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Register of the Papers of



3.3 ft.

MSS 39


Shawn Weldon

May 1981


Ossip Walinsky was a Lithuanian Jew who emigrated to the United States in 1912.  A major portion of his life was devoted to labor organizing; he served as president of the International Leather Goods, Handbag, Belt, and Novelty Workers Union.  He was also an active worker for the development of the State of Israel and was president of the Fraternal Division of the State of Israel Bonds.  Walinsky devoted much of his life to humanitarian causes and was a prolific writer and poet.

Ossip Walinsky was born Joseph Melechinsky in Grodno, Lithuania, on 25 July 1386, into an orthodox Jewish family.  Both his father, Isaac, and his mother, Naomi, were the children of rabbis.  Walinsky was sent to the local Yeshiva (religious school) and received a Talmudic education in order to become a rabbi in the family tradition.  Instead, he became a revolutionary.  Around 1902-1903 Walinsky joined the Jewish Socialist Bund of Russia, Poland, and Lithuania, and became active in the underground movement.  He was arrested in 1903 for leading a May Day demonstration and was released under police surveillance.  Thereafter, Walinsky traveled extensively as a labor agitator, addressing meetings of the underground workers and taking "Ossip" as his revolutionary name.  (Even in these early years, Walinsky's interest in labor organization was apparent in his attempts to organize workers according to trade rather than by party and ideological divisions.)  In 1904 Walinsky was arrested for composing and printing an anti-Czarist pamphlet and was sentenced to five years in Siberia.  He escaped to Germany and made his way to London, arriving on 12 November 1904.

In London Walinsky worked at a variety of jobs and was active in the trade union movement.  He succeeded in organizing a small federation of unions and published and edited their Jewish Trade Unionist, the first labor monthly for the Yiddish-speaking workers in London.  He also published poems in Yiddish in the official anarchist literary publication, the Arbeiter Freindt.  In 1912 Walinsky succeeded in organizing a London branch of the Workmen's Circle Fraternal Society.  (During this period, he changed his name to Walinsky.)  While in London, he was friendly with members of the Fabian Society and knew many of the leading revolutionary figures in the city, including Prince Peter Kropotkin, Nicolai Cherkessov, Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin.

Walinsky emigrated to the United States in 1914 and settled in New York City.  In the following year, he traveled to Toronto, Canada, to manage the Joint Board of the Cloak, Suit, Skirt, and Dressmakers Union.  While there, he led the first successful strike in the needle trades.  Walinsky returned to New York City in 1915 to manage the Bonnaz Embroidery Workers Union, Local 66, which was affiliated with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and he participated in the 1916 mass strike of the cloak, suit, and skirt unions.  This served as the inspiration for his wellknown poem, "Long Live the Union."  In 1918 Walinsky became manager of the Pocketbook Workers Union, New York, and helped gain the first collective bargaining agreement with the manufacturers of these trades in New York City and New Jersey.

Walinsky remained with the union in various positions up to 1951.  He also held various positions in the International Union (the International Pocketbook Workers Union and then the International Ladies Handbag, Pocketbook, and Novelty Workers Union [ILHPNWU]), with which the New York Union was affiliated until February, 1939.  The New York Union then became part of the United Handbag, Leather Goods, and Novelty Workers Union (later the United Pocketbook, Leather Goods, and Novelty Workers Union), in which Walinsky served as adviser to the president and executive director.  In October, 1950, the Pocketbook Workers Union, New York, and the ILHPNWU signed the Unity Pact which merged the two Unions.  After ratification of the pact in 1951, Walinsky was elected president of the new International, which was called the International Handbag, Leather Goods, Belt, and Novelty Workers Union (later the International Leather Goods, Plastics, and Novelty Workers Union).  After his retirement in 1957 Walinsky was named president emeritus of the International Union.

In addition, Walinsky was involved in union organizing with both the trunk and luggage workers and with the needle trades.  Early in his career, he helped organize the joint board of the various locals affiliated with the ILGWU.  Walinsky also helped organize the Trade Union Council of the National Urban League and served on the War Labor Board during World War II.  In addition, he was a founder of the Women's Trade Union League and was a lifelong member of tile Workmen's Circle.  Walinsky is also notable for his testimony before congressional committees against sweatshop competition from foreign countries and his crusade to organize and strengthen unions by establishing such practices as codes of fair competition, collective bargaining, minimum wages and health care (in which he was a pioneer).

