Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirt­waist Mak­ers’ Strike of 1909

Michelle Markel; Melis­sa Sweet, illus.
  • Review
By – September 16, 2013

This is a thor­ough­ly delight­ful his­tor­i­cal pic­ture book, beau­ti­ful­ly told and filled with won­der­ful art that per­fect­ly enhances the text.

Brave, young, ener­getic Clara Lem­lich, a young immi­grant sweat­shop work­er, was one of the dri­ving forces behind the shirt­waist mak­ers’ strike of 1909. At first her efforts were dis­count­ed because she was a woman, but she proved that deter­mi­na­tion and grit do not depend on gen­der. Because of Clara’s actions, the con­di­tions of the sweat­shop work­ers improved and many young women were both inspired and empow­ered to help make the work­place a safer and health­i­er envi­ron­ment for all.

Inte­gral to Sweet’s art­work are images of fab­ric and stitch­ery, inter­twin­ing the art with the sto­ry of young women who spent end­less hours at sewing machines.

A thor­ough after­word about the gar­ment indus­try and an excel­lent­ly cho­sen bib­li­og­ra­phy are included.

The book is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 8 but may be use­ful, as well, for old­er chil­dren study­ing the his­to­ry of the time.


An Inter­view with Michelle Markel by Bar­bara Bietz

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions