For generations, the industry employed more New Yorkers than any other and was central to the city's history, culture, and identity. Today, although no longer the big heart of industrial New York, the needle trades are still an important part of the city's economy--especially for the new waves of immigrants who cut, sew, and assemble clothing in shops around the five boroughs.
In this valuable book, historians, sociologists, and economists explore the rise and fall of the garment industry and its impact on New York and its people, as part of a global process of economic change. Essays trace the rise of the industry, from the creation of a Manhattan garment district employing immigrants from nearby enements to the contemporary spread of Chinese-owned shops in cheaper neighborhoods. The tumultuous
history of workers and their bosses is the focus of chapters on contractors and labor militants and on the experiences of Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Dominican, and other ethnic workers. The final chapter looks at air labor, social responsibility, and the political economy of the offshore garment industry.
· “Prodigious research and lucid prose.” – Hasla R. Diner, Director, Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History
· “A riveting account… Polland and Soyer bring the city’s spaces to life.” – Beth S. Wenger, Director, Jewish Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania
· “Masterful and sensitively drawn… a penetrating blend of distinguished scholarship and acute observation… A vivid, richly detailed, and endlessly fascinating narrative… Balanced, engrossing, and learned. Read and enjoy!” – Thomas Kessner, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York Graduate School
· “Lively, much-needed… All three volumes are briskly paced, well-researched and insightful.” – Starred Kirkus
· “A highly valuable and vastly immersing study.” – Publishers Weekly
· “An important contribution to our understanding of New York’s Jews.” – The Buffalo Jewish Review
· “Will long remain an invaluable resource.” – Choice“A whopping big yarn, a moveable feast of a story.” – Jewish Review of Books
The writers arrived in America in every decade from the 1890s to the 1920s. They include manual workers, shopkeepers, housewives, communal activists, and professionals who came from all parts of Eastern Europe and ushered in a new era in American Jewish history. In their own words, the immigrant writers convey the complexities of the transition between the Old and New Worlds.
An Introduction places the writings in historical and literary context, and annotations explain historical and cultural allusions made by the writers. This unique volume introduces readers to the complex world of Yiddish-speaking immigrants while at the same time elucidating important themes and topics of interest to those in immigration studies, ethnic studies, labor history, and literary studies.
Published in conjunction with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.