Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Can you imagine arriving at Ellis Island with your parents, not speaking a word of English? You would, of course, be right to assume that you would be able to go to school because, after all, you are only a child! And then you find out that you are the only person in your family that is able to get a JOB!! How would you feel…how do you explain that to a child growing up today? But such was the world  New York, when Clara and her family arrived here.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, a simply told story geared for a young person, recounts how Clara went to work, under the most difficult conditions, but also managed to find time to go to school at night. She never gave up on her dreams. The conditions that she and the other girls endured are hard for us to imagine – the doors at the factory are locked while they are working and the girls are inspected at night to make sure they haven’t taken anything, if you were a few minutes late, you lost a half day’s pay, three hundred girls worked in one sunless room. Finally it got to be too much, and along with the men Clara decided that something HAD to be done. You can’t believe what this young girl put up with – she was arrested and beaten, but they never broke her spirit. They finally staged a huge work out and women – lots of women- college girls and rich women supported them.

Clara knew and she proved it – that wrongs in America could be righted.

Many thanks to Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet (one of our favorite illustrators!) for bringing to life Clara Leimlich to life and her compelling story – as important today as it was over 100 years ago!

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