch. Yeah. Yeah. And I just I just forgot to say to her, yeah, that's one thing. But yeah, it's like. I mean it's like yes. I hope that was an OK answer. Great. Yeah.

Speaker OK, ok, wonderful. So as you know, the current title of this project is unladylike. What does that word mean to you?

Speaker It means the idea of unladylike conveys to me a fairly rigid definition of what's a lady called, what are the standards of expectation for women. And they while they've changed over time, I think there's something actually pretty consistent about it. And when women don't conform either, because they sort of consciously say, I'm not conforming or when they just don't because that's not their personality, they get labeled and they get thought about is somehow deviant because they talk loudly, they talk with their hands.

Speaker They're not sitting back and demurely accepting what the society, however we define that has told them they ought to be. And many times the idea of what is a lady or the appropriate behavior for women is assumed to be natural.

Speaker And then those women who just don't fit that mold because it's obviously a totally imagined category, then there's something abnormal about them.

Speaker They are unnatural because they again want to run, jump, talk loudly, assert themselves. And so why would she do that? Well, there must be something unnatural about her, something deviant, and which is just as problematic as just saying she refuses to give in and there's something wrong with that.

Speaker And what would it have meant at the turn of the 20th century, the time period?

Speaker So at the turn of the 20th century in the United States, there were essentially multiple definitions of lady like that is multiple definitions of what's appropriate for women, because it was a society that was made up of both the white Protestant, native born middle class, which certainly had a great deal of sort of cultural power in terms of magazines and other kinds of mass circulating texts, public schools, which tried to impose a certain definition upon women. But then there were all the immigrant populations that were coming to the United States and as well as African-Americans are Hispanic. So that there are so many different populations. All of them had their own definition of what was an appropriate behavior for women are an appropriate style of presentation. So it's not that any of them were absolutely gender neutral, OK, but they had their own. And in the case of immigrant groups coming to the United States, they brought with them a set of ideas about appropriate gender roles. What's a who's an appropriate man, who's an appropriate woman?

Speaker And these at times came in conflict with American views and American ideas.

Speaker That is the ideas propagated by that white Protestant middle class of native born. And there's a kind of a set of discussions going on within immigrant communities and then between these immigrant populations and the larger American society.

Speaker So I know this will be very hard, but can you summarize very briefly for me what was the progressive era?

Speaker So the progressive era? Generally, we think of as the sometimes starting in the late 19th century, sometimes it's given as the 1890 is. Perhaps we could push it a little bit earlier than that. And usually it is defined as having come to some kind of an end in the 1920s with as in the aftermath of World War One.

Speaker And it was a period of time that a substantial number of Americans and in particular that white Protestant middle class, a certain kadry of them, were searching for new kinds of social forms and new kinds of structures in American society because they saw that the earlier the legacy of the earlier period was chaotic, disorganized, was unsettled, and that they were searching for new definitions, a new ways of social organization, the progressive era, which in some ways is problematic because many things took place during that era that were we surely don't look back and say, God, that was progressive. For example, the progressive era saw the birth of Jim Crow. That's hardly progressive. But if we think of progressive, not as good and good and getting and our definition of getting better, but rather a search for order, there was a famous historian named Robert Wehbe who gave it that term. And in a way it really works, and that the progressives asserted that the old ways of organizing society, which were much more communal, that were much more voluntaries, much more individualistic, were not going to work in the age of urbanization, industrialization, mass migration and society had to create these new structures that were in some ways much more centralized, much more bureaucratic, that were much more oriented towards telling each class within society what it was supposed to do, not only for itself, but in relationship to each other. It carried with it an idea, though, of perfectibility. Like, you know, we may not agree that, for example, the prohibition of alcohol was a good thing, but they believed that this would absolutely purify society, that if alcohol wasn't available, then men who went out and worked would not be squandering their wages on alcohol.

Speaker They'd bring their paychecks back home to their wives and children. You can't rely on those men, however, to do it voluntarily. So the progressive era's response was, we legislate against alcohol consumption and alcohol distribution.

Speaker So it was taking it away from the individual to protect him or herself, but asking the state and agencies around the state to create bureaucracies and create mechanisms to essentially take that bottle of alcohol out of the hands of somebody who couldn't control himself.

Speaker Did that work? Yes. OK. OK, that's great.

Speaker So what rights and opportunities did women in America have or not have in that era?

Speaker So the progressive era was a period of time which vastly expanded women's options. And again, it depends on which class of women we're talking about in terms of class and region and race and so on. But educational opportunities expanded for women. Many schools which had not previously, particularly colleges and universities, which had previously not admitted women beganto or created women's branches. The idea of the progressive movement and this desire to purify society sit actually very well with an older idea of women as more moral and more pure.

Speaker And so, yeah, you know, women should be able to have the vote. Women should be able to participate in the making of policy because they're going to be the more moral ones. They're going to be the ones who are going to be more oriented towards creating a better society. They are more naturally good. So that gave women greater options. The other thing is very, I think, notable again for that white middle class native born part of the population. Their marriage rates went down during this period and that freed substantial numbers of women up to pursue careers, to pursue education, to pursue reform, and to be able to have a hand in the shaping of society in a way they wouldn't have had they not been single. And they also those who were married had fewer children that birth, the white birth rate began to to drop pretty dramatically.

Speaker And that white middle class Protestant part of the population, partly because of immigration from Europe and the migration of African-American women from the South, had household help.

Speaker And so they had women in their homes cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids. And this allowed the these married women to go out and belong to women's clubs. The women's clubs became places where they not only garden, where they not only, you know, discussed refined subjects and had tea and cook and little cakes, but they actually discussed, you know, had speakers come in and talk about municipal reform and they talked about the alcohol problem or the immigration problem. So this became informal, but very serious ways in the progressive era for some women to to educate themselves. So and the the suffrage movement is clearly a very important part of the progressive era.

Speaker And not all progressives agreed on every particular movement or every particular issue that was being discussed, but certainly suffrage was one of them.

Speaker OK, what life for Jewish women in particular, so Jewish women in what we again label the progressive era from the 80s, 90s to the 1920s depended largely on one issue. And one issue alone was how long have you been in the United States?

Speaker So there had been substantial Jewish migration from Central Europe from the 1930s onward until about the 18th, 70s and 80s.

Speaker And it was substantial, but it was still relatively small in number and for reasons kind of for all sorts of reasons.

Speaker Many, although not all of those immigrants and their children did relatively well in the United States. And they moved themselves through business.

