She Persisted: Clara Lemlich
She Persisted Chapter Book Biography series
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
With an introduction by Chelsea Clinton
Philomel Books Ages 6-9
September 28, 2021
Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book biography series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds–including Clara Lemlich!
Clara Lemlich immigrated to New York to escape danger in Ukraine, where she was born. She started working in clothing factories on the Lower East Side, only to realize that workers were being treated unfairly. So she stood up for the rights of workers, especially girls and women–and she won, changing the way factory workers were treated in America forever!
About writing this book:
I had a wonderful time researching this book–and some great luck! As you know if you’re read other pages on my website, I research using mostly primary sources. That means journals, diaries, letters, and interviews. For this book I was lucky that Clara wrote some articles herself, and there were also interviews done with her when she was alive. But the most exciting find was—Clara’s relatives! I interviewed her daughter, six of her grandchildren and a great niece. This was during the Covid-19 pandemic, so we talked on the phone or a video call. Some of them I talked to many times. They each gave me details about Clara I wouldn’t have known otherwise. They told me about her as a real person, not just an icon. Then I found out that Joel, one of her grandsons, had interviewed Clara, Clara’s children, friends of Clara’s and fellow activists, more than forty years ago. He taped those interviews—but the tapes were in a library at Cornell University and because of the pandemic, the library was closed. I was so frustrated. When I mentioned this to Joel, he told me he thought maybe his cousin Jane had copies of the tapes. Indeed and she did! And as luck would have it, Jane lives only a few blocks away from me in New York City! So we met up, masks on, and she lent me the tapes.
Next I bought a tape player that plays cassette tapes (of course I had given way my old one.) The tapes were filled with great treasures; I learned so much more about Clara because of those interviews and was able to paint a more complete picture of her in this book.
Speaking of pictures…below is a photograph of Clara as a young woman. Since the book is illustrated (BEAUTIFULLY!), but there are no photographs, her grandson Joel thought you would like to see what she looked like around the time she was doing her first organizing work. You can see the photograph is so old it has a rip in it. When I was talking to her great niece, she told me a fun story about baking rugelach with Clara (whom she adored). The story made it into the book (p.38)—but we couldn’t fit the recipe. Here it is! Let me know if you make it and if you feel Clara’s spirit as you do!
Please let me know if you’ve read the book and what you think of Clara. And are you doing her facial exercises…?