|Henry, our Yiddish
Henry Rubenstein achieved recognition in the early days of the movement to improve garment center working conditions, and then in the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union). He also contributed articles on union matters to the Jewish daily newspaper, The Forward, according to Shirley Karben, daughter of Henry's youngest sister, Dora. [The Forward's archives of the period are available in the New York Public Library, but are not indexed, and are in Yiddish. Archives of the ILGWU from the period are at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.]
Henry probably immigrated to America soon after Morris. It is likely that both he and Louis participated in the 1913 garment center strike, the subject of a wall-size photographic blow-up near the photo of the victims in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
"The multi-ethnic nature of the trade union movement was evident at this 1913 New York City clothing workers' strike, where signs appeared in Italian, Yiddish, Russian and English," says the caption of this photo, on exhibit at the Ellis Island Museum.
|A coat for Shirley
Henry did so well in New York that the ILGWU sent him to California. (Marion recalled that Henry would return to New York City from time to time "to speak for the Union.") In the winter of 1947, Shirley traveled by train to California to visit Henry, and stayed so far into the spring that he bought her a lightweight coat.
Shirley couldn't share any details of Henry's unionizing activities, but she did have a little story to tell about how he presented her with her spring coat. "Henry had also brought home a shoebox filled with fancy labels," she said. "He tossed it on the table, and told me to take my pick." Neiman- Marcus was her choice.
Rena of Pasadena
fame. She was also a talented dressmaker who "sewed for movie stars." Their daughter and only child, Rena, at one time lived in Pasadena. Now, the whereabouts of any living links to Henry Rubenstein are unknown. Louis had 59 living descendants at last count, most of them living in California.
I left Ellis Island feeling proud of our union men, and certain that they had been participants in the 1913 strike, two years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.