Speaker So into into the middle and upper middle class, some became fabulously wealthy, very few, but some became fabulously wealthy. And their lives in this progressive era were very much dominated by progressivism. They got involved in many of the progressive movements of the time. Their lives were dominated by material comforts. Their lives were dominated primarily by Reform Judaism, which was a modern iteration of the religious of religious practice in their lives. Their public lives were very much motivated by the fact that the United States had become the magnet for an enormous migration of Jews from Eastern Europe. And so for these for those Jewish women who, again, were comfortable and middle class and oriented towards progressivism and the kinds of issues that many white middle class women were concerned with, they also had responsibility for self imposed responsibility for the two million or so East European Jews who started migrating in about the 1970s from the Austro Hungarian empire, places that would later on become Poland and then from the czarist empire. So places like Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine. And they came in very large number. And so their lives were shaped by a very different set of circumstances during the progressive era. Can you describe so the the new immigrants, the new Jewish immigrants migrated get about two million of them from the 1970s and 80s on into the 1920s, largely from in response to poverty in the places they had lived, the lack of economic possibility being squeezed out by new circumstances back home, as well as by the discriminatory and personal persecution that they felt that that they experienced. So America was a very attractive destination for them. They came in large measure because of the economic possibilities in the United States. And for most of them, that is for a majority it was the development of the garment industry. And so America emerges in the late 19th century as the manufacture of the world's clothing. And much of it is centered on New York, although not only and Jews had been involved with sewing as an occupation for generations.

Speaker So it was it wasn't they weren't going to the same kind of work situation that they had had back home. But it was familiar enough. It was very easy to learn. It's not very hard to learn to operate a sewing machine.

Speaker And what made the Jewish migration very interesting is that their employers were other Jews. Their employers were either Jews whose parents or grandparents had come from Central Europe a generation or two before or since the Jewish migration began from Eastern Europe begins again roughly in the 70s and goes on until the 1920s.

Speaker By nineteen hundred, many of the owners of the sweatshops were themselves East European Jewish immigrants who had just done a little bit better and could move from being a worker to being a boss.

Speaker And it's a very it was a very unusual part of the American economy in that it was in in a few ways. And one, it was one of the few. This is where a worker shared some very profound social characteristics with an employer. OK, so like a Polish immigrants who went to work in steel mills, shared nothing with Andrew Carnegie. They didn't go to the same church.

Speaker They didn't they had nothing in common, whereas these are Jewish employers, Jewish workers. And it plays a very important role in the union in the process of unionization. The other part of the the garment industry that made it fascinating is that it was a field of work in which men and women work together.

Speaker And while there were a few jobs that only men did and men, only men cut the garments and only men pressed the garments with big heavy irons and only women did the very fine work that supposedly needed little hands, like finishing up the button holes.

Speaker The most common job was sewing machine operator. Men and women did the same work, and in a factory there could be a man or woman sitting next to each other at adjoining the machines, which had a very profound impact on the consciousness of the women workers because they could see that they were producing the same number of garments and the same quality of garments as the worker next to them who might be their neighbor, their brother there.

Speaker And they were getting a lower pay and their working in the same factories and only they were being subjected to sexual harassment and only they could not move up to higher paying jobs. It wasn't sort of theoretical. Gee, I think men are getting more than I am in some other field where only men did work in coal mines, for example. So no woman could say that male coal miners getting more than I am in a garment factory. A woman literally sits next to a man whose work is no better than hers. And by virtue of his anatomy and his hormones, he's getting paid more.

Speaker And that infuriated them like the East European Jews who are almost completely urban in their orientation. They're very much gravitating towards New York, but also Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, other big cities. Buffalo was a big center of the garment industry. They were relatively poor. They weren't as poor as many of the other immigrants coming at the time. They came in with more in the way of just money. And we're talking about still very small amounts in Italian immigrants coming at the same time, but they still live. They were still poor by middle class American standards. They lived very crowded. They lived in densely packed apartment buildings in New York, the famous tenement buildings. They in order to make ends meet, they often rented out rooms or actually rented out beds to borders. So these apartments were crammed with people. Disease was pretty rife in these apartments, you know, very poor sanitation until the progressive era, which imposed sanitation standards on cities and on landlords.

Speaker But it was pretty difficult and grim life that they faced.

Speaker And what were the societies just getting like? Oh, OK. Oh, am I doing something wrong?

Speaker You talked the way that you could have just in the French. This could actually be a little bit.

Speaker Can I take a sip of water? Yes, that's very important. It's going to be great. Do you mind very briefly? No, the tenement parts conditions.

Speaker OK, so Life in the Tenements, which was actually the title of a book by Jacob Rees, who is very famous for having written how the other half lives were crowded, they were not particularly clean. They people packed lots of bodies into these apartments. Many immigrants made a helped make ends meet by renting out rooms or renting out beds, two to borders. That is usually single man, although there were some single women who are also boarders who lived with a family. And they paid for the room, they paid for their meals, they paid for the woman of the apartment to do their laundry for them. But yet they were really pushed in there. As many bodies as could fit would fit, which obviously is a breeding ground for disease. A lot of lung disease that came partly from that proximity and also from the threads in the cloth that's hanging in the air until about the second decade of the 20th century. Many of the garments were produced in what we call sweatshops. And it's important to, you know, sort of keep in mind a sweatshop was in a a a workplace that was in somebody's home. And so there could be a family that would rent that would transform their small, shabby apartment come, you know, morning. They would transform it into a little workshop and workers would come. They'd act in the early years, they actually had to bring their own machines and their own thread and they would come in in the morning. They'd sit there all day. And so and the owner of the apartment, or he wasn't an owner, but the owner of the sweatshop, the personal rather sweatshop, he'd be working also and his wife would be working also. And she might take off time to cook some meals to pay to feed the workers. But they were all in this space. And then when the workday ended, the workers would leave and the apartment would be transformed again into somebodies living space. So it was no separation whatsoever between work and home. One of the accomplishments of the progressive movement was the campaign against sweatshops. And to emphasize both the terrible work conditions, the oppressive labor situation for the workers who had to and bring their own machines, bring their own thread, bring their own needles and the health implications for people who bought these garments.

Speaker So somebody sitting in here in this apartment and somebody is coughing and they have TB or they have some other kind of disease, lung disease, and it gets on the garment. And then some unsuspecting customer goes in to a department store and likes the blouse, the shirtwaists, and buys it not knowing it's been coughed on 25 times by a worker.

Speaker So the idea was to move to ban sweatshop labor and to move the sweatshops into larger modern factories.

Speaker And the Triangle Factory, which is a site of the horrendous fire in 1911, was one of the most modern factories in New York. It was the biggest it was so it was not a sweatshop at all. Er although to say it wasn't a sweatshop doesn't mean it was wonderful, you know, still very difficult work conditions. It was very different than the apartment sweatshop, than the apartment sweatshops.

Speaker What was the work day timing at the time, the hours, the pay, so the the the hours were utterly erratic.

