Matilda Robbins

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Matilda G. Robbins
Tatiana Gitel Rabinowitz


Matilda Getrude Robbins (1887–1963) was a Ukrainian-born American socialist labor organizer who first connected with the Industrial Workers of the World during the 1912 Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Early life[edit]

Tatiana Gitel Rabinowitz was born in Lityn, Ukraine.[1] She moved to New York with her family at age 13, in 1900. Her name was anglicized to "Matilda Gertrude Robbins" in the process of immigration.[2]


Robbins started working as a teenager in a shirtwaist factory, and worked various jobs from age 16 onward. In Bridgeport, Connecticut she made her first connections to the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Robbins became a key organizer during a strike in Little Falls, New York, running the strike office, organizing a strike kitchen, raising money and legal aid, and fortifying the picket line over the course of fourteen weeks. Robbins and activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn were then hired by the IWW and spent three years traveling across the United States to assist with labor organizing.[3][4] She was one of only two women organizers for the IWW during its early years, along with Flynn.[5][2] She was arrested for her organizing work in East Liverpool, Ohio,[6] in McKeesport, Pennsylvania,[7] and in Detroit, Michigan, all in 1913.[8] Later she was active in the IWW's Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee.[9]

Robbins wrote for the IWW publications for many years after leaving active organizing, and she ran the Socialist Party's Los Angeles office from 1945 to 1947.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Robbins had a longtime relationship with another labor organizer, Benjamin J. Legere (1887–1972).[10] They were parents together of a daughter, Vita, born in 1919.[11] Robbins died in 1963, aged 76 years, in Berkeley, California.[4] Her granddaughter Robbin Légère Henderson, an artist, prepared illustrations for the 2017 publication of Robbins's memoirs, from a manuscript written in the 1950s.[12]


  1. ^ Lawrence Bush, "July 8: Matilda Robbins and the IWW" Jewish Currents (July 7, 2013).
  2. ^ a b Peterson, Joyce Shaw (1993). "Matilda Robbins: A Woman's Life in the Labor Movement, 1900–1920". Labor History. 34 (1): 33–56. doi:10.1080/00236569300890021.
  3. ^ "Revolt, They Said". Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  4. ^ a b c "Matilda Robbins" Jewish Women's Archive (2017).
  5. ^ Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880–1917 (University of Illinois Press 1980): 132. ISBN 9780252070075
  6. ^ "Miss Rabinowitz Gets into Trouble" Akron Beacon Journal (March 22, 1913): 1. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  7. ^ "I. W. W. Speaker Arrested" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (August 9, 1913): 2. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  8. ^ Steve Babson, Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town (Wayne State University Press 1986): 33. ISBN 9780814318195
  9. ^ Bennett Murashkin, "The Jewish Role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)" LAWCHA.
  10. ^ Steve Thornton, "A Labor of Love" Bridgeport Library/Bridgeport History Center.
  11. ^ Joyce Shaw Peterson, "Choosing Motherhood: Matilda Robbins' Story" Women's Studies 42(3)(2013): 271.
  12. ^ Matilda Rabinowitz, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press 2017). ISBN 9781501709845

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