Guest Blog: Marlene Targ Brill on Annie Shaprio and the Clothing Workers’ Strike

Marlene Targ Brill provides a behind-the-scenes look at how this book came to be.

I believe every story has a story. That’s the case with Annie Shapiro and the Clothing Workers’ Strike, part of the new History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader’s Theater series.

This book began many years ago when my brother’s wife sent me articles about her aunt. “Write about her,” she said, as people often do. Because this idea came from a relative, I tucked it away in my files. Usually, other people’s ideas wind up in the waste basket.

9912 Years passed. Then an editor asked if I could write about a girl from history. I remembered my sister-in-law’s aunt. My editor liked the idea of a picture book about a brave 17-year-old who led a strike against unfair wage cuts and bullying in a men’s clothing company. My subject Hannah Shapiro, or Annie as coworkers called her, took a bold stand against her bosses by walking out of work. Within weeks, 40,000 workers had followed her, leading to a strike that shut down the men’s clothing industry in Chicago and Milwaukee and led to forming the giant national union called Workers United today.

This story is particularly rewarding for me. Whenever possible, I try to write women and girls into history. I like to tell stories that offer ways to make the world a fairer, more peaceful, place. And I hope my books inform readers in an interesting way.

These are all some of my writing goals. But I find writing about someone so close to me a particular treat. I hope you like Annie’s story too.