subverting: PB: Rebecca Hall (Default)
"Blue laws" - often said to have acquired that name as they were printed on blue paper, although there is no evidence of this - had been engrained in American society since the Puritans first established societies there.

A 1695 colonial New York blue law read, "Be it therefore enacted that there shall be no traveling, servile laboring and working, shooting, fishing, sporting, playing, horseracing, hunting, or frequenting of tippling houses, or the use of any other unlawful exercises or pastimes, by the inhabitants or sojourners within this province, or by any of their slaves or servants, on the Lord's day." The punishment for any of these offenses was a fine of six shillings or three hours in the stocks.

In New York, regulations againt Sunday activities continued into the next centuries, as upstate (largely Protestant) Republican lawmakers supported laws that did not make sense for the Jewish and Catholic residents of New York City. By the 1890s, there was a long tradition in the New York legislature of enacting legislation to enforce morality in the city.

"Nothing has so seriously caused us to reject our religion as the Christian policy of adopting a different sabbath, the force of example at least, would carry Jews to the Synagogue, when Christians mass to the Churches, nay there would not be the same clashing of interests, nor a day of labour lost." -Joseph Marx

1833, South Carolina
Alexander Marks was prosecuted by the town council of Columbia, S.C. for having kept their doors open on Sunday, thus violating a local statute which regulated Sunday observance. Marks contended that this statute conflicted with the United States Constitution, which guaranteed the free exercise of conscience to all, and that, being a Jew, this local ordinance was unconstitutional. The court, however, did not adopt this view of the situation and upheld Marks' conviction on the ground that the ordinance and upheld Marks' conviction on the ground that the ordinance in question was proper, for the good of society and in aid of law and order, not of religion.

1845, Hamilton County, Ohio
The court let off some Jews who had been fined for doing business on Sunday.

1849 - Virginia amended its laws and granted shomrei Shabbos Jews the right to open thier businesses on Sunday. "We rejoice at this elightened legislation, not that we wish the Jews to open their shops in large Christian communities, and invite persons to come and deal with them in violation of their principles; but wish them to be at liberty to act at their pleasure, to open or close their places of business as they may see fit." --> essentially setting them apart from the mainstream American society, lauding the great Constitution that would grant religious freedom to them too, but still hoping to keep them apart

Reform Rabbis such as Samuel Hirsh advocated for changing the Jewish sabbath to Sunday to integrate more fully, although even among reformers this was seen as too extreme. Rabbi Bernard Drachman, leader of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, advocated that Jewish laborers be afforded the opportunity to keep Shabbat on Saturday and that they close on Saturday and open on Sunday. Non-Jews opposed this as they argued that it would create an unfair advantage for Jewish businessmen.

Between 1880 and 1890, the Jewish population of New York jumped from 80,000 to nearly 600,000. This coincided with a religious revival of Protestants who believed it was time to create a Christian state (incidentally, the same idea of American exceptionalism that would contribute to the mass exodus to Columbia XD). A penal code with stringent Sunday amendments passed in 1881; Jewish peddlers paid protection money to policemen.

In terms of Lawrence, the dock workers and longshoremen of New York were always very much a multiethnic group (I particularly associate the job with Italian Americans, but I think that's mostly Arthur Miller's influence XD). I think that in this case there would be a small group of Jewish workers who agreed with each each other to walk out of work on the next Saturday and strike until their demands for the Sabbath were met. I can see Lawrence's father's involvement with the Knights of Labor potentially helping out in terms of providing financial support to the workers' families while they were striking, although I don't see this group helping out in a big way i.e. getting Christian workers to strike on their behalf too. I do see it as promoting a lot of awareness about workers' rights and unionization among the dock workers at large, though, which is one of the biggest things to come out of this case.

