Sweatshop Poetry

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SWEATSHOP POETRY , movement in American Yiddish literature whose main representatives are Joseph *Bovshover, David *Edelstadt, Morris *Rosenfeld, and Morris *Vinchevsky. The mass immigration of East European Jews to the United States beginning in the 1880s confronted many of the immigrants for the first time with a metropolis, where a large portion of them found employment in the garment industry, many in the sweatshops of New York City. The American Yiddish press, which developed during the same period, generally espoused radical political tendencies and sought to win over working-class readers to the causes of socialism, communism, and anarchism. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, newspapers such as Arbeter Tsaytung, Forverts, Di Varheyt, Der Folksadvokat, and Fraye Arbeter Shtime published poems of social protest, describing the oppressive working and living conditions of their readers, which aimed at stirring their mass audiences to social revolution. The poetry produced within this context represents the first phase of Yiddish literature in America.


I. Howe, World of Our Fathers (1976), 420–24; C. Madison, Yiddish Literature (1968), 138–40; S. Liptzin, Flowering of Yiddish Literature (1963), 131–48; idem, A History of Yiddish Literature (1972), 89–7.

[Marc Miller (2nd ed.)]