Working Women

  1. Interesting reading:

    Feminism and Nursing: An Historical Perspective on Power, Status, and Political Activism in the Nursing Profession
    By Joan I. Roberts and Thetis M. Group
    Praeger Paperback. Westport, Conn. 1995. 400 pages

    Working Women: their history and activism.

    Women - Labor History

    Coalition of Labor Union Women

    Women & The Labor Movement in the United States: A Select Bibliography

    Women in the Workplace
    labor unions

    AFSCME LaborLinks: Women's Labor History

    The Beginning of the Movement for the Working Woman
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 15, '02
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    About -jt

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   -jt
    1903 Women's Trade Union League:

    " Over five million women are at work in the United States according to the 1900 census. Despite such figures, as a nation we superstitiously hug the belief that our women are at home and our children at school. As a whole the community is reluctant to face the situation frankly and seriously, that women no longer spin and weave and card, no longer make the butter and the cheese, scarcely sew and put the preserves at home, but accomplish these same industries in the factories, in open competition with men, and except in the relatively few instances of trade organization, in competition with each other...."

    - Lillian Wald, RN
    promoting the creation of Labor Unions for working women in 1903
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 16, '02
  4. by   -jt
    actual newspaper accounts & photos of the disaster of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company - March 25, 1911 in New York City, after which nurse activists and working women organized, unionized & demanded safer working environments. Their action resulted in the public fire safety laws we have today:

    T R I A N G L E F I R E
  5. by   -jt
    could have been written today:

    "My name is Rose Schneiderman, and I was born in some small city of Russian Poland. I don't know the name of the city, and have no memory of that part of my childhood. When I was about five years of age my parents brought me to this country and we settled in New York.

    So my earliest recollections are of living in a crowded street among the East Side Jews, for we also are Jews.

    My father got work as a tailor, and we lived in two rooms on Eldridge Street, and did very well, though not so well as in Russia, because mother and father both earned money [there], and here father alone earned the money, while mother attended to the house. There were then two other children besides me, a boy of three, and one of five.

    I went to school until I was nine years old, enjoying it thoroughly and making great progress, but then my father died of brain fever and mother was left with three children and another one coming. So I had to stay at home to help her and she went out to look for work.

    A month later the baby was born, and mother got work in a fur house, earning about $6 a week and afterward $8 a week, for she was clever and steady.

    I was the house worker, preparing the meals and looking after the other children--the baby, a little girl of six years, and a boy of nine. I managed very well, tho the meals were not very elaborate. I could cook simple things like porridge, coffee and eggs, and mother used to prepare the meat before she went away in the morning, so that all I had to do was to put it in the pan at night.

    I was finally released by my little sister being taken by an aunt, and the two boys going to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, which is a splendid institution, and turns out good men. One of these brothers is now a student at City College, and the other is a page in the Stock Exchange.

    When the other children were sent away mother was able to send me back to school, and I stayed in this school (Houston Grammar) till I had reached the Sixth Grammar Grade.

    Then I had to leave in order to help support the family. I got a place in Hearn's as a cash girl, and after working there three weeks changed to Ridley's, where I remained for two and a half years. I finally left because the pay was so very poor and there did not seem to be any chance of advancement, and a friend told me I could do better making caps.

    So I got a place in the factory of Hein & Fox. The hours were from 8am to 6pm, and we made all sorts of linings -- or, rather, we stitched in the linings -- golf caps, yachting caps, etc. It was piece work, and we received from 3 1/2 cents to 10 cents a dozen, according to the different grades. By working hard we could make an average of about $5 a week. We would have made more but had to provide our own machines, which cost us $45, we were paying for them on the installment plan. We paid $5 down and $1 a month after that.

    I learned the business in about two months, and then made as much as the others, and was consequently doing quite well when the factory burned down, destroying all our machines--150 of them. This was very hard on the girls who had paid for their machines. It was not so bad for me, as I had only paid a little of what I owed.

