Our heroes are often unsung. Their achievements are often forgotten. We cannot thank them for what we have because we have forgotten them.
Annelise Orleck’s 1995 memoir, Common Sense And A Little Fire is about the unsung heroes of the feminist movement and the labor movement. Rose Schneiderman, Pauline Newman, Clara Lemlich Shavelson and Fannia Cohn were Jewish emigrants who left Europe for America at the turn of the 20th century. Settling in the Lower East Side, they took the only jobs they could get. Working in the garment factories for low pay, no benefits and unprotected from the advances of their male bosses and colleagues, they quickly join the labor movement, as well as the early feminist movement.
This book is a history book and a memoir, but it reads like a novel. Rich in historical detail, Orleck’s subjects are human in every way. The reader gets to know them not just as labor leaders and feminists, but full human beings. Her subjects are no longer with us, but every time I finish reading this book, I say a silent thank you to the ladies. Without them, we would all be very different.
I recommend this book.