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Fanny Simon

Fanny Simon

Militancy lost its romance early in Fanny Simon’s life. Only a teenager, she found out that a strike doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Her father lost his job and the family was uprooted when a strike by glove cutters was crushed.

Simon was born in 1903 and came to the U.S. from Warsaw just before the outbreak of World War I. A lifelong socialist — she was attracted to the socialists and Eugene Debs for their steadfast opposition to the "capitalists’ war" — she joined the Socialist Party in 1929.

She was a brilliant student and won a scholarship to Cornell and later went on to Columbia where she received a doctorate in economics. In 1940 she co-authored a book titled The American Labor Movement.

A history teacher at James Monroe HS, Simon was a bona fide scholar to be sure, but she was no mere bookstore radical. Simon was openly critical of Teacher Union founders and early Guild leaders Henry Linville and Abraham Lefkowitz for what she perceived was their affinity for legislative lobbying over militant organizing.

A fixture around the UFT well into her 80s, she was one of the founding mothers of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) and the UFT’s Women’s Rights Committee, and even found time to work with the labor movement in Mexico.