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

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

5.0 1
by Michelle Markel, Melissa Sweet
     
 

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From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early

Overview

From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early 1900s, tackling topics like activism and the U.S. garment industry, with handstitching and fabric incorporated throughout the art.

When Clara arrived in America, she couldn't speak English. She didn't know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that didn't stop Clara. She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a shirtwaist factory.

Clara never quit, and she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers the country had seen.

From her short time in America, Clara learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Pamela Paul
…[a] sympathetic, fact-filled and moving story…In…Balloons Over Broadway…Melissa Sweet proved herself a fine hand at giving New York City street scenes their color. With her distinctive mixed-media collages, she may have surpassed herself here.
Publishers Weekly
When immigrant Clara Lemlich arrived in New York City, she was “dirt poor, just five feet tall, and hardly a word of English,” but she wasn’t short on tenacity and determination. After becoming employed as a garment worker and witnessing firsthand the deplorable factory conditions, she began to organize her fellow workers. Markel doesn’t sugarcoat the obstacles and injuries Lemlich faced as she went on to lead the “largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history.” Sweet incorporates images of assorted fabrics and stitch patterns into her tender illustrations, brightening the lives of workers whose reality was bleak. Author’s agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
Booklist (starred review)
“The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and time cards … This book has fighting spirit in spades-you go, Clara!”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Markel ably brings to life the plight of immigrant garment workers and Clara’s courageous advocacy.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Markel ably brings to life the plight of immigrant garment workers and Clara’s courageous advocacy."
Booklist
"The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and time cards … This book has fighting spirit in spades-you go, Clara!"
The Horn Book
“In her simple but powerful text Markel shows how multiple arrests, serious physical attacks, and endless misogyny failed to deter this remarkable woman as she set off on her lifelong path as a union activist.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

“Markel ably brings to life the plight of immigrant garment workers and Clara’s courageous advocacy.”

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Arriving with her family in New York as an immigrant, Clara Lemlich is hired as a seamstress, needing to work to help support the family instead of being able to go to school. At the turn of the last century, work in the garment factories is very hard, but Clara is determined to educate herself. She works dawn to dusk but then goes to night school. Wanting to show how women can be tough, she becomes involved in union activities and strikes. She is beaten and arrested. Finally she urges a general strike, "the largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history." Clara becomes a hero. Sweet establishes the revolutionary spirit of this biography on the jacket/cover with the scene of an urban sidewalk with masses of marching women carrying signs. Up close to us is Clara with a Strike sign, no doubt shouting for economic justice. A wage chart on the back is framed in scraps of fabric with visible stitching, a method used throughout the book to supplement the naturalistic illustrations, in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, of the people in immigrant clothing along with scenes of the sweat shops or factories. In the last scene, Clara gazes out again at the Statue of Liberty. She has proved "that in America, wrongs can be righted..." Notes add more about the garment industry and a list of additional sources. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—This picture-book biography of Clara Lemlich, a spitfire who fought hard for better working conditions, is an engaging, informative introduction to her activism as well as to the deplorable state of the U.S. garment industry in the early 1900s. Ukrainian-born Lemlich came to the United States with her parents to escape the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, only to be thrust into another appalling nightmare: the American shirtwaist factories. She began on a small scale to encourage her coworkers to strike, but at a union meeting, when even men wouldn't call for a walkout, she rose and shouted to the large gathering that the time for a strike was now, inspiring tens of thousands of women to leave their stations in the factories. Markel's style is clean and clear, making Lemlich's story accessible to a young audience. Readers are treated to solid information with a buoyant message about standing up for what is right. Sweet has created an outstanding backdrop for Markel's text with a vibrant collage of watercolor, gouache, blank dress-pattern paper, bookkeeping pages, stitches, and fabric pieces. This spirited account concludes with additional material on the garment industry and a solid bibliography. A first purchase.—Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR
Kirkus Reviews
A sparkling picture-book biography of the dauntless organizer of the titular strike. Immigrant Clara Lemlich was tiny and spoke little English, but she not only worked to support her family in a factory that made women's clothing, but read and studied at night. When the male workers talked about a strike to protest their fearsome working conditions, they thought the girls weren't strong enough to join them. But it was Clara who finally--in Yiddish--called for a general strike. She was arrested 17 times and beaten, but the strike won the right to unionize for workers in many factories (but not the Triangle Waist Factory, whose gruesome fire claimed 146 lives in 1911). Markel's text is well-supported by Sweet's watercolor, gouache and mixed-media images, some clearly based on archival photographs. What catches the heart are the bits of stitching on cloth ribbons that outline or accent some of the pages and the sweet, determined faces of these girls. They were girls indeed, some as young as 12, most in their teens and early 20s. A bibliography of primary and secondary sources and a note about the garment industry fills in some more background, including Clara's further work in the labor movement, and the fact that 70 percent of the workers were between 16 and 25 and that most were Eastern European Jews and Italians. Very fine indeed. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061804427
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/22/2013
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
92,393
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Michelle Markel is a former freelance journalist who has written stories and opinion pieces for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. After her two daughters were born, she started writing for young people. She has written a number of notable picture books, including, most recently, Tyrannosaurus Math, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, and the award-winning Brave Girl. Michelle is also a founding member of the Children's Authors Network. She and her husband, an anthropologist, live in West Hills, California, with their two sweet cats.

Melissa Sweet has illustrated many award-winning books for children, including A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book, an NCTE Notable Children's Book, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. She has also written and illustrated Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade, Tupelo Rides the Rails, and Carmine: A Little More Red, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book for 2005. Her collages and paintings have appeared in the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living.

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Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Micelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet Balzer + Bray, 2013 Historical Fiction Picture Book 32 pages Recommended for grades 3-5 I love sharing picture books with my third and fourth grade students.  This was enjoyed by all students, many having lots to say about this story, the history, immigrant experiences, etc.  Without one small young woman taking a stand, who knows how long others would have had to suffer until job laws changed.