The story of the now almost forgotten strike is told by Helen Schloss, a public health nurse and already an active Socialist when she came to Little Falls in May of 1912. The death of 146 garment workers in the Triangle Fire a year earlier had led to a number of reforms in New York state, but none had yet taken effect. A radical spirit was in the air that year and a wave of strikes rolled across the country.
A new law was passed that summer in Albany, cutting the hourly maximum for women and children workers from 60 to 54 led to wage cuts. When garment workers at the Phoenix and Gilbert mills in Little Falls struck against these cuts, Helen was the first to step up in their support. Over the next three months, Socialist and IWW activists from around the country flocked to join the latest battle against the capitalist system. But it was not the radical celebrities of the era who won the strike. It was the largely female, immigrant workers and the two women who led them: Helen Schloss and Matilda Rabinowitz.
The real heroes of the story are the strikers, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe who were forced to work for starvation wages and to live in the unsanitary slums that once filled the South Side. I have created composite characters, like Susie Klimacek and Sam Malavasic, to represent the many unnamed and forgotten workers who risked so much for a better life.