    The bosses got $500,000 insurance, so I heard, but they never gave the girls a cent to help them bear their losses. I think they could have given them $10 anyway.

    Soon work went on again in four lofts, and a little later I became assistant sample maker. This is a poistion which, tho' coveted by many, pays better in glory than in cash. It was still piece work, and tho' the pay per dozen was better, the work demanded was of a higher quality, and one could not rush through samples as through the other caps. So I still could average only $5 per week.

    After I had been working as a cap maker for three years it began to dawn on me that we girls needed an organization. The men had organized already and had gained some advantages, but the bosses had lost nothing, as they took it out on us.

    We were helpless; no one girl dare stand up anything alone. Matters kept getting worse. The bosses kept making reductions in our pay, half a cent a dozen at a time. It did not sound important, but at the end of the week we found a difference.

    We didn't complain to the bosses; we didn't say anything except to each other. There was no use. The bosses would not pay any attention uless we were like the men and could make them attend.

    One girl would say that she didn't think she could make caps for the new price, but another would say that she thought she would make up for the reduction by working a little harder, and then the first would tell herself, "If she can do it, why can't I?" They didn't see how they were wasting their strength..

    A new girl from another shop got in among us. She was Miss Bessie Brout, and she talked organization as a remedy for our ills. She was radical and progressive , and she stimulated thoughts which were already in our minds before she came.

    Finally Miss Brout and I and another girl went to the National Board of United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers when it was in session, and asked them to organize the girls. They asked us, "How many of you are there willing to be organized?" "In the first place about twelve," we said.

    We argued that the union label would force the bosses to organize their girls, and if there was a girl's union in existence the bosses could not use the union label unless their girls belonged to the union. When Fox found out what had happened he discharged Miss Brout, and probably would have discharged me but that I was a sample maker and not so easy to replace.

    In a few weeks we had all the girls in the organization, because the men told the girls that they must enter the union or they would not be allowed to work in the shop.

    Then came a big strike. Price lists for the coming session were given in to the bosses, to which they did not agree. After some wrangling a strike was declared in five of the biggest factories. There are 30 factories in the city. About 100 girls went out.

    The result was a victory, which netted us--I mean the girls--$2 increase in our wages on average. All the time our union was progressing very nicely. There were lectures to make us understand what trade unionism is and our real position in the labor movement.
    I read up on the subject and grew more and more interested, and after a time I became a member of the National Board, and had duties and responsibilities that kept me busy after my day's work was done.

    But all was not lovely by any means, for the bosses were not at all pleased with their beating and had determined to fight again. They agreed among themselves that after the 26th of December, 1904, they would run their shops on the "open shop" system:

    Notice: This shop will be run on the open shop system, the bosses having the right to engage and discharge employees as they see fit, whether the latter are union or nonunion.

    Of course we knew that this "open shop" meant an attack on the union. The bosses intended gradually to get rid of us, employing in our place child labor and raw immigrant girls who would work for next to nothing. Word was sent out and all the workers stopped, and laying down their scissors and other tools, marched out, some of them singing. .

    We were out for thirteen weeks, and the girls established their reputation. They were on picket duty from seven oclock in the morning till six oclock in the evening, and gained over many of the non-union workers by appeals to them to quit working against us.

    Our theory was that if properly approached and talked to, few would be found who would resist our offer to take them into our organization. No right thinking person desires to injure another. We did not believe in violence and never employed it..

    During this period we girls each received $3 a week paid us by the National Board. We were greatly helped by the other unions, because the open shop issue was a tremendous one, and this was the second fight which the bosses had conducted for it.
    Their first was with the tailors, whom they beat.

    If they could now beat us, the outlook for unionism would be bad. Some were aided and we stuck out, and won a glorious victory all along the line. That was only last week. The shops are open now for all union hands and for them only. (closed shop system)..

