DESCRIPTION: In an excerpt from her unpublished memoir, Sarah Rozner describes introducing her mother to union activism. TEXT: The three of us were striking, my brother Dave, my sister Fanny, and me. Fanny was 15 and she’d be on the corner selling papers for the strike. She had a good time; she was young and gay and singing. My brother’s first wife was my girlfriend, and we had one good skirt between us. If she went on the picket line, we raised the hem, because she was much shorter than I; when I went on the picket line, I’d let the hem down. That’s the way we lived. Fanny got a couple of pennies from selling the socialist papers, enough for a couple of loaves of bread. But we were hungry. They didn’t feed us in the strike hall. Sedosky, a Jewish writer, had a restaurant where for 15 cents they used to get some strike tickets for a full meal. But that was only for single men. They finally did give us some tickets to a storehouse. It was on Maxwell or Jefferson Street and was a storehouse for strikers who had family responsibilities. They had food of various sorts: bread, herring, beans, rice. None of the family wanted to go there, so I went alone. I brought home the “bacon.” I was already filled up with revolution, and had no intention of going back to work as a scab, but I wanted to test my mother. I said, “I think I’m going back to work. What the hell, we don’t want to starve. But before I do that, you come with me to the meeting.” We walked I don’t know how many miles to Hod Carriers Hall, which was at Addison and Central. My mother listened to the speeches. They were in Jewish, Polish, Lithuanian. In English, there was very little… There was a Jewish orator who spoke from his heart. He touched anyone who had feeling. After the meeting I said to my mother, “Now I’m going back to the shop.” She said, “Over my dead body.” Sarah Rozner, What is it we want, Brother Levin? Reminiscences of a shop girl, 1892-1976. Edited by Sherna Gluck.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
For discussion questions and related lesson plan, see http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/labor/identity-independence-and-becoming-american-jews
Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)