“You are striking against God and nature.”
An enraged judge, scolding some of the more than twenty thousand immigrants, mostly young women in their teens and early twenties, who launched an eleven-week general strike in New York City’s shirtwaist industry on November 23, 1909.
Dubbed the Uprising of the 20,000, it was the largest strike by women in American history. The young strikers’ courage, tenacity, and solidarity forced the predominantly male leadership in the “needle trades” and the American Federation of Labor to revise their entrenched prejudices against organizing women.
Although the strikers won only a portion of their demands, the uprising sparked five years of revolt that transformed the garment industry into one of the best-organized trades in the United States.