WOMEN AND THE AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT: From World War I to the Present by Philip S. Foner


Email this review


Completing the long, compelling saga he began in Volume I (From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I), historian Foner (Lincoln University) chronicles women in the labor movement from World War I to the present. He describes homebodies who were seduced into war-industry work while the men trudged to the trenches--women who saved the war effort only to be boosted back into the kitchen at war's end. Arguments grew complex and heated after the war as the Women's Trade Union League and the newly established Women's Bureau lobbied for protective legislation for women, defeating the equal rights amendment advocated by the old-time suffragists of the National Women's Party. Foner traces the erratic reception of women in the trade union movement--welcomed into the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, for example, but excluded from the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen in the same industry. He records the anti-left crusade of the garment workers union which ripped the ILGWU apart and notes the crucial role of women in other industries: furs, millinery, textiles. He traces the role of women through the Great Depression and another great war which again enlisted women in industry, then sent them back to their kitchens. He brings the story up to date with accounts of Local 1199 (the hospital-workers union), the Chicanas of La Huelga, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the impact of the women's movement on organized labor. Major unions, he says, not only have changed their position to support the ERA but now face the fact that no industry can be organized without women. ""Talk is cheap,"" Foner says, but with women today making up almost half the work force, the labor movement is changing. In understanding these changes and possibilities, Foner's exhaustive, carefully documented, and readable history is timely and invaluable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan