Sweatshop Images: Jewish History and Memory

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This essay considers twentieth-century images of and attitudes about Jewish immigrants who worked in sweatshops. Initially, the shops were represented as places harmful to the health of workers and their families. By 1920, the shops might represent a place and state of mind from which to escape. In the politically charged 1930s, they were seen as places of militant union organizing that ultimately led to better working and housing facilities. Finally, sweatshops became virtual places in the memories of younger generation artists memorializing their forebears. Artists discussed include Jacob Riis, William Gropper, Ben Shahn, Carol Hamoy, and Ken Aptekar.

Sweatshop Images: Jewish History and Memory




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