Why did garment workers strike?

Garment workers in New York City pushed back when manufacturers increased hours to meet the demand for ready-to-wear, while cutting wages and ignoring appalling work conditions. The women staged a massive strike in 1909–10 and won significant gains. 

Women shirtwaist makers, 1909

Women shirtwaist makers, 1909

Courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University

“In the black of the winter of nineteen nine,
When we froze and bled on the picket line,
We showed the world that women could fight
And we rose and won with women's might.”

—International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union songbook, undated

Strike broadside in English

Strike broadside in English

From the Museum's collection

Strike broadside in Spanish

Strike broadside in Spanish

From the Museum's collection

Garment workers at the Triangle Waist Company, 1910; note they're wearing white shirtwaists. A year later, 146 workers died in a flash fire.

Garment workers at the Triangle Waist Company, 1910; note they're wearing white shirtwaists. A year later, 146 workers died in a flash fire.

Courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University

"30,000 waist makers declare big strike"

The New York Call, November 23, 1909