    The bosses try to represent this open shop issue as tho' they were fighting a battle for the public, but really it is nothing of the sort. The open shop is a weapon to break the unions and set men once more cutting each other's throats by individual competition. Why there was a time in the cap trade when men worked fourteen hours a day, and then took the heads of their machines home in bags setting them up on stands, put mattresses underneath to deaden the sound and worked away till far into the morning.

    We don't want such slavery as that to come back. The girls and women by their meetings and discussions come to understand and sympathize with each other, and more and more easily they act together. It is the only way in which they can hope to hold what they now have or better present conditions. Certainly there is no hope for mercy of the bosses..

    Each boss does the best he can for himself with no thought of the other bosses, and that compels each to gouge and squeeze his hands to the last penny in order to make a profit. So we must stand together to resist, for we will get what we can take--just that and no more..."
    - Rose Schneiderman
    Ladies Garment Workers - 1903 !
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 16, '02
  6. by   -jt
    "JUST a nurse"......

    <<<Lavinia Lloyd Dock, R.N.

    Lavinia Lloyd Dock was one of nursings most colorful and influential leaders. A graduate of Bellevue Hospitals training school for nurses in NYC, Dock held positions in both hospitals and community agencies, and worked at the Henry Street Settlement for nearly twenty years. A fierce advocate of legislation to regulate nursing, she authored the influential and classic article, "What We May Expect from the Law," in the first issue of the American Journal of Nursing. When she realized many of nursings problems were part of the broader issue of womens rights, she involved herself wholeheartedly in the suffrage movement. As author of the first nurses manual on drugs, the first definitive history of nursing and hundreds of columns, Dock was a catalyst for improved understanding and communications within the global nursing community. She was instrumental in the early development of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, and the International Council of Nurses, and was a charter member of the New York State Nurses Association.......>>

    <<Lillian D. Wald, R.N.

    Lillian D. Wald was a public health nurse and social reformer, and a graduate of the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses in NYC. In 1893, she established the Henry Street Settlement to provide professional nursing services to Manhattans immigrant poor in their homes. Wald believed nurses could be most effective if they lived in, and participated in, the activities of the neighborhood they served. The Henry Street Settlement eventually provided civic, educational, and social activities as well as nursing services. Championing the causes of public health nursing, housing reform, suffrage, world peace, and the rights of women, children, immigrants and working people, Wald became an influential leader in city, state, and national politics. Her tireless efforts to link the health of children with the health of nations made her a model of achievement, caring, and integrity throughout her lifetime. Although Wald achieved international recognition, her efforts were always grounded in the belief that the world was simply an expanded version of the culturally diverse neighborhood...... She is credited as the originator of public health nursing, initiator of the first public school nursing program, founder of the Childrens Bureau, founding member of the NAACP, and founder and first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. Wald was well known in the social settlement movement, and active in the Womens Trade Union League, promoting the creation of unions for working women, womens suffrage, and peace movements. As author, community activist, and social reformer, she traveled widely and her influence was international, yet she remained a vital part of the Henry Street neighborhood.>>

    <<Adah Belle Samuels Thoms, R.N.

    Adah Belle Samuels Thoms, a crusader for increased educational and professional opportunities for black nurses, graduated from the Lincoln Hospital and Home Training School in the Bronx, NYC. She was employed at Lincoln Hospital as operating room nurse, surgical nursing supervisor, assistant director of nurses, and acting director of the training school. Throughout her career she worked through her membership in professional associations for the betterment of black nurses. During World War I, Thoms persuaded the American Red Cross Nursing Service to accept black nurses, thus making them eligible for service in the Army Nurse Corps. She was a leader in the formation of the National Association of Colored graduate Nurses (NACGN), and later served as its president. She was an early member of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing (NOPHN), and actively worked for the integration and consolidation of NACGN and NOPHN into the American Nurses Association. Thoms was a member of the New York State Nurses Association through the institutional membership of her alumnae association.