Besides his lifelong work with labor, Walinsky was a founder and member of many organizations which allowed him to satisfy his two other major concerns: (1) support for Israel, and the Jewish community in general, and (2) his own tremendous humanitarianism.  Beginning in 1913, Walinsky served as president of the First Jewish Labor Congress in New York City, organized to support tile workers in Palestine.  Following that, he was a supporter of Histadrut, the Federation of Labor Unions in Israel, and in 1951 he was named chairman of the American Trade Council for Histadrut.  Walinsky served on the Board of Directors of the National Committee for Labor Israel and served as cochairman of the Jewish Labor Committee.  In 1956 he became chairman of the Fraternal Division of the State of Israel Bonds and wrote The Jerusalem Book of Life, designed to stimulate investment in Israel.  Walinsky was also chairman of the Bet Hatfuzot community center complex, a memorial to the victims of the holocaust, at the University of Tel Aviv, and served on the board of directors of other organizations such as the YIVO Jewish Scientific Institute, the HIAS (The Hebrew Sheltering and Aid Society) Council of Organizations, the Greater New York Institute, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropic Societies, and the AmunIsraeli Corporation.  Walinsky was among the founders of the World ORT (Organization through Rehabilitation and Training) and the United Jewish Appeal.

Walinsky's humanitarianism was expressed through his work with the Roosevelt Memorial Foundation Against Polio, the Deborah Sanatorium, the City of Hope in Los Angeles, the AFLCIO Committee for the Greater New York March of Dimes Campaign, the Home and Hospital of the Daughters of Jacob, the Workmen's Circle Home and Infirmary for the Aged, and the Denver Sanatorium.  Walinsky's most significant work in this area began with his appointment in 1956 to serve as labor's representative on the Board of Governors of the American Cancer Society.  He was made an honorary member of the Society in 1960 in recognition of his devoted service.

Walinsky was also a prolific writer and his articles appeared in various newspapers and magazines in the United States, Canada, England, South America, and Russia.  Among the newspapers and periodicals he contributed to were the Forward, The Day, Morning Journal, The Zukunft, The American Federationist, The Socialist Call, The Freie Arbeiter Stimme, The New Yorker Wochenblatt, and The Zionist Zeit.  His articles covered a variety of subjects, including labor, Israel, Histadrut, cancer, and the Workmen's Circle.  In 1948 Walinsky edited and contributed to the book Industrial Peace in Action, which was an account of the origins and development of the Leather Goods and Pocketbook Workers Union in New York City.  He was also a poet and had many poems published, primarily in Yiddish, including a book of poems, Lament and Song (1956), which received critical praise.

Walinsky's lesser-known activities include an unsuccessful campaign for State Assembly of New York in 1922, a period as an impresario in partnership with Sol Hurok during the latter 1920's, and a term on Wall Street from 1932-1933.  In 1905 Walinsky married Rosa Newman who later, as Rosa NewmanWalinsky, became famous as a poet and sculptress.  She published a book of poetry entitled Poems and Sculptures and a novel, The Woman Who Conquered.  The couple had three children: Anna Walinska, a painter; Emily R. Walinsky-Rubin, a dancer; and Louis Walinsky, an outstanding economist who wrote several books and served as Chief of Budget for the War Production Board during World War II.  The Walinsky's grandson, Adam, was an advisor to Robert Kennedy and served as Attorney General of New York State in the early 1970's.  Ossip Walinsky died in March of 1973.


Presented by Anna Walinska on 19 July 1977.  Accession #M773.


The Ossip Walinsky papers cover the years 1916-1973 and document many facets of both his private life and professional activities.  The biographical material, his numerous articles, and the newspaper clippings provide an excellent overview of his entire life.  These materials, combined with the labor and organization papers in the collection, provide the major portion of information on Walinsky's labor activities, his work on behalf of the State of Israel, and his work with the American Cancer Society.  The collection also contains a significant amount of Walinsky's writings and poetry.  The collection is an excellent source for examining various aspects of the development of the labor movement in New York City, and to some extent, America in general.  In particular, it provides a rather detailed account of the Pocketbook Workers Union, New York, as well as the International Leather Goods Union (especially during Walinsky's term as president).  It is a noteworthy source for documenting the contribution of American Jews to the development of the State of Israel.

The Walinsky collection contains biographical material, correspondence, articles, poems, organizational papers, printed material, tape recordings, disc recordings, newspaper clippings, and photographs.  The collection is divided into six sections: general papers, writings, labor, organizations, photographs, and news clippings.  There is much overlap between sections.  Some of the material is in Yiddish, including a large number of Walinsky's articles and most of his poems.