Speaker OK, so one thing about the garment industry, it was incredibly seasonal and there were times when there was so much work that they just there was, you know, no quitting time at, you know, four o'clock. There is no such thing as an eight hour day. There was no such thing as a 10 hour day. If the contractor who who brought the garment, the cloth to the sweatshop or to the factory said, look at I need this amount of number of garments produced. By the end of the day, people just stayed and worked. There was no I have to go and pick up my kids.

Speaker You have to stay and work. And so this heavy workload was then often followed by slack time, where there were weeks and weeks could go by with no work, and then word would get out on the street that people were could go back to work because a new clothing season was coming in.

Speaker And so they needed workers again. So the pay was utterly erratic also.

Speaker And the garment the manufacturers got in the sweatshops or in the factories made profit by the thinnest margin. And so therefore the pay was fluctuated depending on how much he could negotiate a contract for, you know, 8000 blouses. And in each contract, each contractor and each employer is trying to get the largest order of work. And therefore, they're going to promise the I can do it for one hundred dollars more. I could do it for eighty five. OK, now who bears the burden of that lower pay rate but the workers.

Speaker And so it's almost impossible to say what was the pay rate other than your studies were done during the progressive era. And that was very much a progressive era thing, was to study the conditions of labor and said, well, what's your pay?

Speaker Well, you know, it really depended high seas and low season. This employer had one kind of period. That employer had a different and one of the goals of the union was to regularize pay for people to know what they were going to get paid.

Speaker So how did unions come about?

Speaker OK, so unions, there was a long history of unions in America from earlier parts of the 19th century, but they were almost all skilled laborers, people who had such a high level of skill that were they to make a demand on their employer or even go out on strike, the employer would have a very hard time replacing them because it was work that took that took a great deal of training.

Speaker And being a machinist, they don't go as a machine as the garment industry, which is very much associated with the East European Jewish migration, in a sense, was one of the first unions in which the Union leadership and the membership came from the ranks of the semiskilled and to some degree unskilled as well. And while there had been some earlier garment unions in the United Garment Workers Union, there were some earlier trade unions which were tailors. Now, this is a tailor is a really skilled profession. They were primarily Irish, but the the two largest garment workers union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of the ILGWU made women's clothing and the Amalgamated made men's clothing. That was sort of the distinction were among the earliest unions that were successful that involved the unskilled. And, you know, in the sort of Jewish lingo or the Yiddish lexicon of the immigration period, they talked about people who were so-called Colombus tailors. This these weren't tailors.

Speaker They had never held a needle before, but they came to America right away, could become a tailor because it required so little in the way of skill. So columbus' tailor.

Speaker So the unions, the men's male workers in the garment industry, about 1900, you know, do form the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Speaker And it was the more skilled workers, the union in the in the field, it was mostly men, although women were such an enormous part of the labor force that it was very there was a kind of disjunction between this.

Speaker But the union really gets started in 1909 and this is what it has, the real shot in the arm when there's a meeting at Cooper Union down in Manhattan, lower Manhattan. And the question is, are they the employers had announced a drop in wages.

Speaker OK, an increase in hours, and so there's a meeting with the Union of the Union and several of the male leaders sitting up on the dais said, you know, that's obviously bad, but this is not the time for a strike.

Speaker Because we can be replaced sooner than one can walk out the door, we're going to be replaced and they were hemming and hawing about what to do.

Speaker And the story goes that it's really quite remarkable that a young woman, about 16 years old named Clara Limblifter stands up and interrupts the the men who are gathered up there, the important men up there, and speaks to the assembled audience.

Speaker I mean, in Yiddish, I say and essentially, as I say, we go out on strike and and she asks them, the workers, to stand up and take an oath.

Speaker And it is the oath that was associated with the Jewish labor movement in Eastern Europe was called the Bund.

Speaker And I'm not you know, the women just go while they stand up and, you know, they're following Clara Lamella and the men are just kind of befuddled, like, how could this happen?

Speaker And this leads to what is the first really successful strike in the garment industry called the uprising of the 20000.

Speaker And these are 20000 young well, women, let's say some of them weren't so young. But among East European Jewish immigrants, generally, women dropped out of the labor force when they got married, the paid labor force. So these were the only women who might be there, might be widows, but they go out on the street and they strike throughout the industry. It spreads to other cities. And this attracted the attention of a group of white, middle class, mostly Christian Protestant women who had already formed something called the Women's Trade Union League. And these were again, some of them would refer to that as the mink brigade. And they provided support with the striking women would get arrested and the Women's Trade Union League, the mink brigade, paid their bail. They helped offer some kind of financial compensation to the families of these women who were out on strike.

Speaker And while it was a very rocky relationship between the leadership of the women workers and the Women's Trade Union League and then the Mink Brigade women, it played a very important role in getting them attention.

Speaker And they get on the front pages of the newspapers and their cause becomes the the sort of everyday news and the city of New York. And it's slightly embarrassing for the Jewish community.

Speaker And so the point with the moment where the union gains its first recognition and legitimacy is in the middle of this uprising. Of the 20000, a number of prominent Jewish community leaders who are very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism. They're concerned about creeping immigration restriction. They're concerned about the image of the Jew as a radical in America.

Speaker They go in and they Broecker with the owners of the factories who are all Jewish. They brokered with them an agreement called the Protocols of Peace and forced the the factory owners to recognize the union and to begin the process of collective bargaining with the workers. So it took this essentially wildcat strike, this spontaneous strike by this unknown girl to jumpstart a process by which the employers were shamed by the Jewish community. Notables, again, many of whom were the children or grandchildren of earlier immigrants. They were shamed by them into agreeing to this recognition of the union and of being willing to sit down and negotiate with with the union representatives.

Speaker So one of the ironies of the strike, though, and of the protocols is one of the two factories that didn't factory factories that did not sign the protocols was triangle to the triangle, which was the largest of the factories that were not doing this.

Speaker And you know, we don't have to citizens, they're operating in a non progressive manner and, you know, nobody can come in and tell us how to run our business. And so while we can't do a counter to a counter history and say, well, if they had signed with the fire or not have broken out because the protocols were not so scrupulously followed, but they were there. But Triangle was where the fire happened. And on that day in March 1911, when I think it still goes down as the worst industrial accident in American history, public attention was galvanized on the garment industry, on women workers, on the behavior of the employers.

Speaker It was the Triangle Shirtwaist fire which caused Tammany Hall, which was the sort of Democratic machine of New York City and its representatives up in Albany to do a complete turn on passing statewide labor laws and coming out in support of the union. And so that was huge. You know that the state of New York says, you know what, we're going to pass a factory inspection laws. And one can argue this back to that moment in Cooper Union in 1939, when the women says we're going out on strike was Shneiderman. So Rose Shneiderman, Joe Rose Schneiderman was there. Rose Schneiderman was at that time an employee of the New York Women's Trades Union League.

