Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Snapshot from the Past

Found this great image online from Carrie Brown's book, Rosie's Mom. It is titled, simply, "Poor women's food riot in New York." The book focuses on the generation of women who came before the iconic "Rosie the Riveter," taking their place in the workforce and aiding both World War I and the women's movement. Thanks to the Women's Review of Books: A Feminist Guide to Good Reading for their review of this book online, along with the accompanying photo.

Images such as this one are crucial to understanding the impact that the rising food prices had on these women. From a dramaturgical standpoint, they also give us concrete tangible evidence of how the women dressed and what the crowd looked and felt like.

Think for a moment about these women. Many of them - most of them, perhaps - had never taken part in a protest. To attend this, they would have had to abandon their daily duties (cooking, cleaning, caring for children and boarders, working in the factories or at home). They might never before have found themselves in a large gathering of women, outside of religious services. These women were also of a lower economic class; in addition to being subservient members of the household, they were also expected to be subservient members of the community at large.

To complete the picture, here they were being encouraged to speak their mind and take a stand for themselves and their families -- an overwhelming prospect to say the least.

What must it have been like to walk down the street, accompanied by hundreds of women, to join together in an open square, surrounding by police officers on foot and horseback, to demand lower prices?

Any NYC geography buffs or landmarks sleuths out there who can help me identify where they are gathering?

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