One of the largest strikes by women took place in New York in 1909.
It began as a small strike in September at two shirtwaist companies, where women sewed cotton blouses that had ruffles or pleats.
After they were fired for trying to unionize, the women picketed, continuing even after they were brutally beaten by police and arrested.
The Women’s Trade Union League supported their action, and when well-known socialite Mary Dreier was arrested, reporters wrote up the story.
In November a huge meeting was called to discuss a general strike by garment workers throughout the city.
Clara Lemlich, a 16-year-old striker who had been clubbed by police, cried out, “What we are here for is to decide whether or not we shall strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared, now!”
The audience agreed, and soon 20,000 workers, mostly Jewish women, walked off their jobs for thirteen weeks.
They won only some of their demands, but they clearly showed women’s ability to walk the picket lines for an extended period.
In a large 1910 strike in Chicago, labor organizer Bessie Abramowitz (later Hillman) and other button sewers successfully rebelled against a pay cut.