Speaker So she worked with the she had actually not been a garment worker in a in a kind of conventional shirtwaist plant.

Speaker She had her first sort of sewing job, was making hats.

Speaker She worked in a hat factory and she belonged to and was active in the United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers Union. And she actually had a pretty important strike in that in that field. But she was involved with the New York Women Trade Union League when the uprising began. And she was very much out there on the street with the women's strikers. And she was already a person known, you know, the many of the women who were involved with the union and probably some of the rank and file would have already known her, as well as the middle class, the allies from the Women's Trade Union League. But we're Shneiderman really makes her first splash is at the funeral for the martyrs of the, as they were called, the martyrs of the Triangle Fire, where she gives this powerful speech about, you know, the broken bones of her, her sisters.

Speaker And, you know, she gives this speech, which gives the women's labor movement, which I think is still being used. You know, the imagery of we were working for bread, but we're working for roses.

Speaker And that it's about not it is about our wages, our bread, but it's also about our human dignity. And, you know, you don't lock women or people from the outside into a factory.

Speaker You don't prevent them from using you going to the bathroom when they need to. Don't subject them to harassment. So those are our roses that were to go along with the bread.

Speaker I have a few very quick follow up questions of history and then let's get into it, OK, in one sentence, sir. No, that's OK. It's also fascinating.

Speaker I'm just worried about. Sure, sure. Sure.

Speaker What are some stats of women in the labor force during this time?

Speaker Most working women at the time were single. Relatively few married women worked, and the percentage of us women working varied from community to community.

Speaker That is, you know.

Speaker I'm not going to be able to give you an exact figure, but, you know, farm women worked, but they weren't employed, OK, so, I mean, most women at this point in time spent some number of years earning money or participating in a family economy. And as industrialization created more and more factory jobs, white collar work department stores were open.

Speaker More and more opportunities for women working.

Speaker OK. Am I correct that the MIC brigade also is there to help prevent police brutality?

Speaker Yes. So the brigade was there to make to.

Speaker Try to talk the police out of beating up the strikers, and when they did, writing down that this was happening and then feeding this to the press, and since these were women who were well-connected, they had very powerful husbands, they had a kind of channel to the media that the striking women would not have had.

Speaker Let's go deep into rows. Hey, you see your seatbelt?

Speaker So if you could just tell me her life story and I can promise you I'm sure you're sure. Starting with, you know, birth and early life. Okay.

Speaker So, Rose, I was born in the 1980s in Russia and Poland. And I could be an area that probably today would equivalent be equivalent to Lithuania. And she lived there with her father, mother. They weren't among the poorest people because none of the poorest never got to participate in the migration. She got a little bit of education. Her parents certainly wanted her to have more. But it was a world in which the education of girls was just not considered important at all. And she seemed at a fairly young age to have had aspirations for learning and for acquiring knowledge of the world.

Speaker When she was relatively young, the family migrated to the United States and they were again not the poorest of the East European Jewish immigrants, but because there's no safety net. Her father died and her mother was left with several small children.

Speaker And there was relatively little steady work and certainly little steady work that paid much for a widow with small children.

Speaker At one point, she actually had her children placed in an orphanage. So the women of the the Jewish women in America who were getting comfortable middle class did create institutions for the immigrants who were in need, who are in distress.

Speaker And one of them was providing some kinds of shelters for children whose mothers just could not support them. So these were usually not full orphans, but half orphans, the women and the Middle Middle-Class Jewish women saw something in Rose.

Speaker They offered her, with her mother's intercession, a chance to get a job in a department store.

Speaker And Rose did not particularly.

Speaker We don't know a lot why, but she didn't it didn't click and it may have had to do with that was a place where you were on show and you had to kind of be a lady in a department store interacting with the public.

Speaker And she was not ladylike in the conventional American sense of ladylike. And so she quit that job. And a friend gave her a couple of quick lessons on how to sew hats.

Speaker So she got a job in a factory, sewing cloth hats. And that was her first taste of the onion world. She got involved with the union there. She helped lead a strike. She came to the attention of the New York Women's Trade Union League, which then employed her to be an awful time organizer for for the union. And she had a lot of disputes with the Women's Trade Union League because she considered them to be somewhat condescending to the to the workers. She actually became fairly close with a woman named Leonora O'Reilly, who was a Irish woman who is also involved with the Women's Trade Union League. And O'Reilly was really her Schneiderman's mentor. Over the next number of years, Shneiderman comes to the attention of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union with her speech at the funeral of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire victims. And then it's a job with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union as an organizer. And once again, she does really well, but she's incredibly frustrated because the men in the union don't take women workers seriously. As far as they're concerned, the women are going to work for a year or two years, three years, and then they're going to get married, they're going to drop out and they're not going to be worth the investment of time unionizing them. And Shneiderman, you know, tries to tell them that even if they're going to drop out, which is that they really are, even if they're they're still in the labor force and therefore they have to be unionized. So she has a very rocky relationship with the ILGWU She quits. She then gets involved with the Socialist Party and with an organization called the Wage Earners League, she is with Leonardo O'Reilly and the Wage Earners League, which was an effort to take the issues of socialism, which she has really become very committed to, and feminism, and to say that the two have to be pursued together.

Speaker You can't have one. You can't be pursuing a socialist agenda without focusing on the issue of women. On the other hand, she's very frustrated with the with the women's suffrage movement because they only think, as far as she sees, they're only concerned with the vote and they're only concerned with the needs and the kind of outlook of the white middle class. And they have no conception of the lives of working women or working class women and women from immigrant communities. So she later on goes back and works again for the National Women's Trade Union League and for the ILCHI. And so her whole career is spent sort of trying to meld these two ideologies, the ideology of the women working class and the idea ideology of socialism. I think the next really important development in her life was something which grew out of her work with the New York Women's Trade Union League, was she met Eleanor Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt was one of those irrigators and she met Shneiderman. And the two developed a kind of bond, ironically, because Eleanor Roosevelt at that same period of time was not exactly fond of Jews. And in her diaries, she has some pretty nasty remarks, not about Jews as a class, but about individual Jews.

Speaker And so Franklin was very good friends with Henry Morgenthau, who was their neighbor, and he writes in her diary on the way to have to have dinner with that nasty little Jew again. And it's the same thing about Bernard Baruch. And so Eleanor does not come to this with a kind of ideal ideology of, you know, we're all you know, we're all the same.

Speaker And Jews are just like any other people. But Shneiderman really helps her see the commonality and she becomes part of Eleanor's inner circle. She spends a lot of time with Eleanor up in Hyde Park or in L.A. or retreat up there, say.

Speaker So, OK, Hyde Park, OK, so she spends a good deal of time up at Hyde Park or at Eleanor's retreat in Hyde Park.

Speaker She has her own little cottage and she brings her women friends up there and knowing Eleanor brings Rose Schneiderman in contact with Franklin Roosevelt.

Speaker And they are good. And I think we see a really remarkable moment where he turns to Shneiderman as one of his advisers on.

Speaker You know, labor and on women workers and on the issue of unions, and so once the New Deal is in place after 1933 and one of the showcase pieces of legislation is the National National Recovery Act, the NRA, she's the only woman to serve on the NRA labor board.

Speaker And so here's a woman who came from a backwater town in Russia and Poland and you know, who was in an orphanage as a child, who is in a factory sewing cloth hats. And she ends up drafting the legislation that essentially creates the culmination of the progressive era, which is the New Deal labor legislation.

Speaker Has that amazing one more of work take, I'm going to ask a few photos for you. In two sentences, what's the history of the Socialist Party?

Speaker The Socialist Party of America was a complicated path because it was made up of different factions, some of them were immigrants, either German or East European Jews, the Germans really are the kind of founding members of that wing of the Socialist Party. And then there are the Americans, people like Debs, who are come a very Christian background. They the one the one moment in time where they actually do pretty well as the 1912 election, where they actually got a not insignificant vote in strange places like Oklahoma. They do best in a number of cities. Milwaukee, Schenectady had socialist mayors, but it was always an outlier in the American political system. I think its biggest contribution was it kind of pokes that the Democratic Party to think about class issues. But the Socialist Party was very much hobbled by the fact that didn't have supportive of the labor movement. Labor movement was, you know, the AFL was very anti-social as an anti anti politics. Labor doesn't get involved in politics.

Speaker And the Socialist Party was hobbled by ethnic and racial issues. And when they were going and campaigning in Oklahoma or North Dakota or Indiana, then, you know, not going to be emphasizing the issues of African-Americans or immigrant laborers. And the Socialist Party is actually fairly supportive of immigration restriction because they believe that American labor has been degraded by having these just constant inflows of of immigrant workers who are bringing down the labor, the pay scale.

Speaker So what do you think Rosa Neiderman said?

Speaker Because so the Jewish socialists are really different because they come to it really from an ideological perspective that on two levels. And one, they see it as the solution to the class problem is the undermining of private property and the municipal ownership of services. And they have a goal, you know, for for wage earners of all kinds. But they also see socialism as a way to end anti-Semitism because they see that their vision is, you know, the workers of the world unite and that the kinds of distinctions between people on the basis of race, religion, national origin, they hoped would fade in the face of the solidarity of the working class and that that would be the solution to anti-Semitism.

Speaker What kind of anti-Semitism did Rose Schneiderman face?

Speaker So Rose Shneiderman, probably the little anti-Semitism she found was with some of these brigade women who just didn't had no feel for the kind of lives that Jews, the Jewish immigrants face, that they came with all the prejudices, as far as I know.

Speaker And as far as anybody knows, Eleanor Roosevelt never manifested her little bits of social anti-Semitism in her work with Grinderman. So most wrote Schneiderman's career was spent organizing Jewish workers.

Speaker And so I think that the issue really did not touch her very much.

Speaker So we're going to start the film, as you know, because you've read the script. Yeah.

Speaker With that first strike at the Cat Factory factory, can you tell me that that story again, the fire and you know, she's working there as a seamstress.

Speaker OK, can I just quickly look at my notes?

Speaker Thank you. I'm so sorry. And I was just sort of there and said, okay, give me one second and then I need my glasses, OK.

Speaker Uh.

Speaker Sorry.

Speaker OK, I'm so sorry. So, yeah, just keep track. Yeah, you could have done a lot.

Speaker OK.

Speaker OK, so you know what, I'm not very I'm not sure about the fire in the cat, in the hat, in the cloth, in the cat factory.

Speaker So I'm so sorry about that.

Speaker My recollection is there's a fire and the workers are forced to buy new.

Speaker Oh, yes, yes, yes. OK, I'm sorry. Yes. And the company gets the insurance right. Pigment. OK, so, I mean, I can say that I'm so sorry. Oh no, I am so sorry. I'm probably a little befuddled now on.

Speaker So Rose Shneiderman got a friend to teach her how to become a to so cloth hats and she's working in a factory. There was a fire and not at all uncommon experience. And in the aftermath of the fire, the the owners wanted, the workers demanded that the workers pay for the machines that had been destroyed in the fire, although they're collecting insurance money at the same time. And it just infuriated her. And it was in a sense, just like the conditions in sweatshops where the workers had to bring their own equipment, they had to bring their own thread, and it just sort of set her off and it really set her on her course towards seeing that unions were the only solution because no worker on her own could stand up to the employer.

Speaker I'm so sorry. No, that's perfect. And so then she leads a nonviolent strike that helps result in a two dollar raise.

Speaker So she was very successful. Rose was very successful in this with no training, with no no one teaching her what it meant to be a union organizer. She led the strike of the workers against this kind of outrageous demand on the part of the employers. And lo and behold, she what they won, which was one of the first times women had organized a strike of their own and not only organized a strike, but won. And it was, I think, very revealing for her that, you know, in groups as a mass, workers had power. And this brought her to the attention of the New York Women's Trade Union League. And they saw she was a natural leader. And then we'll have to see if she was a natural leader. She didn't go to trading classes on how to lead a strike and they made her an organizer. What was she like as a speaker and can you describe her physically so people who heard her speak and left comments talked about her as eloquent, as fiery, as intense as an incredible wordsmith, able to say the right things to get people to women to act. She was short, kind of like Clara Limblifter and red hair, just like Clara left, and somebody who, despite her physical demeanor, was a commanding presence.

Speaker Can you say the short and read her without mentioning Clara? Yes.

Speaker OK, sorry. OK. She was short. She had red hair.

Speaker She didn't have the kind of physical demeanor that connotes leadership. But by all accounts, she was a commanding presence when she got up and addressed crowds.

Speaker Very briefly, with the uprising of twenty thousand, what were they demanding?

Speaker So the uprising, the 20000 was, you know, this uprising of these women and they were demanding wages and predictable hours and some level of control over the work environment.

Speaker And then one quick follow up about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Am I correct that Shneiderman personally lost some friends?

Speaker Yes. So one of the owners of Shneiderman. I'm sorry. Sorry. Yes, yes. Yes. I think I think ferocious Neiderman.

Speaker The fire was not just an abstract. Kind of class tragedy or communal tragedy, but she knew people who had been killed, she knew women who'd been killed. And I think for many people, let's say in New York, New York now, who lived through 9/11, there was something about knowing somebody that took this event of such tremendous proportion and made it so deeply personal that there was almost no distinction between the big event and the personal feelings.

Speaker I don't remember if you said it, but how many people died?

