Work Upon Arrival

Discover the stories of six shmata workers, as told in their own words. A guide to Jewish immigrant labour and the garment industry in early 20th century Montreal.

HEADPHONE ALERT: The oral histories you are about to hear were recorded on audio cassette in the 1970s. The audio may be difficult to hear at times so we suggest you listen with headphones or speakers.

Hyman Leibovitch - Midway Photo Play
1229 St-Laurent
1914 - 1914
Jennie Zelda Litvack - L. Holstein & Company
1475 Bleury
1925 - 1926
Rose Esterson - ILGWU
395-397 Ste-Catherine O.
1933 - 1954
Sidney Sarkin - Sam Hart & Company
437 Mayor
1925 - 1925
Ena Ship - Jacobs Building
460 Ste-Catherine O.
1934 - 1934
Norman Massey - Parkley Clothes
372 Ste-Catherine O.
1937 - 1941

Sources ↓

Abella, Irving. "Portrait of a Jewish Professional Revolutionary: The Recollections of Joshua Gershman." Labour/Le Travail 2 (1977): 185-213.

Berson, Seemah C. (ed). I Have a Story to Tell You. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010.

Bissonnette, Sophie. Des lumières dans la grande noirceur. Productions Contre-jour, Montréal, 1991.

Endicott, Stephen. Raising the Worker’s Flag: The Worker’s Unity League of Canada, 1930–1936. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.

Frager, Ruth A. Sweatshop Strife: Class, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Jewish Labour Movement of Toronto, 1900–1939. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

Lavigne, Marie, Yolande Pinard and Dorothy Suzanne Cross. Travailleuses et féministes : les femmes dans la société québécoise. Montréal: Boréal Express, 1983.

Lipsig-Mummé, Carla. "Organizing Women in the Clothing Trades: Homework and the 1983 Garment Strike in Canada." Studies in Political Economy 22 (1987): 41-71.

Margolis, Rebecca. Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil: Yiddish Cultural Life in Montreal, 1905–1945. Vol. 2: McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP, 2011.

McIntosh, Robert. "Sweated Labour: Female Needleworkers in Industrializing Canada." Labour/Le Travail 32 (1993): 105–138.

Medresh, Israël. Montreal of Yesterday: Jewish Life in Montreal, 1900–1920. Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2000.

Ng, Roxana. "Garment Production in Canada: Social and Political Implications." Studies in Political Economy 79 (2007): 193-211.

Olazabal, Ignace. Khaverim: les juifs ashkénazes de Montréal au début du XXe siècle, entre le shtetl et l'identité citoyenne. Québec: Editions Nota Bene, 2006.

Pesotta, Rose. Bread upon the waters. Ed. Beffel, John Nicholas. Ithaca, N.Y.: ILR Press, 1987.

Rouillard, Jacques. "Les travailleurs juifs de la confection à Montréal (1910–80)." Labour/Le Travail 8 (1981): 253–259.

Steedman, Mercedes. "The Promise: Communist Organizing in the Needle Trades, the Dressmakers' Campaign, 1928–1937." Labour/Le Travail 34 (1994): 37–73.

Steedman, Mercedes. Angels of the Workplace: Women and the Construction of Gender Relations in the Canadian Clothing Industry, 1890–1940. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Tulchinsky, Gerald. Taking Root: The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community. North York, Ont: Stoddart, 1997

Tulchinsky, Gerald J. J. Branching Out: The Transformation of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto; New York; Buffalo, N.Y.: Stoddart ; Distributed in the U.S. by General Distribution Services, 1998.

Weisser, Michael R. A Brotherhood of Memory: Jewish Landsmanshaftn in the New World. New York: Basic Books, 1985.


Work Upon Arrival was produced by the Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal under the direction of Zev Moses, Director and Stephanie Tara Schwartz, Research Director.

Based on interviews collected in I Have a Story to Tell You edited by Seemah C. Berson, published by Wilfrid Laurier Press (2010).

Curator and writer: Sarah Woolf

IMJM Walking Tour Website Design and Development: AirCodeDesign - Philippe Blais and Mathieu-Philippe Bourgeois

English Copy Editor: Joyce Rappaport

Translator: Chantal Ringuet

Production Assistant: Jessica Pearson

All recorded interviews by Seemah C. Berson, courtesy of: The Canadian Museum of Civilization, Seemah C. Berson collection.

Music: “Smog et Mardi Gras” written by Sam Caron, performed by D’Harmo.

Photos courtesy of: Wilfrid Laurier University Press and Seemah C. Berson, Jewish Public Library Archives, Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives, Esther Frank, Marilyn Vasilkioti, Michael Goldstein, Shirlee Nickless and Saul Ship, The Lehman Family descendents, Faigie Coodin, Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Quèbec, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, Kheel Center, McCord Museum and the Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal.

Special thanks to: Betty Averbach Foundation, Seemah C. Berson, Rhonda Lehman, Faigie Coodin, Michael Goldstein, Shirlee Nickless and Saul Ship, Esther Frank, Sheldon Posen and Jonathan Wise at the Canadian Museum of Civilization The Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.

Copyright IMJM 2013