Annie Shapiro and the Clothing Workers' Strike (History Speaks)
By: Marlene Targ Brill
Publisher: Lerner Classroom
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 2010
Annie’s family had immigrated to Chicago from Russia in 1905. When her mother became ill it was necessary for her to quit school and find work because there were seven children in the family at the time. She found work at Shop five of Hart, Schaffner and Marx (HSM), a “men’s clothing company.” Annie didn’t make much, but “the money she earned at the clothing factory helped to pay the doctor bills.” Her ten-hour shift was long and difficult for all the women as the work was tedious and foremen could be abusive. One day “the foreman pounded on the table” and lowered their rates to “three and three-quarters cents a pocket instead of four cents.” Annie and the other women were appalled as he made seven dollars a day, while they barely made that in a week.
What Annie made seemed paltry, but making even less would make the family’s struggles harder. Angry, she decided to leave the shop and fifteen women followed close behind. At the time she thought to herself, “walking out seems like the only way to make that foreman understand he’s wrong.” Her father was worried, but his smile told her that she was doing the right thing. Fortified by his approval “Annie led the girls from floor to floor to other HSM shops” asking them to speak their minds and demand their rights. Workers began to unify and asked the United Garment Workers Union (UGW) to help them. The Women’s trade Union League offered to help. The women began to parade “back and forth in front of HSM shops.” Would Annie’s stance lead to more rights for her fellow garment workers or would they lose and be forced to work for pennies?
This is an amazing portrait of Annie, a young woman who fought for the rights of thousands of clothing workers. Annie's story was presented in such a way that the history of the clothing workers' strike became more exciting as the number of participating strikers grew. This grassroots effort, starting with one young woman, that became 40,000 people strong is one of those little known pieces of history that children love to read about in this type of narrative. Annie was the nickname of Hannah Shapiro, whose photograph and a brief biography are noted in the back of the book. The sweeping artwork in the book is beautiful and gracefully gives the book a vintage look at the factories and the era in which they flourished. In the back of the book there is an introduction to Reader’s Theater. There are full instructions and a script that can be reproduced. There is a pronunciation guide, a glossary, a selected bibliography, and numerous recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an amazing portrait of a young woman and how she affected the lives of thousands of others by standing up for her rights. This is one of six in the series, History Speaks, a series you might want to consider adding to your shelves!