Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
By Albert Edwards
(Pen-name of Arthur Bullard, American novelist and war-correspondent. The story of an East Side sweat-shop worker who becomes a strike-leader. The present scene describes a meeting in Carnegie Hall)
|YETTA stood there alone, the blood mounting to her cheeks, looking more and more like an orchid, and waited for the storm to pass.|| 1|
| Im not going to talk about this strike, she said when she could make herself heard. Its over. I want to tell you about the next oneand the next. I wish very much I could make you understand about the strikes that are coming.
| Perhaps theres some of you never thought much about strikes till now. Well. Theres been strikes all the time. I dont believe theres ever been a year when there wasnt dozens here in New York. When we began, the skirt-finishers was out. They lost their strike. They went hungry just the way we did, but nobody helped them. And theyre worse now than ever. There aint no difference between one strike and another. Perhaps they are striking for more pay or recognition or closed shops. But the next strikell be just like ours. Itll be people fighting so they wont be so much slaves like they was before.|| 3|
| The Chairman said perhaps Id tell you about my experience. There aint nothing to tell except everybody has been awful kind to me. Its fine to have people so kind to me. But Id rather if theyd try to understand what this strike business means to all of us workersthis strike weve won and the ones that are coming.
| I come out of the workhouse today, and they tell me a lady wants to give me money to study, she wants to have me go to college like I was a rich girl. Its very kind. I want to study. I aint been to school none since I was fifteen. I guess I cant even talk English very good. Id like to go to college. And I used to see pictures in the papers of beautiful rich women, and of course it would be fine to have clothes like that. But being in a strike, seeing all the people suffer, seeing all the crueltyit makes things look different.|| 5|
| The Chairman told you something out of the Christian Bible. Well, we Jews have got a story tooperhaps its in your Bibleabout Moses and his people in Egypt. Hed been brought up by a rich Egyptian ladya princessjust like he was her son. But as long as he tried to be an Egyptian he wasnt no good. And God spoke to him one day out of a bush on fire. I dont remember just the words of the story, but God said: Moses, youre a Jew. You aint got no business with the Egyptians. Take off those fine clothes and go back to your own people and help them escape from bondage. Well. Of course, I aint like Moses, and God has never talked to me. But it seems to me sort of as ifduring this strikeId seen a BLAZING BUSH. Anyhow Ive seen my people in bondage. And I dont want to go to college and be a lady. I guess the kind princess couldnt understand why Moses wanted to be a poor Jew instead of a rich Egyptian. But if you can understand, if you can understand why Im going to stay with my own people, youll understand all Ive been trying to say.|| 6|
| Were a people in bondage. Theres lots of people whos kind to us. I guess the princess wasnt the only Egyptian lady that was kind to the Jews. But kindness aint what people want who are in bondage. Kindness wont never make us free. And God dont send any more prophets nowadays. Weve got to escape all by ourselves. And when you read in the papers that theres a strikeit dont matter whether its street-car conductors or lace-makers, whether its Eyetalians or Polacks or Jews or Americans, whether its here or in Chicagoits my Peoplethe People in Bondage who are starting out for the Promised Land.|| 7|
| She stopped a moment, and a strange look came over her facea look of communication with some distant spirit. When she spoke again, her words were unintelligible to most of the audience. Some of the Jewish vest-makers understood. And the Rev. Dunham Denning, who was a famous scholar, understood. But even those who did not were held spellbound by the swinging sonorous cadence. She stopped abruptly.|| 8|
| Its Hebrew, she explained. Its what my father taught me when I was a little girl. Its about the Promised LandI cant say it in good EnglishI|| 9|
| Unless Ive forgotten my Hebrew, the Reverend Chairman said, stepping forward, Miss Rayefsky has been repeating Gods words to Moses as recorded in the third chapter of Exodus. I think its the seventh verse:|| 10|
| And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;|| 11|
| And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.|| 12|
| Yes. Thats it, Yetta said. Well, thats what strikes mean. Were fighting for the old promises.|| 13|