Election Day History at 97 Orchard Street
November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

In 1920, Sarah Burinescu became the first woman living at 97 Orchard Street to vote for President. Sarah emigrated from Russia in 1893, and was naturalized in 1910. She was married to Jacob Burinescu, the only known resident of 97 Orchard to die in 1918 during the Influenza Pandemic.

According to the New York State census of 1925, Sarah, then aged 36, was a clothing presser and a widow. She lived with her six children—Celia, 15, Boris, 13, Abraham, 10, Philip, 5 and Pearl, 4—who were all in school. The youngest, Jennie, was 11 months old. Sarah was a native Yiddish speaker, and she could not read or write English, but she could speak it. According to her descendants, she was an avid reader of the Socialist newspaper, the Forward, and registered to vote as a Socialist as soon as she legally could.

Sarah Burninescu (second from left) with a Socialist Group, c. 1910

Sarah Burinescu (second from left) with a Socialist Group, c.1910

In 1920, Sarah would likely have voted for Eugene V. Debs for President. At the time, Debs was conducting his campaign from behind bars at a federal jail, where he was still serving time for his 1917 anti-war speeches judged to be in violation of the Espionage Act. That didn’t stop Sarah and 919,000 other Americans from voting for him. Imagine Sarah and her socialist friends standing on the streets of the Lower East Side on November 2, 1920 shouting “From the Prison to the White House!”

Posted by Sarah Litvin