Brave Girl: Clara and the shirtwaist makers’ strike of 1909
Written by: Michelle Markel
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
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Based on a true story, Clara Lemich is a young girl who immigrates to America with her family. To support her family, Clara has to work at a sewing factory like most immigrant girls her age, instead of going to school and getting an education. Clara learns that workers in these factories are subjected to long hours and harsh labor for little pay. She decides to fight back against the mistreatment of her fellow laborers. She goes to union meetings and decides to lead strikes. She is fired, beaten, and arrested, but this does not stop her. She eventually leads the largest walkout of women workers in the country’s history, and becomes an inspiration for future groups of women to also walk out of garment factories in other cities around America.
Element 5- Raising Awareness:
This book is an excellent element 5 book because not only did Clara raise awareness about the harsh conditions that her fellow factory workers were living in, but she also took action to change the conditions that were in the factory industry. It shows just how much one person can have an influence on a community when they take a stand for their rights.
Despite many obstacles, including being imprisoned and police violence, Clara Lemlich continued to lead the strike against garment factories until the industry changed for the better. Discussing with your students, recount all of the challenges and obstacles Clara faced while she tried to make a change. Write these ideas down, and then ask the students if these actions show bravery. Discuss the ways people are “brave” and then have students in their journals write about a time that they were once brave, or when bravery was needed. They can also draw illustrations with their stories.