Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
In Beyond the Silk Mills, Ms. Rupley spins a compelling saga of family discord, ambition, romance, and regret. The Epstein family's struggle during the early twentieth century in New York City and Paterson, New Jersey, illuminates the roots of modern feminism and contemporary labor issues. Emma Epstein arrives in America in 1898 craving wealth and status. Her husband Meyer, a socialist and textile worker, has a passion for worker's rights, stemming from his days as a weaver in the Jewish ghetto of Lodz, Poland, where he was an activist in the socialist Labor Bund. As she peddles corsets door-to-door, Emma realizes that Meyer will never change or want the same things she does. He clings to his idealism and guides his comrades through the protracted Paterson Silk Strike of 1913. Disillusioned and angry, Emma tramples Meyer's idealism with a zeal to acquire riches and finagles her way to success as proprietor of an upscale women's dress shop, The New Woman. By leveraging her earnings in the stock market, she hopes to usher the family into high society. Plot twists, a dark secret, and vivid historical details make Beyond the Silk Mills an enthralling read.