Speaker Hundred and forty seven. So most of the women died not because they were burnt, but they died because the doors were locked from the outside so they couldn't get out doors. I mean, they had tried to run down that. Some had tried to run down the stairs and they were trapped down there and they were killed by the crush of the bodies. But the largest number died because they jumped out the windows and the fire department did come.

Speaker But the ladders were not tall enough to reach the floors on which the factory, the floors, the factory where that floor where the fire had started. And so the women jumped out thinking, you know, maybe they could be saved that way. And so, you know, when she when Rose Schneiderman spoke in her speech about battered bodies, that's really what she was talking about. She wasn't, you know, burnt but wasn't burnt bodies. It wasn't smoke inhalation. It was the broken bodies of these women littering the sidewalks.

Speaker And touched upon this, but can you tell me more about this rallying cry?

Speaker Bread and roses, I assume you'll have somebody who actually reads that. There'll be a voice over.

Speaker There will be a voice. OK, great. So how did you invent that phrase and how has it become a rallying cry for the phrase which was hers?

Speaker I mean, she this woman with so little education.

Speaker Create, you know, sort of crafted this imagery of, on the one hand, the practical bread and, you know, there's there's a line in the Hebrew Bible she probably would have known, which is man lives not by bread alone, that it isn't enough just to stoke your body, although you've got to do that. But that life is about other kinds of values. And those are the ones of our souls and the ones that give us dignity and which make us realize that we are human.

Speaker And so the roses are essentially control over our lives, the right to be more than cogs in any kind of labor system. We're not we we are not slaves to our work.

Speaker And, you know, we have the right for those more beautiful things in life.

Speaker And so on the one hand, you know, it wasn't a particularly religiously observant Jew, but that was the whole idea behind the Jewish Sabbath, was the idea that one day a week.

Speaker His people were like, God, they they didn't work, you know, one day a week they ate, they took naps, they were engaged with prayer, with conviviality and family. One day a week, they were kings and queens. And I think that her dichotomy between bread and roses was not such a far cry from that idea of of of the Sabbath. And, you know, the irony is that the fire was on the Sabbath and these were Jewish owned factories.

Speaker Prodigals Jewish owned. The owners were Orthodox. They expected, however, that their Jewish laborers were going to violate the Sabbath to go to work, said that kind of very kind of judgmental, you know, when thinks about that. I think it's very interesting that the ILGWU, as it developed in the post fire decades among American unions, was probably the most concerned with the roses in their workers lives.

Speaker They built a resort in the Poconos for for the workers.

Speaker So the two weeks a year union members could go and be just like rich people who get their vacations and with a swimming pool and boating. And they had classes for workers, for gym or music. The ILGWU in the 1930s actually sponsored a Broadway musical called Pins and Needles. And it was like, life is not just bread, it's not just earning a living, but it's those finer things.

Speaker The women's movement, the radical feminist of the 1960s, however, found this phrase. And there were the bread and roses collectives. There was bread and roses bookstores. And most of those women who are involved in these feminist activities probably didn't know that the phrase came from this short immigrant Jewish garment worker who brought a kind of vision to the idea of the dignity of labor and that women have the right to partake of it as well.

Speaker Didn't it also inspire songs?

Speaker So the phrase bread and roses comes up in all sorts of poetic works from the on from second wave feminism, it is a word constantly invoked in music.

Speaker And they're the ILCHI in the early 60s, made a movie called The Inheritance and was a history of the union. And sure enough, you know, Bread and Roses keeps coming up in the film. So this was even before the rise of second wave feminism.

Speaker Tell me about Rose Schneiderman being discredited by her enemies as the red rose of energy.

Speaker So her enemies, who were essentially the manufacturers and the conservative trade unionists, didn't like her because they saw how effective she was and they tried to smear her with the label that she was an anarchist, which she was not at all.

Speaker And in a way, by saying the red rose of anarchy, they were trying to almost confuse her with Emma Goldman, who was an anarchist, and she was Red Emma. And above the word anarchist inspired such fear and loathing among Americans that there was such until essentially the Bolshevik revolution of, you know, the 19 at 19. The worst thing you could say about somebody is they were an anarchist. Then it became they were a communist Bolshevik. But to discredit her, it was the most effective way.

Speaker She's an anarchist.

Speaker Tell me about a lot of their sports, sports, sports, sports, so much more professional sports was Roshe Naaman lived in and worked in a kind of coterie of women trade unionists.

Speaker They were sort of equally divided between other Jewish women like Pauline Newman and a lot of more Irish. And so Agnes, naturally in our O'Reilley motto, Feral Sports. So sports was a married name. She briefly was married to somebody from Switzerland. So it's often not clear, you know, what her background. But she was Mordo Farrell. They had a very close relationship. Historians have been interested in pondering what the nature of that relationship was. Certainly their letters were extremely affectionate towards each other. I don't think anybody really knows what the kind of physical contact where they lesbians are. And in some ways, the question seems to me a distraction from, you know, the or the debate. Was she was she not? I would always kind of follow up with, well, who cares? I mean, here was somebody I mean, it was whatever it was in her personal life, which is fine, I think with the story of Rosie Shneiderman is somebody who wanted to change the world. And she would have been the first one to say the personal details of my life are not so important. She was never married. She didn't have children. She maintained a very low profile of her personal dealings. And I partly as a historian, think that we have to respect that.

Speaker And what would she would want us to know is that as an immigrant woman who experienced poverty and industrial violence, she believed that women had the right to earn the same wages as men and that wage workers had the right to a life of dignity and a modicum of security.

Speaker How did they meet them through through the women also Schneiderman and O'Farrell would have met through the women, this trade union leader. It was very much a meeting place for these two groups who might otherwise not have had any particular common ground.

Speaker And what's the context for lesbian relationships, is that even the appropriate word?

Speaker So this is a time when a not insignificant number of women chose not to marry in order to pursue careers of one kind or another, academic careers, medical careers, legal careers.

Speaker And for somebody like Shneiderman also to pursue a career in social and I would call it social justice both for women and for workers. And that was not possible if one was married and encumbered with a husband who had all sorts of legal rights over women, over their wives, and certainly not if they were encumbered with children. And so many women, many single women who made this, who had made this choice to to not marry in order to pursue the career of one kind or another, were involved with other women in relationships which later generations may look back and say, oh, they were lesbians. Some of them were. I mean, some of them were very open about the nature of their relationships. Others were not OK. And it's only through digging in their private correspondence and diaries that we come across language that, again, subsequent generations and historians may say, and that's a key, a clue that they were that these relationships that were intimate and therefore these women were lesbians. I think it's a question or it's a it's a it's an analysis. There's a way of engaging with these women, which is not how they would have engaged with them about themselves. And I'm not sure what we learn by wanting to impose upon them labels and definitions that they didn't.

Speaker Last question on that topic, what have you read the letters, what was intimate about them?

