In 1931, during the Great Depression, the downtrodden and overworked factory workers in the Toronto garment district near Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue rose up to strike for shorter hours, safer working conditions, decent wages and recognition of their union.
Award-winning author Anne Dublin has written a novel based on real events that happened during the strike, titled 44 Hours or Strike! published by Second Story Press.
In her book, Dublin uses labour history to present a realistic view of the hard-fought battle that the immigrants faced in the pre-World War II years.
She brings together many issues faced by Jews in the 1930s, including the growing distrust and resentment toward immigrants, anti-Semitism, poverty, as well as family love and inter-racial dating.
The workers are also blamed for the difficulties everyone is facing, especially the eastern Europeans who might have communist ideas.
Teenage sisters Rose and Sophie Abramson become active and join the picket line in the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) strike against the sweatshop owners.
After a fight with the authorities on the picket line, Rose is imprisoned. Her 14-year-old sister, Sophie, is left to care for their ailing widowed mother while continuing to spend her days protesting on the picket line in the freezing Toronto winter.
Dublin describes the horrific conditions at the Mercer Reformatory for Women and the effects on Rose of the isolation and abuse in prison.
The question becomes, “Will they be able to continue to fight for a cause they once so strongly believed in?”
Dublin’s parents were Holocaust survivors who came to Canada in 1948.
“Because we were very poor, there was no money to buy extras,” she says. “I discovered the public library and that opened up a whole new world for me.”
A former teacher-librarian, Dublin taught English and French in elementary schools.
She is the author of 10 books – biographies, historical novels and short stories. She is a sought-after speaker. Her book will appeal to both students and adults.