Pins and Needles

Published by BC Labour Heritage Centre on

Dress Suits Conspicuous by Their Absence at ‘Pins and Needles’ Revue

Written and researched by Donna Sacuta

In September 1938, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) brought their theatrical musical hit “Pins and Needles” to Vancouver where it played to glowing reviews. Among the audience was Justice Denis Murphy, former Mayor William Harold Malkin, filmmaker Oscar Burritt and artist Fraser Wilson.

The cast were all ILGWU members from New York garment factories, or as The Province newspaper reviewer called them “just plain, simple, common, ordinary everyday men and women who work hard for their living.”

Empress Theatre c. 1940, E Hastings Street at Gore, Vancouver Archives Bu N134

“Pins and Needles” played at the Empress Theatre on Gore Street and included “song, dances and sketches”. The Vancouver crowd demanded numerous encores of the skit “Four Little Angels of Peace” which mocked Hitler, Mussolini and others.

“There is a forcefulness and sincerity in the playing of these young people which carries conviction,” wrote Stanley Bligh of The Vancouver Sun.

“Through the medium of song, dance and sketch they present the message of the worker, but it is all done with a smile and a jest.”

One Big Union for Two
from Pins and Needles
Writer: Harold J. Rome [1938]

I’m on a campaign to make you mine
I’ll picket you until you sign
In one big union for two.

No court’s injunction can make me stop
Until your love is all closed shop
In one big union for two.

Seven days a week I want the right
To call you mine
both day and night,
The hours may be long
But fifty million union members can’t be wrong.

When we have joined up perhaps there’ll be
A new recruit or two or three
For that’s what teamwork can do
In one big union for two.

The Vancouver Sun, 20 September 1938, p 8.

The Province, 20 September 1938, p 6.

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