But yeah I see the striking workers being arrested maybe for being on the premises and advocating to other Jews to join the strike or something and getting arrested for trespass (this is one part I'm shaky on, I think we could come up with something cooler - I like the idea of them being arrested for actually doing work on the Sunday but I'm trying to figure out how to work that in), and Lawrence takes the case possibly through hearing about it from his father, and basically argues that America is a land of freedom of religion rather than it being founded on these Christian tenets, and the judge agrees but says that they have the right to do so in their own community and that a Christian employer doesn't have to employ people who won't work the days they want them to, so they're fired from their jobs there anyway. XD


References (and a lot of pasting in the first part of this) from:
Jews and the Sunday Laws
Fascinating Jewish History: Sunday Rest Laws
NYC's Blue Laws
Shabbat as Social Reform
subverting: PB: Rebecca Hall (Default)
Elisheva Shafir was born in 1865 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to an impoverished Jewish family. In 1869, when she was four years old, her parents, Solomon and Miriam Shafir, frustrated with the lack of opportunities for them in Lithuania, decided to emigrate to America. On the voyage across the Atlantic, Elisheva's mother, who was heavily pregnant, died giving birth to a boy. Her father immediately became disillusioned with the idea of a fresh start in a new country since his wife wasn't there to share it, and took heavily to drink. He settled with his children in the Lower East Side of New York, a neighbourhood quickly becoming transformed into a vibrant Jewish community, but still filled with grief, Sol Shafir made no effort to integrate, couldn't hold down a job, and neglected his children, who were largely cared for at this point by neighbours, the Flints, and Elisheva - whose name was often shortened to Liza by now as it sounded more American/easier to integrate - became close childhood friends with the couple's son, Benjamin. In 1872, Liza's younger brother, Isaac, who had always been a sickly child, died. This was a wake up call to Liza's father, who realised that Liza was the last thing he had left, and decided another fresh start in another location was needed. They boarded a train westward, first to Chicago, and then when that didn't pan out, they continued on train to Omaha, Nebraska, and then Cheyenne, Wyoming. In every city Sol was offered work, and every time he was fired in disgrace after being drunk and disorderly. In Cheyenne their money ran out, and they were taken pity on and allowed to join a wagon train headed for Helena, Montana. They disembarked at Butte, Montana early in 1873. Liza was nearly eight years old at this point.

Butte, Montana
☆ Population in 1890: 24,000
☆ Butte had become a mining boomtown during the demand for copper during the advent of electricity in the 1880s
☆ The Anaconda Company dominated the mining trade in the town, but Butte was never a company town, and had a diverse culture and economy
☆ The number of Chinese workers was significant enough that a Chinatown sprung up, but they were discriminated against, especially after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act
☆ There were 1,350 Jews living in Montana in 2011, so in the 1870s/1880s there would have been less, and not a significant enough minority to be seen as a problem/scapegoated like the Chinese
☆ The Butte Miner's Union, and the Silver Bow Trades and Labor Assembly, represented most of the workers in Butte
Sol secured a job in the copper mines, and while he would have wanted Liza to go to school, his income was not enough to support both of them, and she had to work to make sure that they could put food on the table.

Liza's job as a 'trapper'
☆ In coal mines, children were often employed as 'trappers', operating the air doors to provide ventilation for the miners.
☆ By keeping the fresh air flowing, they prevented the build up of dangerous gases.
☆ The children would sit in the draft of the doors, cold, damp, and very frightened, with little or no light for 12 hours a day.
☆ Given that so many Butte miners died from chronic respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis, or "miner's con," a consumption that was caused by inhaling quartz dust, I would assume a similar system was in place in the Butte copper mines to the coal mines, although I can find no information on what roles children had in copper mines.
Liza spent years underground, in the dark and alone, and when she was replaced by a younger child when she was 14 (1879), she earned money sweeping storefronts and washing shop windows. She began to teach herself to read, getting hold of any printed material she could, including pamphlets for the many unions organizing in Butte, which she wholeheartedly supported, and became involved in distributing literature for and reading it out to people who were unable to do so themselves.

