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Cooper Union

This historic east village institution was founded by the inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859 under his radical view that higher education should be "free as air and water." From its inception, the college was free to all who qualified regardless of race, sex, or religion. Though founded by a scientist, today the school is renowned for its degrees in the fine arts.

The Great Hall, located in the basement of the Foundation Building, has been the site of many important political...

This historic east village institution was founded by the inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859 under his radical view that higher education should be "free as air and water." From its inception, the college was free to all who qualified regardless of race, sex, or religion. Though founded by a scientist, today the school is renowned for its degrees in the fine arts.

The Great Hall, located in the basement of the Foundation Building, has been the site of many important political addresses and rallies since the 1860s, where it welcomed radical and progressive speakers. One famous speech, now called "The Cooper Union Address," in which Abraham Lincoln challenged his political opponent, the North Democratic Party's presidential nominee, Stephen A. Douglas, on the issue of slavery, is said to have won Lincoln his party's nomination. Since then, The Great Hall has lent itself to many political voices.

In 1909, a rally for the mistreated workers of New York's notoriously aggressive garment industry was held there. The diminutive, twenty-year old, Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich's speech there inspired a spontaneous industry-wide strike known as "The Uprising of 20 Thousand" that would begin the chain of events that culminating in the Triangle Factory Fire two years later, would define New York's labor policy and progressive politics as they stand today.

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51 Astor Place
New York, NY 10003
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Stories in the spotlight: Cooper Union

Cooper Union was the site of the famous meeting in 1909 where Clara Lemlich called for a strike passionately...

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Clara Lemlich Speaks Out at Cooper Union
March 15, 2011

Text courtesy of Jewish Women's Archive and Travelgoat.

In November 1909, Triangle Factory...

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Clara Lemlich at Cooper Union
March 9, 2011
Travelgoaters at Cooper Union
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