The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City, by Scott D. Seligman

Review copy provided by the publisher.

One of the great things about my adult life is that there are so many more histories published that are not Great Man or even Great Event histories. This is one of them. Even with my immigration interest–I literally wrote a kids’ book about Jewish immigrants to the US–and my interest in labor relations, I had never come upon anything about the Kosher Meat War of 1902.

This is compelling stuff. There are people who are struggling to feed their families in an unfamiliar land, there are new technologies causing upheaval on a commodity landscape, there are communities attempting to recreate their favorite parts of community in their previous home only to find that not everyone shares their preferences.

And there are middle-aged ladies breaking glass and pouring kerosene on beef.

The leaders of the Kosher Meat War took a lot of lessons from the labor movement and also contributed some interesting experience to it, but for the most part they were not labor leaders or even labor leaders in training. They were ordinary people who had been pushed too far. What people do in a situation like that is fascinating, and so is this book.

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