Sol was one of the only miners in town not involved with the labor movement. While he agreed that workers should have more rights and better pay, he was most concerned with being able to look after himself and his daughter foremost, and felt very impotent that he was unable to provide for her. Instead of driving him towards unionization and better pay, though, he clung to his pride and was more determined to just continue to work and go it alone. He felt angry with her reading and exploring ideas that he thought would just get her killed and urged her to stick to her station in life, which in turn made Liza angry and determined to transcend her social circumstances and fulfil everything that she's capable of. Meanwhile, Sol continued to drink heavily, and much of Liza's pay went to fund his habit. She grew to despise alcohol, realising that it turned men who could be decent if they wanted to into utter animals.

They ended up having to move on again in 1887, when Liza was 22, after Sol got into a fight with one of the union organizers in the mines, who talked about his refusal to stand with his fellow workers, saying he was a coward who didn't want to be beaten by the police for being both a striker and a Jew. He also pointed to the fact that Liza was still unmarried and having to financially support him instead of thinking about starting her own family. Sol beat the man unconscious and had to be dragged off him by three other men. He panicked that he'd killed the man, and ran. Getting back to town to get Liza, he found two men recruiting workers to go to a job in Idaho. He took the opportunity, insisting that Liza accompany him.

The Coeur d'Alene Miner's Strike of 1892
☆ The mine owners invested in new machinery, both displacing the miners into lower jobs that the machinery could do instead
☆ They also increased the miners hours to 10 hours a day 7 days a week, and cut their pay to pay for the new machinery, leading the miners to strike
☆ The mine owners hired Pinkerton Agent Charlie Siringo to infiltrate the strike, as well as bringing in trainloads of scabs, mostly from Montana. Siringo became Recording Secretary of the union and fed all the information he was privy to back to the mine owners.
☆ After discovering Siringo's infiltration, armed union miners dropped a box of gunpowder down the flume of the Frisco mine, exploding the building and killing one person.
☆ Fights broke out between the strikers and the mine guards, with shots fired on both sides, with two company men and three strikers killed.
☆ The Idaho National Guard and federal troops were sent in to suppress the violence. They confined 600 miners in bullpens without any formal charges.
☆ Military rule lasted for four months.
☆ The Western Federation of Miners was formed the next year, which in turn led to the formation of the IWW.
The recruiters didn't tell the men they recruited as scabs what was happening until they got them to Coeur d'Alene, otherwise Sol would have turned them down and run in the opposite direction, wanting nothing more to do with mines or unions. Money was money, though, and he promised himself to just get this job done so that he could afford to take Liza to San Francisco, where there was a large Jewish community that she could be a part of, and better job opportunities for her. When Liza found out that her father was a strikebreaker she was incredibly angry. She kept out of the strike as much as she could to protect him, but gave aid and advice to the strikers when she was able to.

After the explosion and the shootout between the strikers and the guards, the strikers were subdued by federal troops, and Sol was still working in the positions the strikers had left. Liza, however, was deeply upset by the deaths that this strike had brought, and shouted at her father saying that it was the fault of men like him that this was happening, that they all needed to stand together to get anywhere. He said that he was doing it to provide for her, and she retorted that she'd been working and having to look after herself all her life. Sol struck her, and went out and drank heavily in his shame and wounded pride. Completely drunk, he picked a fight with one of the federal officers for no other reason than he wanted someone to fight with, and was arrested. Liza turned up just as she saw the police beating him to subdue him, tried to intervene, and was arrested, too. After a couple of days in jail, both of them were handcuffed and taken first by cart and then by train down to Boise, where they were thrown into a larger cell with around twenty other people, all of them minorities. In the dead of night, they were rounded up and shoved into a freight car.

