Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

By Parsons, Sue | Language Arts, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909


Parsons, Sue, Language Arts


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 Written by Michelle Markel Illustrated by Melissa Sweet Balzer & Bray, 2013, unpaged, ISBN 978-0- 06180-442-7

Clara Lemlich had the potential to be powerless. She was a small girl, newly arrived in a big country, poor, and unfamiliar with the language. But, as Markel tells us, "This girl's got grit, and she's going to prove it." Brave Girl is a historical biography with powerful implications for readers today. Clara's family immigrated to the US from eastern Europe in the early 1900s, seeking new hope in a new country. With her father unable to find work, Clara did what so many girls and women in her position did-she went to work in a New York City shirtwaist factory. Faced with deplorable work conditions, Clara rallied her fellow workers to strike for change. Markel's saucy, direct text collaborates with Melissa Sweet's vibrant collage illustrations not only to celebrate Clara's courage and determination, but also to offer a vivid portrait of the corrupt and greedy garment industry of that time.

This book has range! Themes of fair treatment and standing up to bullies may resonate easily with very young readers, but there is also room to talk about significant (and always current) social issues like immigration, poverty, and gender rights. …

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