Great Kosher Meat War of 1902

Immigrant Housewives and the Riots that Shook New York City

Scott D Seligman

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902 recounts the inspiring story of immigrant women and the dramatic and effective mass consumer action they launched in turn of the century New York City.
Publication date:
March 2021
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781640123588

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
Available in 3-4 weeks


• The boycott has never before been the subject of a booklength examination.
• A key event in the history of women, of Jewish-Americans, of food and of American social activism.
• Articles on the subject have been well-received
• First written about by the late Dr. Paula E. Hyman, a professor of modern Jewish history at Yale. She asserted that historians, in focusing on organized political activity by Jewish immigrants in the labor and socialist movements, had overlooked the important role played by Jewish women in American politics

In the wee hours of May 15, 1902, three thousand Jewish women quietly took up positions on the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Convinced by the latest jump in the price of kosher meat that they were being gouged, they assembled in squads of five, intent on shutting down every kosher butcher shop in New York's Jewish quarter. What was conceived as a nonviolent effort did not remain so for long. Customers who crossed the picket lines were heckled and assaulted, their parcels of meat hurled into the gutters. Butchers who remained open were attacked, their windows smashed, stocks ruined, equipment destroyed. Brutal blows from police nightsticks sent women to local hospitals and to court. But soon Jewish housewives throughout the area took to the streets in solidarity, while the butchers either shut their doors or had them shut for them. The newspapers called it a modern Jewish Boston Tea Party.

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902 tells the twin stories of mostly uneducated female immigrants who discovered their collective consumer power and of the Beef Trust, the Midwestern cartel that conspired to keep meat prices high despite efforts by the U.S. government to curtail its nefarious practices. With few resources and little experience but steely determination, this group of women organized themselves into a potent fighting force and, in their first foray into the political arena in their adopted country, successfully challenged powerful, vested corporate interests and set a pattern for future generations to follow.