Speaker I've read some of the letters and they yeah, I mean, I long for you.

Speaker I feel your touch. I think about you, you know, so it has a romantic cast to it, but I don't know what that means.

Speaker I hope that's good enough. Yes, um.

Speaker You touched upon her work with the suffrage movement. Tell me about specifically the New York suffrage referendum and her involvement in that.

Speaker Yes. So Ross Shneiderman saw the 1975 referendum for suffrage in New York as an extremely important challenge and something that she really threw herself into. She in the end, we have to remember that the people who voted in this referendum were only men. And it's not that women could stream to the ballot box. It was to get women to be able to go to the ballot box. And so how to convince men that they should vote yes for women's suffrage? The assumption on the part of the Protestant white middle class leaders of the suffrage movement is that the immigrant neighborhoods would would would not support suffrage. And so she plays a very important role in the Lower East Side and the other places where immigrant Jews lived in reaching out to the men, particularly those who are involved with the unions, that it was their duty. For themselves to vote yes for suffrage and all of those election districts came back overwhelmingly in favor of suffrage.

Speaker And so she was she certainly wasn't alone, but she really played a very important role in making sure that that it passed in New York City and in the immigrant wards and in the wards or the election districts where workers lived.

Speaker And she to convince them that if their wives, daughters, other women had the right to vote, it would actually elevate their own lives that they weren't giving something up by getting by by supporting women's suffrage, but they were gaining from it.

Speaker Can you place New York State in the context of the suffrage movement? We're not sure. Yeah, I have. Yeah, that it was the first. Yes.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker So I think Illinois was preceded it, but it was the first New York State was the first state east of the Alleghenies, that east of the Appalachians to vote for women's suffrage. And it was not a foregone conclusion that it would carry. There were some very conservative areas upstate, many of the farming districts. And the assumption was that these immigrant men.

Speaker Were that his agenda from the perspective of the leaders of the suffrage movement, he looked down on these immigrant men, they thought they were sort of loud, drunken louts who beat their wives, who were patriarchs from some village in Sicily or Poland, and that they didn't have the same kind of enlightened consciousness that that their own husbands had and that these immigrant men were never going to allow their wives to vote and therefore they were going to vote against the suffrage amendment.

Speaker And that was the assumption. And the immigrant men proved them wrong.

Speaker Tell me about Shneiderman shift from being a labor organizer to politics, right?

Speaker So Shneiderman shifted from labor organizing to politics, in part out of a sense of frustration that the men who ran the ILGWU, you were just never going to cede power. They were going to never grant equality to women. They were not going to allow women at the governing table of the union. And they didn't put the kinds of resources when women would go out and they would give women a campaign to organize a particular place, a particular segment of the industry. They never gave them the resources. They never gave them the support. And the governing board of the union remained in male hands. And these were men who came from the same background that Shneiderman had come from. These were primarily immigrant Jewish men from Eastern Europe, and many of them had also been involved, but many of them had been involved with socialist politics and in Russia before coming to America, some not. But they viewed the union as their preserve and they weren't.

Speaker They essentially saw that they had, you know, women if women were on the governing board of the union in equal proportion to their number in the industry, men would be a minority. And in a way, it chipped away at their own definitions of manliness. Right. If they would be sitting at a table with a bunch of women, it would degrade them. And one could imagine those meetings where a woman, a shneiderman appalling, would give a suggestion about where to launch a campaign, how to organize campaign, and nobody would listen to them, which is exactly what happened. And so many of the women who were involved at her level, you know, who'd been a full time organizers just quit, you know, one after the other. They just they don't feel they're getting the respect and the voice and politics are essentially as she runs for the New York state Senate. At one point, she loses, but she wins.

Speaker Anyhow, they realized that the issues of the issues of labor and the issues of workers rights cannot be settled outside of the political arena and that these were highly political issues. It wasn't enough time to negotiate, to sit down at the bargaining table with the boss of this factory or that factory, but it required systematic restructuring of society.

Speaker I mean, they're pressing for all sorts of state interventions, the, you know, unemployment compensation, protection of factory inspection, a whole range, which has to be the state.

Speaker And eventually, since we see her really great hours when she helps write the New Deal legislation that had to be the federal government. And in a sense, we could see her as somebody whose ideas led into Social Security and and no one factory owner can do it.

Speaker And politics can't be a separate enterprise.

Speaker She did she she last for the New York Senate, but she did serve as the secretary of labor in New York State. So.

Speaker For six years or so, she under Franklin Roosevelt as governor of New York.

Speaker So there's the connection to Eleanor.

Speaker I mean, she gets what is a really important position to help create labor legislation for the state of New York. And, you know, several of those years involve the early years of the depression. And so this is a very significant position.

Speaker And there are very few women who hold jobs like that. So it's very visible. And she gets from him essentially what she never got from the male leadership of the union.

Speaker And he was not threatened by her. Now, he may have not been threatened by her because he has already he deals with Eleanor Roosevelt all the time and whatever relationship or whatever their arrangement is, he is not unfamiliar with the idea of a powerful woman kind of having an extremely clear ideas about policy.

Speaker It's done well. OK, great. Can I take one this OK, I hope this is OK. You're doing an amazing job having fun with it.

Speaker I am. Oh, you put me on autopilot.

Speaker So you touched on the Social Security factor when other influences do you see in national legislation that still is. Use today.

Speaker Yes, well, Social Security is certainly the most important, the NRA, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional several years after it was passed, which was kind of a great blow to the New Deal, however, was replaced by the next piece of legislation that she's involved in crafting, which is the National Labor Relations Act. So it's the creating of the National Labor Relations Board or it's known as the Wagner Act.

Speaker And this is the legislation that essentially mandated from the federal government that employers over a certain number of workers had to allow workers to form unions independent of the employer and that the workers could decide which union was going to represent them. And the employer has no choice but to sit down at the bargaining table with them. And this is often known as the Magna Carta of American labor that, hey, you know, it is now of recognition. And I think we can't realize how monumental that was in that American society in general when kicking and screaming and into recognizing unions.

Speaker It went so against the grain of American kind of individualism.

Speaker Every, you know, employer, a factory owner, a coal mine owner should be able to decide what he thinks. He should be able to hire whom he wants. He should be able to decide how many they don't like it, want them go. They can go elsewhere. If they can find a better job. Fine, OK. And this very this very American idea of laissez faire and individualism and the creation of the National Labor Relations Act was essentially saying, no, you know, that when it comes to this because this is somebody else's life.

Speaker It's not up to you as an individual, to the employer to decide if you know how how many hours they're going to work, how many what, what they're going to be paid and so on. You have to deal with labor.

Speaker And briefly, what's the status of labor unions in America today?

