Happy Birthday Vera Weisbord!
Vera Weisbord, born August 19th, 1895 in Forestville, Connecticut. Living in poverty in New York Weisbord experienced hardships early on in life. Despite that she was Valedictorian at Hunger High School and went on to attend Hunter College where she win three first prizes in French competitions among colleges all across the USA and Canada.
Weisbord was exposed to the talks of socialism when she was a patient in a tuberculosis sanitarium at a young age. In 1919, when Weisbord was 24, she was a part of the Socialist Party until the Communist Party of America was formed shortly after. She would stay strongly a part of the Communist Party’s fight for workers rights for the rest of her life. This commitment to workers rights led her to join the Workers Communist Party in 1922.
In 1926, on a trip to help with the Passaic, New Jersey textile strike, she met Albert Weisbord. Albert Weisbord was a revolutionist just like Weisbord, a bond that led to their marriage. In Passaic the conditions were brutal and the Weisbords fought to change that,
wages were lower than the poverty level; women earned 80% of what men were paid even while working 10 hours a day; sanitary conditions were poor, and the death rate for young children was 52% higher than in the rest of the state.
Sadly conditions were like this for workers beyond just Passaic, New Jersey. In the following years Weisbord used what she learned in the hard battle of Passaic to help organize and fight for workers rights in other strikes. In 1929, 1800 mill workers left their jobs in protest of unruly conditions. They were fighting for a raise in their weekly wage, the formation of a union and a 40 hour workweek. The strike erupted, causing riots, marches, picket lines. National Guard troops were called in to break up the violence. Eventually the rioting led to the death of a police chief. Along with 15 other, Weisbord was charged with his murder. A mistrial was declared and the workers received violent intimidation following the events. Ultimately, many of their demands were not met at the time but the American union movement was fortified.
In 1931, Weisbord and her husband formed, “The Communist League of Struggle”, and began publishing a journal, Class Struggle, soon after. Weisbord used the journal to write on a variety of topics; feminism, revolution, labor, and women and war. Vera was deeply rooted to the idea of social change writing that in order to commit themselves to the struggle they were, “living on the fringes of society, never integrated into it, never having more than a toehold.” You can view all issues of Class Struggle online at the Albert & Vera Weisbord Archives.
Vera worked against segregation with the Congress of Racial Equality in the 1940s, which grew into a deep involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in the following decades. She was critical of the marginalization of women in the radical movement when she wrote, “in general the situation of women in the [Communist] Party – and of wives in particular – was an ignominious one.” She was of the opinion that women’s problems went beyond the role of worker and had to be seen as part of the larger class struggle. – Jewish Women’s Archive
Weisbord was active until the very end. In the 1950s, Weisbord was suffering from health conditions that averted her work in politics. However, this gave her an opportunity to pursue a personal desire; painting. After taking art classes she produced over 400 paintings in the rest of her years. In 1977, Weisbord published her autobiography, A Radical Life. In 1987, after a life full of a passion for change Weisbord passed, but she left behind a legacy of courage and compassion for people who did not have the power to fight for themselves. A lesson that is always important to remember.
Happy Birthday Vera Weisbord!