WOMEN AND THE AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I by Philip S. Foner

WOMEN AND THE AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I

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KIRKUS REVIEW

There were lots of other women in the labor movement besides Mother Jones (though she certainly was the only leader who signed her telegrams to the Secretary of Labor ""Mother""), and they are included in this thorough account. Professor Foner (History, Lincoln University) traces women's participation in the labor market and the union movement from colonial piece-working to early 20th-century sweatshops. He depicts the rise and fall of one labor organization after another (the Female Labor Reform Association, the National Labor Union, the Knights of Labor, the Women's Trade Union League, the IWW) and the careers of famous leaders such as Jones, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Rose Schneiderman, and dozens whose names have been forgotten. Foner pays particular attention to the complicated issues of race and social class. White women excluded by men in turn excluded black women; and upper-class women might let working women down, as suffrage boosters did the Working Women's Societies, or help them enormously as the ""mink brigade"" did in the waistmakers' massive ""Strike of the Twenty Thousand."" Against the background of organizing and reorganizing, some moments stand out: quick disasters like the collapse of the Pemberton Mill or the Triangle Fire, and critical struggles like the 1912 Lawrence strike. Throughout this comprehensive history--based largely on primary sources--Foner describes the stubborn fight of determined women to better their condition despite the hostility of owners and male-dominated unions alike. It's a long story, much more ambitious and detailed than Barbara Wertheimer's 1977 We Were There--sometimes tedious, sometimes moving, and in the aggregate invaluable.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan