Posted on January 9th, 2017 by Rachel
Edited by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.
Part III: We Will Begin the Campaign
Missed parts 1 and 2? Start from the Beginning
Sarah Barron (1901-1993) was born in Ukraine and emigrated to Baltimore in 1914. Soon after, she started work as a thread-puller at Wohlmuth’s. Within the year, Sarah and her sisters left Wohlmuth’s for Sonneborn’s. By 1916, she had advanced from a thread-puller to a sewing machine operator and had joined the newly formed Amalgamated Clothing Workers.
Elected a shop steward, Sarah rose steadily through the union ranks. She became a business manager and a paid organizer for the Amalgamated. During the 1932 strike—which revitalized the Amalgamated—Sarah was arrested numerous times for picketing. Her courage, tenacity, and organizational skills made her a pioneer among women labor leaders of her generation.
The following account of her early years in the labor movement is taken from an oral history conducted by Barbara Wertheimer, June 4, 1976. The sequence of reminiscences has been re-arranged to improve the flow of the narrative, but all comments are those of Sarah Barron. Additional information on Barron and her remarkable career can be found in Jo Ann E. Argersinger, Making the Amalgamated: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Baltimore Clothing Industry, 1899-1939 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
[My father] was a tailor in Russia, and he used to be a half-rabbi . . . he used to sing, like a cantor. He went to tailoring, but he was very religious and he wouldn’t work on Saturday. So, he’d work up to Friday and he wanted to go home early. That’s how he used to lose his jobs. Because, especially winter times, he wouldn’t work after two o’clock. They told him they had no job for him. And my mother was sick since she came and all. At school we used to play and when I’d go home sometimes, we didn’t have enough to eat. My father didn’t make any money, and my mother was sick, so one of my sisters took me in the factory. It was so bad. We had to work . . . to support ourselves.
I worked for Wohlmuth’s. I was pulling out threads in a basement. . . . They used to lock the elevator when they needed the work. That was the first [factory] where they locked the elevator. It was hot and there wasn’t even no payroll. They used to give my sister the money for me, too.
Henry Sonneborn, Siegmund Sonneborn, and unknown man in the Sonneborn Office at corner of Eutaw and German Streets, c.1900. JMM 1991.55.1b
Most of the time I spent in Sonneborn’s. I was pulling threads . . . but then I started to work on a machine. I was just doing a little job of sewing linings on coats.
Setting tape, that was a man’s job at the time. And making linings. Setting inside pockets, pressing, and under-pressing. That was all man’s jobs. I know they wouldn’t let a woman in to sew sleeves or to do some jobs. Nobody thought about it. When I started working in the basement pulling [threads], I made about four dollars a week. They made twenty-five, the cutters upstairs. But not tailors. They made about ten, eleven, twelve. My father made about nine dollars a week. He couldn’t support all of his children.
You had to be fifteen years at that time to get a permit to work. I wasn’t fifteen years, and there was a few others. And they had inspectors. I never did forget that name, Miss Campes, she was the child inspector. She used to look around. When she came to our shop they used to give three rings. We had to get in a box, that had rags down there. Yes, and they’d close it up and [tell me to] wait in it ‘til she got through looking for me, you know, for children. And after she left, we come out again. Well, the one time we got caught. They took us to Mr. Blumberg [an Amalgamated official], and they took us to juvenile court or something, Anyhow, they let us out and they told us not to go to work, but we went anyhow.
My mother kept house, but my oldest sister—she worked in Sonneborn’s already—she used to be like the head of the household. She used to be like our boss. She’d tell us who had a job. We all had to do a little bit. Scrub the kitchen, scrub the bathroom. My mother was happy to be with the children. She loved the children. But my mother was a rebel. She was participating in a meat strike here [in 1918] because the meats were not kosher or something. And she got locked up one night. We were sitting on the porch . . . and we were right across the street from the union, and they said, “Your mother got locked up!”
The Social Revolution by Karl Kautsky, 1910. Book is stamped from Workmen’s Circle Free Library, Baltimore, MD. JMM 2007.32.1
We were political-minded. My oldest sister, the one who came here first, she went away because she was a socialist in Russia and they were trying to line them up. So she came here. She got in illegally, see. She belonged to the Workmen’s Circle and she belonged to organizations that were politically-minded here. Of course, we all listened to it. I was in Yipsel (Young People’s Socialist League) many years ago. I went to the Yipsel school when I was a kid. We used to read everything in the Workmen’s Circle library.
