Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 (Michelle Markel)


Hello, friends! Today’s book is Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, a picture book biography of Clara Lemlich, one of the organizers of a massive protest of garment workers at the turn of the century.

To look at Clara Lemlich when she arrived in New York City, she wouldn’t have looked like much: five feet tall, only seventeen years old, and barely able to speak English. When her father could not find work, Clara went to work in a garment factory sweatshop to help provide for her family. She found the conditions to be deplorable, and the managers and bosses to be cruel and corrupt. Unwilling to be treated unfairly, Clara encouraged her fellow workers to form a union and strike, facing intimidation, arrest, and even violence in her pursuit of a safe and fair working environment. Eventually, this brave young immigrant would help organize a walkout of 20,000 workers, inspiring similar strikes across the country and forcing employers to create fair working conditions for their employees.

This one was fabulous! Oftentimes with picture book biographies, the length is either too much for one sitting or not long enough to tell a cohesive or satisfying story. But this one was told clearly and powerfully, yet briefly enough for little bookworms to make it through in one sitting. And it’s a great story: the tale of a brave young woman with an emphasis on education, courage, justice, and the power of both united people and women in general. The illustrations were lovely, and peppered with some truly clever mixed-media elements that made it stand out. JJ and I both really enjoyed this look at a real-life feminist hero, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

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