Rivington Street starts out in pogrom ridden Russia and follows one family to the early twentieth century Lower East Side, with its pushcarts and Yiddish socialism. It is to some extent a tale of two sisters, one a garment factory union organizer and the other an aspiring clothing designer, a boss. The other strong women characters are the daughter of a selfish and sexist rabbi, a gentile suffragist, and Hannah, the old world mother of the two sisters, Sarah and Ruby Levy. I've read it a bunch of times, and it never disappoints me. I love entering the world of my grandfather's Lower East Side and the early struggles of the women's labor and suffrage movements.
The politics--labor, class struggle, socialism, anarchism, and women's equality are dead on. The characters are complex, definitely not all good or all bad, and they end the book, to which there is a sequel, Union Square, scathed, but fairly happy. According to a Library Journal review of the two books in 2002, "this duo is probably more for feminist readers," which is kind of a bizarre and sickening statement, especially for being so recent, but it is indeed a feminist novel. I still think that the "I love men, but..." crowd and men themselves will still be able to palate it, even if there is one lesbian character!
We work as hard as any man; we think as well as any man; and we want every right and privilege the men have, including the privilege of making fools of ourselves every four years as they do by voting for capitalist parties that keep the chains fastened around their necks! p.255-56