In 1916, they had a big strike here . . . to try to get everybody in the Amalgamated union. And the United Garment Workers and the Industrial Workers got together with the Amalgamated. And the cutters walked out with the others on strike from Sonneborn’s and from a lot of other places, and so it was a great big fight. Dorothy [Jacobs Bellanca, an early union organizer] came up to Sonneborn’s and worked there with a bunch of young kids, but we had a lot of spunk in us. And she said that the women have to go on the picket line and we’d have to go first because they had a lot of police and we should give a push, and then the men will follow us in back. A lot of us landed in the police station. Some of them had to nurse their babies. They let them out, but they didn’t let us out until the following day.
Officers of Garment Workers Local #114, United Garment Workers of America; Abraham Cohen, secretary of the American Federation of Labor, at middle left end. JMM 1992.39.10
I suppose that I had missed childhood, and you had to take something to take its place. So it was an exciting thing then. You came to meetings and I was, I was fifteen yeast old, I was elected chairlady for Sonneborn’s. First I was just for the seventh floor, just for the women. Then they elected me head chairlady. Later on, I was elected chairman for the seventh floor for both men and women because they saw that I did more for the women than the men did! That must have been in the late twenties.
[In 1920] I was the youngest delegate at the [Amalgamated] Boston convention. [Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca] always went. And she said to a group of women, “You wanted to get elected a woman? You’re entitled to four delegates.” Well, [Hyman] Blumberg was always our friend. He said, “Instead of voting for four, vote for one.”
The next thing was, we went to meetings because we found we wanted something. So we began to work among the women. And then, when [in] 1920 they had a general strike in New York, Bessie Blumberg and Dorothy [Jacobs Bellanca] went to help there. They said they needed money for milk for the children. So we got together in the city of Baltimore with women from other shops because we used to have like a women’s committee. We didn’t have a local, and we worked with this buttonhole makers local, ‘cause they were nothing but women
And we all got together, and we said, “We’re going to have a bazaar. And we’re going to raise money for milk funds for the children of New York.” So we had some liberals, we had Elizabeth Gilman, who was the daughter of the first president of Johns Hopkins. She was with us. And Sidney Hollander and Broadus Mitchell who was teaching in Johns Hopkins. He was my teacher at school! The women were crocheting, knitting. Everything was handmade. Everything we brought in, our headquarters was on Front Street, brought it there and we got a big hall on Palmer Street because most of the people lived around there.
Lithuanian women and Italian women and the Bohemian women–everybody was doing something. We had everything and Bessie Blumberg and Eleanor Pankhurst, who was teaching at Goucher College and Emily Richardson and one who taught at Hopkins, they brought the groups to buy the stuff. A lot of liberals and a lot of the workers bought things, too. We made over a thousand dollars! We sent it to Dorothy [Bellanca] to use it for the milk fund, because she was over there conducting the strike, helping to conduct the strike.
[In 1921] I went to summer school, the [Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers]. It was the first year it started. Dorothy got me to go that summer. We didn’t have money so I think some of the liberals paid for me, the fare. I was already active and all. And there was another girl, a buttonhole-maker, her name was Sadie Coats. She went, too. And after that, I think that every year we sent somebody [from] the Amalgamated [to] these summer schools.
Continue to Part IV: On Strike
Posted on January 6th, 2017 by Rachel
Museum Matters: January 2017
All good things must come to an end and this month we’ll say goodbye to Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and American Medicine so don’t miss your last chance to experience this fantastic exhibit between now and Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 16th). The exhibit heads into storage for a few months and then makes its way to the Maltz Museum in Cleveland in the fall.
However, we have no time for long good-byes. Check out our upcoming programs below that span the time between exhibits and be sure to save the date for the opening of our next project, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity on March 5th.”
All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact Trillion Attwood at firstname.lastname@example.org / 443-8735177with any questions or for more information.
First Years, First Rites
First Years, First Rites: Exploring Religious Traditions in the First Years of Life
Sunday, January 15th at 1:00pm
Included with Museum Admission – Buy Tickets Now!
Join us for an inter-faith panel exploring the first year of life. There are many special traditions connected with this important time in our lives. Even though we don’t remember them, they are an essential rite of passage. Panelists will examine these essential rites of passage, comparing them across religions and faith, and discussing their historic roots.
