A LIFETIME OF LABOR by Alice H. Cook

A LIFETIME OF LABOR

The Autobiography of Alice H. Cook

KIRKUS REVIEW

A spirited autobiography by a pioneering feminist, labor organizer, socialist, and scholar. Alice Hanson Cook (1903—98) may not be a household name, but she helped change the American workplace culture by pressing for, among other things, comparable-worth legislation (whereby women earn as much as men for doing the same work) and policies aimed at bettering the lot of working women. In this autobiography, completed just before her death, she writes of her education as an activist. As a pacifist during and just after WWI, she encountered jingoist scorn, as well as the displeasure of her Spanish-American War veteran father, who “deplored my activities”; she later traveled to Weimar Germany to study, and there she witnessed the rise of Nazism, which, like so many other foreign observers, she thought a passing phase of German discontent. Converted to socialism, she returned to the US, lived in a commune informally called “Soviet House,” held a great variety of odd jobs (which prepared her, she writes, to understand the true nature of “women’s work”), and later became a teacher of labor history and labor education at Cornell University. As a scholar, Cook studied the economic role of working women in several cultures, traveling widely through Europe and East Asia; as an activist connected with entities like the Ford Foundation, she was able to advance her case that women should be more justly rewarded for their indispensable contributions in the workplace and at home. Her book closes with reflections on her long struggle for equality—and with a firm slap at the Republican Contract with America, which, she says, “abandoned the helpless by equating poverty with laziness.” A worthy addition to the literature of labor activism and women’s studies. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1999
ISBN: 1-55861-189-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Feminist
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999




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