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Sewing Women: Immigrants and the New York City Garment Industry

Margaret M. Chin

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May, 2005
Cloth, 208 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-13308-1
$60.00 / £41.50

"Chin's strong writing allows her reader to see and feel the garment worker's exhausting struggles on a daily basis." — Linda Kozlowski, Altar Magazine

"Chin has painted an imaginative and compelling portrait of contemporary immigrant workers. " — Robert E. Bionaz, H-Net

"[Sewing Women] provides a fresh sociological account of ethnic entrepreneurs and workers in this resilient immigrant industry of the 1990s." — Min Zhou, Sociological Forum

"Despite global competition, New York City's garment industry struggles on, largely on the backs of the poor immigrant women. In her incisive portrait of today's garment workers, Margaret Chin explores how the different ways in which labor is organized in the Latina and Chinese segments of the industry shapes their lives as workers, as members of ethnic communities and as women. Sewing Women is an important window on to the changing lives of the working poor in today's global economy." — Philip Kasinitz, professor of sociology, City University of New York Graduate Center, coeditor of Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation

"Sewing Women provides a new and illuminating perspective on New York's garment industry and the dynamics of work among today's immigrants through a carefully argued and insightful comparison of Chinese- and Korean-owned garment shops and their Chinese and Hispanic workers. This richly-textured account, based on in-depth qualitative research, makes fascinating reading and will be of great interest to scholars and students of contemporary immigration, ethnicity, work, and gender." — Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, author of From Ellis Island to JFK: New York's Two Great Waves of Immigration

"In the midst of the information age, only steps from Wall Street, Margaret Chin delves into one of the largest manufacturing industries remaining in the big city: the garment business. Where Jews and Italians once crowded the shop floor, she finds today’s immigrant workers—Chinese, Mexicans, and Ecuadorians—hunched over high speed sewing machines. How do these workers find their way into the 'rag trade?' Why do Chinese women labor for co-ethnic bosses, while Mexicans and Ecuadorians sew for Korean owners? How does the labor process reflect these differential patterns of recruitment, skill and pay? Chin offers a nuanced portrait of the manufacturing world that blends the study of gender and family roles, with the structure of this globalized industry and its international workforce. It is a terrific read for anyone interested in immigration, the sociology of work, and the intersection between family life and the organization of the shop floor." — Katherine Newman, professor of sociology and public affairs, Princeton University, author of No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City

"Sewing Women is an insightful and sensitively written ethnographic study of New York's immigrant garment industry. Chin reports on the virtues and vices of coethnicity and the enclave economy. Her broad-based study delves into the urban low-wage economy, globalization, New York's fashion industry and sweatshop labor as it impinges on owners and workers—and into immigration, race and ethnicity, gender and family life, as well as the effects of 9/11. Chin's book is ethnographic sociology at its richest and best."" — Herbert J. Gans, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, author of Democracy and the News

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About the Author

Margaret M. Chin is assistant professor of sociology at Hunter College. She lives in New York City.

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