Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“These butcher are charging extortionate prices, they explained, and they begged the women and girls not to buy any meat of the men. The women, all in white waists and black skirts, attracted a crowd in a little time, and five of the boldest of them led the others to I. Jacobs’s shop, on Third Avenue. A little girl came out with a package of meat and the women seized her, took the package away, opened it, screaming in triumph, scattered the meat in the street. Then they yelled again, rushed at another woman, took the package she had, and, tearing the meat it contained apart threw it all about the pavement. These acts were cheered by the entire crowd of women.

“Down with the butchers” was yelled again and again, and “We’ll have our rights!” and “Don’t buy from them!” were other cries often heard….

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There were similar disturbances on the Lower East Side and in Harlem. Women demonstrators did their best to prevent other women from purchasing kosher meat due to the high price.

“Those who had bought the meat tried to disappear, but the other women seized them by the hair and slapped them as they tried to run. The bolder women joined in the fight and for some time there was a lively hair pulling in the street. The crowd got excited and yelled, and the half dozen luckless women who insisted on buying meat were sorry afterward. The women seized each one of them and tore at their hair and bonnets and threw their meat into the street. The owners were too much afraid of the crowd to do anything but try to get away, which they did as quickly as they could.

Because of the lack of meat the demand for milk and eggs increased considerably on the Lower East Side, and this soon resulted in shortages of these items, despite the fact that farmers were asked to increase shipments of milk the city.

On May 22nd the Retail Butchers Association, having been pressured by customers, aligned itself with the boycotters ands refused to sell kosher beef in member shops. Five days later, Orthodox religious leaders, who had mostly remained on the sidelines, formally endorsed the boycott.”

On June 9, “[t]hree weeks into the boycott, the price of kosher meat was lowered four cents when the Meat Trust agreed to drop prices to 14 cents a pound. Even though prices would rise again, the boycott had mobilized and politicized a group not traditionally involved in organized protest. Unlike most women involved in the labor movement in this period, the women who participated in the boycott were mostly homemakers in their thirties. Although mainly immigrants, most of the women had been living in the United States for many years and were asserting what they saw as American rights – the right to demand fair prices, the right to protest publicly, and the right to speak freely and openly. The boycott would become a model for future protests and was in many ways a precursor to larger scale strikes, including the 1909 shirtwaist strike.”[iii]

 

[i] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/bc1902.html

[ii] http://jwa.org/thisweek/may/15/1902/kosher-beef-boycott-of-1902

[iii] Ibid.

 

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