Table of Contents

  • Free Black Like Me

    Authored By Renée Watson

    A poem—and the history behind it—about being invisible, yet stereotyped, as an African American student bused to a predominantly white school.

  • Free Dear White Teacher

    Authored By Chrysanthius Lathan

    An African American middle school teacher calls on white teachers to think before they routinely send black children to black teachers when there is a problem.

  • Free Queridos maestros blancos

    Por Chrysanthius Lathan | Traducido por Nicholas Yurchenco

    Una maestra afroamericana de secundaria les pide a los maestros blancos que piensen antes de mandarles los niños negros a los maestros negros cada vez que tengan un problema con ellos. 

  • Teaching the N-Word

    Authored By Michelle Kenney

    A white high school teacher prepares her students to read August Wilson’s Fences by leading an exploration of the n-word.

  • Features
  • Rocketship to Profits

    Silicon Valley breeds corporate reformers with national reach

    Authored By David Bacon

    Rocketship Education, a rapidly expanding charter school chain, shows what happens when the rich control our schools.

  • “Aren’t You on the Parent Listserv?”

    Working for equitable family involvement in a dual-immersion elementary school

    Authored By Grace Cornell Gonzales

    A kindergarten teacher tries to change the power imbalance between Spanish- and English-speaking parents in her classroom and school.

  • Free ¿No estás registrado en la lista de correos electrónicos?

    Por Grace Cornell Gonzales

    Una maestra de kínder intenta cambiar el balance de poder entre los padres hispanohablantes y angloparlantes en su salón y su escuela.

  • Free The Military Invasion of My High School

    The role of JROTC

    Authored By Sylvia McGauley

    A high school teacher describes the problematic impact of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at her school.

  • Departments Free
  • Restorative Justice

    What it is and is not

    Authored By The editors of Rethinking Schools
  • The Children of Gaza

  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • When Girls Are Activists

    Authored By Elizabeth Marshall

When Girls Are Activists

Marshall 1Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
By Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(HarperCollins, 2013)

Child and teen activists fighting for social justice often get left out of official histories and curriculum. In their picture book biography, Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet fill one of those gaps. The book chronicles the life of Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich, who led the largest walkout of women workers in the United States. Brave Girl is one of the top 10 titles selected by the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer Project, which creates an annual list of the best feminist books for young readers.

When a young Clara arrives in New York, no one will hire her father. Girls, however, are in high demand: “Companies are hiring thousands of immigrant girls to make blouses, coats, nightgowns, and other women’s clothing.” These young women make only a little money each month and “instead of carrying books to school, many girls carry sewing machines to work.”

Brave Girl traces Clara’s growing militance and her leadership during the garment workers’ general strike in 1909 (readers may recall the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 workers and happened the following year). Markel calls the strike “a revolt of girls” because some of the participants were as young as 12 years old. An inspiring speaker and organizer, Clara played a major role in unionizing the industry.

Sweet’s watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media illustrations complement Markel’s narrative. The imaginative illustrations include fabric stitched onto pages with thread, backgrounds of squared sewing pattern paper, and fragments of time cards.

Markel and Sweet do not shy away from the risks involved in Clara’s activism. Clara experienced 17 arrests, and beatings that resulted in six broken ribs. On the page where the violence is described, the needlework that frames the border of the page switches from evenly spaced stitches to jagged and uneven ones.

An author’s note at the end offers additional information about the garment industry, including the fact that factory owners “hired girls as young as 6 years old to cut threads from garments.” A selected bibliography of general and primary sources will help teachers place Clara Lemlich within the larger labor movement.