“We Shall Not Be Moved” details the struggles of women strikers and the labor union’s fight for recognition, especially in the garment trade/ district of New York. By describing the efforts, struggles, and obstacles of discrimination and corruption, Joan Dash expertly brings the audience into the lives of factory working girls in 1909 New York City.
This Young Adults book deftly maneuvers through difficult images and content to bring these girls to life on the page. The text illustrates the bias surrounding young women in the workforce. As a 21-century reader, this book allows us to appreciate how far we have come since then (i.e. 40-hour work week, OT and PTO, etc.). It also calls to mind the difficulty that women and other minorities still face as workers in America.
While reading I went through waves of emotions: shock, anger, sadness, and pride. It seems unbelievable the circumstances these young women overcame to prove themselves. They suffered police brutality, unjust incarceration, starvation, freezing temperatures, poverty… to be recognized as valuable. To show that they too deserve a living wage (something we somehow still argue over). It’s frustrating to read how they were thought to be helpless, ignorant little girls. How the industry abused them. How the large unions didn’t care. How the rich considered them as useful for their own fulfillment.
Suffragists used them to show how women needed the right to vote.
“Ladies” used them as a means to help those poorer than themselves.
Socialists used them to show how their policies are important for workers.
It was also frustrating to see all these people give up and almost turn their backs on them so close to the end for not signing a deal that only gave them half of what they wanted (after all, isn’t it better to have half a loaf than none?).
This book brings out the fighter in the reader. It is a reminder that we are not done fighting yet. That there are common causes that unite us across gender, race, religion, etc. That we can still do better.
WARNING, TEARS ARE INEVITABLE:
Even if you don’t cry from anger or frustration at the circumstances you read, the end of the book will have you cry anyway as it quickly discusses the Triangle fire of 1911.
“One after another, fear-crazed women came to the window, said their prayers, and jumped to their deaths. ‘They didn’t want to jump,’ one of the survivors said later. ‘They were afraid. They were…putting rags over their eyes so they could not see. They said it was better to be smashed than burned…They wanted to be identified.’ Fifty-eight women who could not bring themselves to jump had crawled into a room on the ninth floor, where their burnt bodies were later found with their faces raised toward the one small window.” (141)