Like her fellow labor leader husband, Sidney, Bessie Abramowitz Hillman forged a career in the fires of labor unrest. Born in Russia, she immigrated in 1905 to Chicago, where she earned five cents an hour as a button sewer. Hillman organized a shop committee to protest labor conditions and low wages and was promptly fired. Five years later, she successfully spearheaded a walkout over pay cuts at the clothing company Hart, Shaffner, and Marx, and the Women's Trade Union League hired her as an organizer. After her marriage to Sidney in 1916, she spent years volunteering her services to the union cause and later became a vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.