At a mass meeting in New York City on Nov. 22, 1909, shirtwaist and dress makers declared a general strike in the women's garment industry. Within days some 11,000 women and 4,000 men were on strike against the fifty-six hour week and the requirement to pay for needles, thread, and sewing machines.

Led by International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union Local 25, the Women's Trade Union League, and the United Hebrew Trades, the strike gained public support, especially in the face of employer intimidation of the strikers and the arrest of hundreds of young women who marched on picket lines. In December John Mitchell and Marcus Marks of the National Civic Federation brought representatives of labor and the Associated Waist and Dress Manufacturers together to try and resolve the strike, but the manufacturers' association refused to recognize the union or agree to a union shop.

In January 1910 the union began to settle with many of the smaller shops, eventually reaching agreements with over three hundred of them that included a fifty-two hour workweek, abolition of charges for supplies, and reinstatement of strikers without discrimination. However some 19 other firms, including some of the largest, agreed to a settle but refused to recognize the union.

By Feb. 15, when the strike was officially ended, only about 1,000 workers in thirteen shops were still on strike.  Read related documents .