For a long time, there was only darkness and the rattling of the rails. When the doors opened and Liza saw daylight again, it was to be herded onto a ship, and as she looked back she saw the skyline of New York fading into the distance from the ocean, a sight she hadn't seen since she was a very young child. When they were unloaded from the ship, they found themselves in a quaint, colonial looking port town. Waiting to greet them was one of the foreman for Horace Mercer's mining company, who explained that Mr. Mercer had bought their freedom, and in exchange they would live on the island of Southmoor and work for him in his mine. Councilman Langley had pushed through a law some time before Liza's arrival ensuring that Mercer paid his workers, although as in the United States, no minimum wage was set.

The slums of Southmoor were a maze of ramshackle wooden buildings that had been constructed quickly to no building standards, intended at first as temporary housing and then just never replaced. Even though they did not cover a great area, an outsider from Southmoor's more upper class areas who wandered into the slums could easily get lost in the dark twisting alleys and the spread of buildings that had popped up wherever there was space, rather than being set out on wide streets in an orderly fashion like in the nicer part of town. Liza, however, didn't waste much time in getting to know the area so well she could navigate it in the pitch dark - not that she would want to; she's afraid of going out alone at night as desperate people lurk in the shadows.

During her first year on Southmoor, Liza found herself back in the mines, operating an elevator that took the miners and goods up and down the shaft, and making sure the miners were well hydrated. Every day she went to the office of Horace Mercer, and every day she was sent away by the man guarding the door. Why would Mr. Mercer have the time to speak to someone like her? But after six months of going every day, she found herself led inside.

Horace Mercer was amused by her perseverance, and wanted to hear what she had to say before he threw her out. When she entered his office and sat across the desk from him, it was obvious that he was going through an exaggerated mockery of the routine of the courtesy that he would show towards a white person who came to ask him for something. Liza kept her cool, addressing him in a calm, dignified manner and finally getting to the reason why she'd been so eager to contact him: she wants to set up a business. A laundry, to be precise. She wants to borrow the money from Mercer to get the equipment she needs, and promises to pay it back, with interest. At first he finds the idea of Liza owning a successful business on Southmoor a novelty, until she explains that a lot of disease in the slums could be eradicated by ensuring that people had clean clothes, and that meant healthier workers. This persuaded Mercer, although he insisted on a portion of Liza's profits, too, which Liza conceded.

There were some amongst Southmoor's poor minority community who distrusted Liza after that, seeing her as having sold out to Mercer. Others derided her profession - rather than seeing her as a successful, semi-independent business owner, they equated the idea of working in a laundry with the Chinese, who had always been at the bottom of the social ladder especially among minorities (for instance, the anti-Chinese sentiment in Butte was noted even among the unions, and in their pamphlets they urged people to boycott Asian owned businesses and buy from "Americans" instead. No unions really protested the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act). However, from a lot of the slum community, Liza became something of a figurehead, between the fact that everyone passed through to get laundry done so she knew pretty much everyone and could relay messages, and through her knowledge of reading and her effort to keep informed of the proceedings of the Southmoor Council and the occasional news from America.

Liza had been on Southmoor for 4 years in 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was passed in the United States, legalizing segregation and seeming to further bolster and legitimise the prejudice that Southmoor's new immigrant population faced there. Around this time, however, Councilman Langley began to lead the campaign for men of minority groups to be eligible for the vote in Southmoor, mostly in an effort to weaken Mercer's influence over the way the island was run.

One summer's afternoon, Liza went to hear a speech given by Councilman Lawrence Maynard, knowing he was a moderate, usually with a deciding vote that could go on either side of the fence in the Council, and wanting to see where he would stand on the bill regarding the vote. During his speech, however, a smoke bomb is set off in the crowd, and Liza is wrongly arrested. When Councilman Maynard himself comes to make sure she is released, it's the start of an unlikely friendship between the pair, one that could influence the future of Southmoor itself...

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subverting: PB: Rebecca Hall (Default)
Liza Shafir

August 2013

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