Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest Blogger Leanna Renee Hieber on Clara Lemlich

To commerate the 100th anniversary of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome Guest blogger Leanna Renee Hieber to talk about Clara Lemlich. I had never heard of Clara until Leanna told me about her, and I'm so glad that she was able to take the time to stop by and share a little of her story with us.

Born March 26, 1886 in Gorodok Ukraine to a Jewish family, Clara Lemlich was one of America’s most influential women of the Union movement in the early 1900s. Her family came to New York in 1903 after a pogrom (an anti-Jewish riot) in Kishinev. Clara quickly found work in the garment industry, which had intensified in hours and in danger with the advent of industrial sewing machines.

In November 1909, her rousing speech at the Cooper Union (despite nursing broken ribs from rough treatment by the New York Police Department breaking up Union protesters) called for a general strike. She led the Uprising of the 20,000 in which 20,000 of New York City’s 32,000 garment workers, nearly all young immigrant women, went on strike for fair, humane treatment. All this long before women had the vote. In February 1910 many companies agreed to Union concessions for higher wages, more reasonable hours and safer workplaces. One of the companies that did not agree to Union protocols was the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, which suffered a horrific fire on March 25, 1911, in which 146 people, mostly teenaged girls, were either burned to death or jumped from the top floors to their deaths, causing waves of outrage that would lead to laws mandating safe work spaces.

Clara was directly involved with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and countless other Union and consumer activist boards. She was blacklisted for her union work but never wavered from her passion for organizing labor movements and advocacy groups. She died July 25th, 1982. In her final years at a nursing home, she helped organize the staff.
With love and solidarity on this centennial anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire,
Leanna Renee Hieber graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. Having adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage, her one-act plays have been produced around the country. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in the Strangely Beautiful quartet of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels, hit Barnes & Noble’s bestseller lists, won 2010 Prism Awards for Best Fantasy and Best First Book and the rights have been sold for adaptation into a musical theatre production currently in development. In addition to new Strangely Beautiful releases, she's launching a new Gothic Paranormal series set in 1880s New York City, releasing 11/11 from Sourcebooks Fire. A member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, she was honoured to have been named RWA NYC’s 2010 Author of the Year. A member of actors unions AEA, SAG and AFTRA, Leanna works often in film and television. When not writing or on set, she's a devotee of ghost stories and Goth clubs, adventuring about NYC, where she resides with her real-life hero and beloved rescued lab rabbit Persebunny. Visit her at and on Twitter @LeannaRenee


Reina said...

Thanks for sharing. I got chills reading of her bravery.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I'm so glad that Leanna was able to stop by! I knew that writing about Clara was right up her alley.

♥ Sallie said...

Hi! I came over from Leanna's blog. And I'm so glad I did!

Clara sounds like an amazing woman. What a great post!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Reina - Thank you, me too! When I read about her organizing the staff when she was in a nursing home, I cried. :)

Elizabeth - Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here! Clara made such an impression on me when I first learned about her in the amazing "New York: A Documentary" series by Ric Burns. One of the most amazing documentaries I've ever seen.

Sallie - Thanks for coming over! This part of New York history is very important to the shaping of our country and I really love discussing it.