Woman and Freedom by Theresa Serber Malkiel. Social Democratic Publishing Company, Milwaukee. 1911.

Woman and Freedom by Theresa Serber Malkiel. Social Democratic Publishing Company, Milwaukee. 1911.

Theresa Malkiel (1874-1949) Theresa Serber was an American born in Ukraine into a large Jewish family. In 1891 the Serber family emigrated to New York City’s Lower East Side where a teenage Theresa found work, like so many Jewish women of her generation, in a garment factory. Still a teen, she joined the Russian Workingmen’s Club and in n 1892 she began her organizer’s life helping to found the Infant Cloakmaker’s Union of New York, becoming its first president. In 1893 she joined the Socialist Labor Party and representing her union in the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. In 1899, Theresa joined the ‘Kangaroos’ opposed to Daniel De Leon’s leadership and became a founding member of Socialist Party of America, and the first working class women to rise to leadership of the Party. In 1905, Malkiel organized the Women’s Progressive Society of Yonkers, a branch of the Socialist Women’s Society of New York. The ‘separatism’ of the Society was opposed by the male leadership. Malkiel was one of the best-known women Socialist writers of the ‘Debsian era’ with articles in many union, labor, feminist and socialist publications. Malkiel was elected to the Woman’s National Committee of the Socialist party in 1909 and led the establishment of Woman’s Day, starting on February 28, 1909, which would inspire International Women’s Day.

That year also saw the epic New York City shirtwaist strike in which she would play a leading role with the Women’s Trade Union League. In 1910, Malkiel’s most lasting work, The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker, a fictionalized account of the shirtwaist strike was published and widely read. Malkiel also helped to raise the question of race in the Party, challenging the Socialist’s internal segregation and racism and writing a scathing report on the life of the Party after a 1911 speaking tour through the South. A leading Socialist campaigner for the vote, in 1914, she headed the Socialist Suffrage Campaign of New York and was on its National Executive Committee to travel across the country campaigning for suffrage. Malkiel stayed with the Part during the disastrous 1919 splits, and ran for State office in 1920. Her partner was leading Socialist solicitor Leon A. Malkiel. Although Theresa was able to move from a life of factory work, she remained committed to workers organizing and education, leading immigrant and adult classes for workers in Yonkers for the remaining decades of her life.

PDF of pamphlet: http://cfss.indstate.edu/debspams/m2515w6_1911.pdf

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