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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

PODOJIL, ANTOINETTE "TONI"

PODOJIL, ANTOINETTE "TONI"

PODOJIL, ANTOINETTE "TONI" (9 Oct. 1911 - 4 Jan. 1998) was a labor leader and lifelong social activist known as a strong advocate for human rights. She was born in Braddock, Pennsylvania to Lucy (Pokrzewicki) and Adam Podowski. The family moved to the southeast side of Cleveland when she was eight. At sixteen, Podojil started working at the CLEVELAND WORSTED MILL CO., a textile factory on the city's southeast side, where she helped organize a union at the plant. When the plant closed, she became a national field organizer for the Textile Workers Union, helping to organize unions in Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Podojil later worked at Phoenix Dye Works, where she helped found Local 1148 of the Textile Workers Union and served as president for ten years.

After retiring, Mrs. Podojil joined the UNITED LABOR AGENCY as an outreach worker, specializing in senior citizen issues. Her work included finding emergency shelter and health care for impoverished older people. Through her efforts, a shelter for homeless older people opened on Lake Avenue in 1977. The shelter remained open for ten years. Podojil was a familiar figure at City Hall, where she was often found sitting in the front row wearing a distinctive white hat and a "Senior Power" button. She testified at state and federal hearings as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, and she was a trustee at St. Augustine Manor. Podojil had a heart attack in 1981 and against the advice of doctors, she continued working up to 80 hours a week. Two months after the heart attack, she participated in the Solidarity Day March. While Podojil served as a senior intern for Rep. Mary Rose Oakar, she was awarded a grant to study care for the elderly in Sweeden and Denmark.

In 1929, when Podojil was seventeen, her parents arranged her marriage to a man ten years her senior. Her husband Vincent, a steelworker and carpenter, died in 1981. They had five children, Anna S. Kuznik, Lucille Sas, Rose Ivers, Vincent James, and Anthony Paul. Podojil died in her home and is buried in All Saints Cemetery.