Movie Screening – Bal Ej: The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia
Sunday, February 12th at 1pm
Included with Museum Admission – Buy Tickets Now!
Join us for the Maryland premiere of Bal Ej: The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia. Following a one-hundred-year-old account of the prominent Jewish Polish scholar Jacque Faitlovich, the film-maker travels to discover and explore a sect of secret Jews in Ethiopia. Named Bal Ej, “craftsmen”, for their artisan skills, they have been persecuted by their Orthodox Christian neighbors who slandered them as “evil-eyed” and “hyena-people.” They have been deprived of basic rights, including ownership of land.
Following the screening we will be talking with the director Irene Orleansky live from Israel via Face Time.
Artist Insights: Lori Shocket and Keron Psillas
Sunday, March 5th at 2:00 pm
Included with Museum Admission – Buy Tickets Now!
We are very pleased to welcome two wonderful artists whose works are featured in Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity. Lori Shocket (Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt) and Keron Psillas (Loss and Beauty: Photographs by Keron Psillas) will join us to discuss their art, their inspiration and what they have learnt through their work exploring the Holocaust.
Esther’s Place: the Shop at the Jewish Museum of Maryland
At Esther’s Place, we are busy preparing for holidays in 2017 with fun and beautiful tree-themed merchandise for Tu B’shvat and looking ahead to Passover. In the meantime, Beyond Chicken Soup is closing on January 16. Until that time, enjoy 10% off of medically-themed merchandise.
Posted on January 5th, 2017 by Rachel
In early fall, the JMM developed its fifth living history character, Henrietta Szold in connection with our latest exhibition, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. The JMM’s education department developed learning and resource materials based on her exceptional life and career as well as highlight the challenges she faced as a modern woman defining herself as an American Jew during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Henrietta Szold meets the students of Morrell Park.
Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore in 1860, the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, the spiritual leader of Baltimore’s Temple Oheb Shalom. Throughout her life, Henrietta was committed to helping those who were in need. Szold’s many contributions included establishing a night school in Baltimore for new immigrants and the creation of Hadassah, a national Zionist women’s organization devoted to improving health care in Palestine that is still in existence today. She was directly involved in the rescue of European Jewish children during World War II through her work with Youth Aliyah, an initiative that helped resettle and educate Jewish youth in Palestine.
Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta
In November, Henrietta Szold, portrayed by Natalie Pilcher made her way to the 7th and 8th grade classrooms at Morell Park Elementary/Middle School located in the southwest section of the city. The living history character Henrietta Szold was used to kick-off the students’ own research on their National History day projects. This year’s theme- Taking A Stand in History. The objectives of the program were that the students would watch the presentation and following they would have the opportunity to ask questions. The performances were stellar and the students asked great questions relative to Henrietta’s life following the presentations. A few students even asked Natalie about her job as an actress and asked for tips in preparing for their own National History day projects.
Natalie speaks with a student about her role as Henrietta
Two weeks later, the education staff followed up with another visit to the classroom. This time, the students looked at reproductions of archival materials relating to Henrietta’s life and answer questions to make better understanding of the documents. The images represented Henrietta’s life both in Baltimore and in Palestine. Students made their own connection to Szold’s life knowing that they also attended Baltimore City public schools and they were also familiar with the address of her two homes, one on Lombard and the other on Eutaw Streets.
Engaging with archival reproductions
Engaging with archival reproductions
The students also saw images of the early medical care that was available in Palestine in the early 1920’s, and made connections to their own experiences of medical care. They also showed empathy as they learned of Szold’s courageous work saving over 10,000 children from Nazi Germany through her work with Youth Aliyah.
Students at Morrell Park
Students at Morrell Park
We returned back to Morell Park a week later to the classroom and the teacher was so excites to see us because she wanted to share the bulletin board that she had created documenting the students work in connection with Henrietta Szold. Henrietta Szold is now Baltimore City Public Schools new Hometown Hero. You can learn about Henrietta Szold – Baltimore’s Own Hometown Hero in the JMM’s exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America through January 16, 2017. If you would like to learn more about the Henrietta Szold Living History Education project, contact Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon at email@example.com or 443.873.5718.
Henrietta Szold: Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.
A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.