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December 01 , 2009

All Together Different

Yiddish Socialists, Garment Workers, and the Labor Roots of Multiculturalism


In the early 1930’s, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)organized large numbers of Black and Hispanic workers through a broadly conceived program of education, culture, and community involvement. The ILGWU admitted these new members, the overwhelming majority of whom were women, into racially integrated local unions and created structures to celebrate ethnic differences. All Together Different revolves around this phenomenon of interracial union building and worker education during the Great Depression.

Investigating why immigrant Jewish unionists in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) appealed to an international force of coworkers, Katz traces their ideology of a working-class based cultural pluralism, which Daniel Katz newly terms “mutual culturalism,” back to the revolutionary experiences of Russian Jewish women. These militant women and their male allies constructed an ethnic identity derived from Yiddish socialist tenets based on the principle of autonomous national cultures in the late nineteenth century Russian Empire. Built on original scholarship and bolstered by exhaustive research, All Together Different offers a fresh perspective on the nature of ethnic identity and working-class consciousness and contributes to current debates about the origins of multiculturalism.
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