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Clara Lemlich Shavelson (Goldman)

(1886–1982) "The manufacturer has a vote; the bosses have votes; the foremen have votes, the inspectors have votes. The working girl has no vote." - Clara Lemlich, 1912

Clara is most famous as a labor organizer—in 1909 she was the first to call for the strike that became known as the garment workers' Uprising of 20,000. A founder of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Clara fought sexism among labor union men. She explained to them that they would never succeed without engaging women workers. She was also a committed suffragist. She and Leonora O'Reilly cofounded the Wage Earners Suffrage League in New York City, which contributed to organizing working women to finally win the vote in New York in 1917.

Clara was a devoted Communist, and a radical leader throughout her entire life. In 1917 she led a kosher meat boycott in New York City, then a rent strike in 1919. In 1929 she cofounded the United Council of Working-Class Women, which later separated from the Communist Party and changed its name to the Progressive Women's Councils. Annelise Orleck, her biographer, writes: "With Clara Shavelson as its president, the Progressive Women's Councils mounted a meat boycott that shut down forty-five hundred New York City butcher shops. Though in New York the strike was centered in Jewish and African-American neighborhoods, it soon spread to Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and several towns in Pennsylvania, involving women of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds."

Clara lived her last years in a nursing home in California, where she organized the orderlies. Bio by Rachel B. Tiven.


New Montefiore Cemetery

Block: 8 Row: D Grave: 9 Section: 3, Society: IWO

1180 Wellwood Avenue, West Babylon, NY 11704

Suffolk County

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