Clara Lemlich - Suffrage



Blacklisted from the industry and at odds with the conservative leadership of the ILGWU, Lemlich devoted herself to the campaign for women's suffrage. Like her colleagues Rose Schneiderman and Pauline Newman, Lemlich portrayed women's suffrage as necessary for the improvement of working women's lives, both inside and outside the workplace:

"The manufacturer has a vote; the bosses have votes; the foremen have votes, the inspectors have votes. The working girl has no vote. When she asks to have a building in which she must work made clean and safe, the officials do not have to listen. When she asks not to work such long hours, they do not have to listen. . . . ntil the men in the Legislature at Albany represent her as well as the bosses and the foremen, she will not get justice; she will not get fair conditions. That is why the working woman now says that she must have the vote.

Lemlich, like Newman and Schneiderman, also had strong personal and political differences with the upper and middle class women who led the suffrage movement. Mary Beard fired Lemlich, for reasons that are not entirely clear, less than a year after hiring her to campaign for suffrage in 1911.

Lemlich continued her suffrage activities, founding the Wage Earners League, a working class alternative to middle class suffrage organizations, along with Schneiderman, Leonora O'Reilly and two other women garment workers. Yet while the League admitted only working class women to membership, it was dependent on non-working class women for support and, in deference to its supporters' wishes, affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association — the organization to which it saw itself as an alternative — rather than with the Socialist Party Women's Committee.

The Wage Earners League passed out of existence, however, after organizing a successful rally at Cooper Union at which Lemlich, Schneiderman and others spoke. Lemlich continued her suffrage activities for the Women's Trade Union League, while Schneiderman, who quit the WTUL at that time, went to work for the ILGWU before returning to the WTUL several years later. Other activists, such as Pauline Newman, worked under the aegis of the Socialist Party, which supported suffrage even though many in the leadership considered it a distraction from the more urgent business of class struggle.

Read more about this topic:  Clara Lemlich

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Famous quotes containing the word suffrage:

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    Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906)

    Gentlemen, those confederate flags and our national standard are what has made this union great. In what other country could a man who fought against you be permitted to serve as judge over you, be permitted to run for reelection and bespeak your suffrage on Tuesday next at the poles.
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