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Herb - social history for every classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl

Immigrant workers faced grueling conditions in the early twentieth-century garment industry. Employees worked long hours at an unrelenting pace for low wages, while employers sometimes tried to intimidate them or cheat them out of their wages. Many garment workers were the teenaged daughters of Jewish and Italian immigrants. In 1909, these young female garment workers shocked both their bosses and the organized labor movement of the time and led a major strike, which came to be known as the “Uprising of the 20,000.”

The items in this collection are based around ASHP’s short documentary film Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl, which tracks the lives of two fictionalized garment workers during the strike year. You will also find teaching activities, including a role play, that can accompany the film.

This collection is designed to demonstrate the following historical understandings:

  • Immigrant working-class women fought to become empowered at work by improving unfair labor practices, which included low pay, long hours, harsh supervision, and unsafe conditions.

  • Making money for the first time, young urban women began participating in popular and consumer culture, attending movies and amusement parks, and buying fashionable clothing.

  • Women were important players in turn-of-the-century efforts at unionization; the strikes that staged the “Uprising of 20,000” included a coalition of working women and upper class female activists whose efforts transformed labor and led to a continued struggle to improve working conditions and safety.

In This Collection