The GENERAL PAPERS contain material giving an overview of Walinsky's life.  Included in this section are an outline of Walinsky's memoirs and tapes and transcripts of portions of his memoirs.  Also in this section is correspondence, 1944-1973, dealing mostly with personal and family matters; materials from a testimonial held for Walinsky in 1965 by the Landsmannschaften and Fraternal Division of State of Israel Bonds, and an 80th birthday celebration and testimonial by the same group in 1971; programs from various testimonials and functions organized by Walinsky or at which he was a featured guest; material relating to Walinsky's death; and a contract with Universal Artists from 1925.  There is also material on other members of the Walinsky family, covering the activities of and containing biographical information, on Rosa Newman-Walinsky (including a copy of her book Poems and Sculptures and tapes of her poems recited by Ossip Walinsky), Anna Walinska, Louis Walinsky, and Adam Walinsky.

The WRITINGS section contains copies of Walinsky's articles in both English and Yiddish, which appeared in various newspapers and periodicals.  They cover a variety of topics, and most relate directly to Walinsky's activities.  Included are articles on labor, especially the early years and development of the Pocketbook Workers Union and the great strike of 1916; Histadrut and the Histadrut campaigns in America (including the Labor Congress of 1913); Workmen's Circle and Walinsky's work with that group; cancer and the role of labor in the fight against cancer; and articles dealing with the related topics of the Landsmannschaften, Israel Bonds, fundraising, and development of the State of Israel.  The majority of the articles are in Yiddish; most of the English articles are in the labor and cancer sections.  This section also contains both handwritten and printed copies of Walinsky's poems, tapes of Walinsky reciting his poems, and a copy of his book of poems Lament and Song with review and related correspondence.  In addition, there is a copy of Industrial Peace in Action, and a large number of handwritten notes relating mainly to speeches and articles.

The LABOR section contains some material on labor in general (mostly printed) and material on Walinsky's labor activities, including a file of memorabilia such as dues books and membership cards.  There is also a file of printed material on the Bonnaz Embroidery Workers Union, Local 66, which includes a history of the union.  The bulk of the section, however, consists of documentation on the development and activities of the International Leather Goods and Pocketbook Workers Union and the Pocketbook Workers Union of New York.  Especially noteworthy is material documenting the reasons for the split between the Pocketbook Workers Union, New York, and the International Union and their reunification in 1950-1951.  Included are correspondence, constitutions and bylaws, collective bargaining agreements for the New York Local, printed material, financial records, an affidavit by Walinsky concerning an attempt to block the Unity Pact of 1950, and reports and newsletters by Walinsky during his term as president of the International Union.  The material covers the Pocketbook Workers Union, New York, for the years 1913-1965 and the International Union for the years 1925-1939 and 1951-1972.  The years 1939-1950 are represented by a report to the executive board of the United Handbag, Leather Goods, and Novelty Workers Union, August 1942, and an Executive Board meeting of the United Pocketbook, Leather Goods, and Novelty Workers Union, May-June, 1946.  Most of the material relating to the International covers the years of Walinsky's presidency.

The ORGANIZATIONS section contains material which documents the activities of the various organizations to which Walinsky belonged, his work with the State of Israel, and his humanitarian and social service.  The section contains correspondence, minutes, reports, financial material, printed material, and various other records.  Not all of the organizational files contain the material listed above, and some are better represented than others.  The major portion of the documentation relates to the State of Israel Bonds, the National Committee for Labor Israel and the Histadrut Foundation in America, and the American Cancer Society.  Less documentation is available for YIVO, Bet Hatfuzot, the United Jewish Appeal, Histadrut (in Israel), the AFLCIO Community Services Committee, and the Home and Hospital of the Daughters of Jacob.  Much of the material is, however, valuable.  There is also a smaller amount of material for several other organizations.

The PHOTOGRAPHS section contains over thirty photographs.  Most are from various functions and dinners and feature Walinsky with groups of his associates.  Among the most notable photographs are those of a presentation to Harry S Truman, some of Golda Meir at a State of Israel Bonds dinner, the delegates to the First Jewish Labor Congress in 1918, a group photograph from the a 13th Biennial Convention of the ILGW, and a group photograph from the Second Biennial Convention of the International Pocketbook Workers Union in 1925.

The NEWS CLIPPINGS section consists of clippings from magazines and newspapers relating to Walinsky's activities or the organizations with which he was involved.  The clippings, on one roll of microfilm, are arranged according to subject and correspond to Walinsky's activities and interests.  Among the most notable news articles are those by Walinsky and several biographical and historical articles about him.

The box list of the register of the papers of Ossip Walinsky is twelve pages long.