It’s quite common these days to hear young people being urged to collect and record the stories of their grandparents or parents in order to learn and preserve their family’s history. For a few fortunate folks, like Robbin Légère Henderson, such a record already exists. Henderson’s maternal grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz, penned her own memoir before her passing in 1963 so that her grandchildren would know her history. With candor and wit, Rabinowitz, born in 1887 in Ukraine, described her experiences as an immigrant, factory worker, single mother by choice, and union organizer. In Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century (ILR Press 2017), Henderson has expanded her grandmother’s memoir with her own commentary and original black-and-white scratchboard drawings that illustrate Rabinowitz’s early life, journey to America, political awakening, work as an IWW organizer, turbulent romance to Henderson’s grandfather, and her struggle to support herself and her child. To hear more about this unique collaboration across generations, listen to my interview with artist, curator, and author Robbin Légère Henderson. Interested listeners can also learn more about Rabinowitz through a new exhibit at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, where Rabinowitz once organized a Studebaker strike.
Carrie Lane is a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment (Cornell University Press, 2011). Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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