“My recollection of the factory and my mother’s exhaustion are vivid,” writes Cathy Scheirman in “Piecework,” a short memoir in Lavinia Press, a tabloid newspaper published by the Women’s Night Watch in 1979.
This bilingual (Spanish and English) issue was devoted to the theme of fashion, and included articles on kimonos; workplace discrimination on cultural expression; appropriation of cultural styles; thrift-store shopping; and a discussion of courtroom attire (“For women in the courtroom, it is more difficult to know how to dress. The decorum of the courtroom calls for a fairly formal style of dress, which means conforming to sex-stereotyped and class-stereotyped conventions”).
It also included this memoir of a mother who did piecework in a garment sweatshop: “Mother’s machine was halfway back and 3 machines fro the only bank of windows in the room. The windows opened in from the top allowing very little of anything to get out and even less to get in. She was always hunched over the machine, fingers flying over the fabric to cut the time it took to finish a bundle of shirts or blouses.”
She was always hunched over the machine. She was always hunched over the machine. This was one of the first lines I read that prompted me to begin to collect sentences that began with “she,” So I sledgehammered these words into a copper card, hunched over, on a patch of basement concrete.
I added this line to hundreds of lines beginning with the word, “she,” a poem accreting into a crowd of women. The poem is titled “She Had Her Own Reason for Participating.”