Clara may have been one of thousands and thousands of young garment workers in New York City and throughout the country, but Clara was also smart and ambitious. So she signed up for night classes after working a back-breaking day sewing garments. The work was hard, the pay was low and the punishments for mistakes were harsh.
Some of the male garment workers wanted to become part of a union so they could strike for better conditions, but they thought the girls too weak for that kind of action. Not Clara!
At one of the union meetings, none of the men called for a strike. So Clara did - in Yiddish! The next morning, garment workers in New York City went on strike. It lasted through the winter. During the strike, Clara paid dearly at the hands of the police, who beat, handcuffed and jailed her (17 times). Still, she kept on. And the strikers got support - from rich women, from college students, even the newspapers wrote about them. Finally, the 1909 NYC strike ended, the workers unionized, got better wages and a shorter workweek, inspiring garment workers in Philadelphia and Chicago go on strike, too.
|These are my two favorite illustrations because they really give you the feeling of the magnitude of|
how many workers were impacted by Clara
And lucky kids of today! When I learned about unions in school, it was a rather boring, unrelatable unit of social studies. But in only 32 pages, Markel has managed to change all that. She put a face on the lesson, personalized it and was lucky enough to have Melissa Sweet illustrate her words.
And Melissa has done, as usual, a superb job of it. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media, and are based on both her imagination and old photographs of the actual events. The pictures all look like sewn pieces of fabric, right down to the stitching around the edge. In the background of both text and fabric swatch, are all kinds of nice touches related to sewing. It all works so wonderfully well with the text.
There are two pages of backmatter in Brave Girl. First, there is more information about the garment industry and its unions. And second, there is a select bibliography along with the primary sources used.
Brave Girl is definitely a book not to be missed.
This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
|Some of the young girls and women participating in the 1909 strike|
This is book 1 of my 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy