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Women of Their Times
Michael Shur, editor (anthology)
Two Worlds The old suffused with Jewish ritual, poverty, oppression, and anti-Jewish violence. The new, with poverty and oppression but also new hopes and dreams, new struggles, and the pressures of assimilation and conformity. Mirele Poil inhabited these worlds. In 1908 as an unaccompanied married woman, she journeyed by horse cart, train, and steamship, fleeing the conditions of the old world for New York’s Lower East Side. In the new world, she became a garment sewer and toiled to bring over the rest of her family. Her daughter, Anna Galstuck, was born in western Ukraine, then a part of the Russian Empire, in 1900. She and her remaining family, repeating her mother’s passage, joined Mirele in 1910. There Anna saw garment workers, including her mother, struggle—at times in their tens of thousands—to overcome horrendous working conditions and fight for a union. A well-read and politically active adult, Anna wrote this memoir in her later years, recounting her family’s struggles for a better life in both her worlds. She was a product of her times and became a citizen of the world as it changed.