Speaker So the state of labor unions today, it's very interesting. If you'd asked me two years ago, I might have said absolutely abysmal and terrible. It is the lowest it's ever been since the 1920s. But I think the last two years we've seen a lot of percolating of labor activism, teachers, nurses. I think in Nevada, the casino workers have organized. Right now there's a strike going on of the communication workers. And, you know, it's a different kind of labor movement because it's no longer workers in manufacturing. And it used to be, you know, when when the National Labor Relations Act was crafted, most workers worked in factories.

Speaker That is not the case any longer. But in the last few years, there's been a I don't know if it's going to go anyplace, but there's been a kind of efflorescence of union activity. But for the most part, Americans still, you know, American workers have succeeded for a variety of reasons, their right to organize.

Speaker Tell me about Schneiderman's retirement and the like.

Speaker Yes, so she shneiderman ends her life in kind of obscurity and the union forgot about her.

Speaker There was not yet a feminist movement that could have rediscovered her. I think they rediscover her after her death.

Speaker She many of the people from the women, from her generation with whom she was very close, had preceded her in death. And he's just a handful of people came to her funeral and it passed somewhat unnoticed in the kind of circles that, you know, one time had her picture, you know, all over splashed all over the front pages.

Speaker And so, you know, it's hard to know what she would have thought about it.

Speaker The people always described her as extremely private.

Speaker Maybe that would have been OK, as she might not have wanted a big blaring funeral, but the world forgot about her.

Speaker And and yet I think she her impress was so tremendous on the world and on America after the 19 in the wake of, you know, the union efforts at the beginning of the century, the New Deal, the labor legislation, it was something that, you know, the kind of America which develops out of the New Deal really owes her owed her for much of that inspiration.

Speaker Um, can you tell me briefly just the story of her retirement, her.

Speaker Colleagues of the New York Women's Trade Union Leader and her 31 roses for the 30.

Speaker Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Speaker So when she retired and her last paid position was, as with the Women's Trade Union League, she received a bouquet of 31 roses, bread and roses to mark the 31 years of her service to to the organization and must have been very emotional.

Speaker I will answer this in different forms, but what's her legacy? All right.

Speaker Her legacy is one in which somebody sees injustice, lives, injustice, feels injustice, inequity, and rather than moaning and groaning and lamenting, they get up and do something about it.

Speaker And it's not enough to complain. It's not enough to write woe is me that I have.

Speaker But, you know, she said, I'm going to do something.

Speaker And, you know, from her first days, you know, in her first job, she wasn't taking it.

Speaker And while she didn't find the perfect spot from which to accomplish what she wanted and she knows this and that woman, New York Women's Trade Union League, the algae and on the wagers league, that's the algae.

Speaker But it was always focused on action. OK, it really doesn't matter if somebody calls you the red rose of anarchy, it doesn't matter if the David Dubinski and the other men in the algae are ignoring you. Fine, you leave and you do something else, but you do.

Speaker And it's that action that I think is her legacy of that, that feminists rediscover her radical feminist, rediscover her in the in their quest for bread and roses is not incidental. She certainly has emerged as a powerful symbol for Jewish women, as a kind of role model for for activism and activism. That was she was working for herself.

Speaker She's working for other Jewish women, but she's working for all women. And it wasn't the boundaries between us and them just didn't exist. Certainly she starts out because she's organizing the factory. She knew, but she took this way beyond thinking about the fate of Jewish women, but thinking about women workers more generally and the working class.

Speaker And it's the breaking down of parochial barriers when one is searching for ways to pursue social justice.

Speaker Or did she have any shortcomings, is there anything negative to say of.

Speaker Ross Shneiderman was stubborn, and she if she didn't like somebodies position or the way she told them she was Brosque, that was not very ladylike. She parted company with the women behind the era.

Speaker She believed women workers had to be protected. And in some ways, that was perhaps a shortsighted position, because had women like Shneiderman not opposed the IRA in the 1920s, it might have passed right after the suffrage amendment and that could have really changed the history of the 20th century views of women. But I guess I don't see that the historian's job is to criticize people in the past.

Speaker She was faced with a set of alternatives and she fought for what she believed. And she inspired people to think about how to improve their lives in the life of society and the lives of others and to make a better world and.

Speaker There's no nothing wrong with that.

Speaker Absolutely. Last question, a lot of the issues she advocated for a hundred plus years ago now remain at the center of.

Speaker Our political debates today, a minimum wage, equal pay for equal work. Safe working conditions for women, maternity leave.

Speaker What do you think?

Speaker What are the goals that you think Saddam would hope to accomplish by now that Ahar are still struggling?

Speaker Well, you know, I think that Shneiderman would be incredibly frustrated that we have a lower rate of unionization now than we had in the 1930s. I mean, she lived through the 30s, 40s. Her union membership was soaring. She lived through a period of time. Granted, it was an unusual time when income inequality would begin to shrink and there was less of the gap. But now should be looking at what we have now, which is the largest income inequality ever. I think she would have looked at the kinds of policies that went into effect in Western Europe, paid maternity leave, national health insurance and. Why don't we have that? So in some ways, the United States is much more of an outlier now than it was then, so that is in the in the years she was most active in those years? Well, the United States didn't have national health insurance. Britain didn't have it in the Scandinavian countries didn't have it. Now they have it. And and we're, in a way, the only country without it.

Speaker And so I think I think she'd be opting for pretty radical candidates for president right now. I can I say.

Speaker And they go, oh, I mean, we can't use it. But she'd be the oldest Bernie supporter. I think she would love it. Well, there's a certain male dynamic there, but I think should be a Bernie person and.

Speaker Yeah, and you know that the we just can't go on, you know, a society with that level of income inequality is going to end up destroying itself.

Speaker And I think should be the first one to tell us that.

Speaker Anything else you'd like to cover?

Speaker Oh, we've covered very much.

Speaker Well, I mean, I think it's really great that you've chosen her. I think that she is somebody who really deserves to have her her name known out there even more. I mean, I'm always appalled with my students how they don't know anything about anybody. So it's you know, it's kind of not surprising to say they don't know the name Rose Schneiderman. But I think that there's a whole rising generation, the millennials who really are at least some chunk of them, really committed to social justice work. And I'd like them to know about her and to know that they didn't invent this in somebody else, that there was this person a hundred years ago who more than 100 years ago who was just like them. OK, and there's something she devoted her life to, and the only difference between her and them is she came out of such an unlikely background, unlikely a sense that she came from such poverty and she didn't know the language and she came to the United States and look what she did. So I'd like her to be more of a role model than she is.

Speaker OK. And did I miss.

Hasia Diner
Interview Date:
2019-09-05
Runtime:
1:44:09
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Hasia Diner, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 Sep. 2019, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1035
APA CITATIONS:
(2019, September 05). Hasia Diner, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1035
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Hasia Diner, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 05, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1035

© 2022 WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.