    Later in life, she wrote Pathfinders , the first history of American black nursing, and was the first recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award.>>

    <<Mabel Keaton Staupers, RN

    Mabel Keaton Staupers devoted her career to breaking down color barriers in health care services and the profession of nursing. A graduate of Freedmans Hospital School of Nursing, she worked as a private duty nurse, organized the first private facility in Harlem that allowed African American physicians to treat their patients, and surveyed the health care needs in Harlem for the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association. As Executive Secretary and later president of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), Staupers strengthened the association through coalition building, improving the quality of publications, and increasing publicity. During World War II, she led NACGNs campaign to gain full acceptance of African American nurses into the military, increase minority recruitment into nursing, and upgrade nursing education for African American students. By wars end, both the Army and Navy Nurse Corps accepted African American applicants, largely due to Staupers efforts.

    Her book, No Time for Prejudice , documents the struggles, accomplishments, and events of her era.>>
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '02
  7. by   nightingale
    Thanks jt (again):

    Great information. I have often thought I need to take a class on feminism... good luck finding one in Wyoming... lol.. although we do boast as the first state giving women the right to vote.

    I will look for the first book mentioned in the library.

    Thanks again...

  8. by   -jt
    For Every Woman Who Wants to Make Changes on the Job:

    Working Women Working Together - >>>>>>
  9. by   Jenny P
    Hey, Nightingale, my sister used to teach women's studies over in Rock Springs at the college there; then went on to teach a course on women in non-traditional vocations there. So Wyoming does offer women's studies, etc.; just got to look for it. LOL! My sister and her husband moved to Helena, Mont. about 4 years ago, though, so I don't know if those classes are still in progress or not.

    Julie, you have some good stuff here. I enjoy hiistory and frequent some different historical web sites; you've given me some new places to check out. Thanks!

  10. by   micro
    -jt......keep this going.........we are listening.......truly we are......
  11. by   semstr
    jt, as always: great information!
    Thank you!!

    Take care, Renee
    PS: reading tip: the books "Midwife" and "the midwife's advice" by Gay Courter. These books are fiction, but there are so many true things in there.
  12. by   -jt
    I am no feminist by any means & would probably be thrown out of a NOW meeting, but I do think that if more nurses knew the history of their own profession & knew of all the work that NURSE activists & women workers in general have done collectively in the past 100+ years to get nursing & women's employment to where it is, they would realize that nurse activism is nothing new & its the only way things get better. If they knew that it was nurses & other working women unionizing & fighting for laws they needed - like child labor laws, disability laws, workplace safety laws, etc, they would see that "union" is not a dirty word. In fact, its been the only way improvements came about.

    After the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, where so many women & girls were killed, it was working WOMEN - nurses included - who stormed thru NYC, organized, unionized & demanded fire safety & workplace safety laws - which we still have today. Think of those unionized women workers every time you see a fire extinguisher in your workplace - can anyone then say unions are a bad thing?

    The only thing that has ever made a difference is when the workers forced it themselves. Everytime I hear nurses today say theyre too "afraid" to stand up for themselves, I cringe thinking of poor Lavinia, Lillian, Adah Belle, Mabel, and all the rest turning over in their graves! After all they did for us, I think we OWE it to them to stand up for ourselves.

    The First 100 Years of the Nursing Profession - lots of RN activism there:

    "Honoring Our Past - Building Our Future - The 100 Year History"
    by Julie Pavri, RN

    The book recounts in 200 pages & 136 photos the story of the early history of nursing in the US, the birth of the nations first state nurses association (NY), the effect it had on the nursing profession throughout the country, & the remarkable nurse members who worked over the last 100 yrs to become powerful advocates for nurses and the leading representatives for RN collective bargaining, and how they set the standard for the nursing profession & nurses in the workplace across the nation -including the labor battles they fought as union nurses.

    Theres a lot of nurse activism history there besides those 4 RNs who were mentioned in the above posts & its not just about NY.... its about how nursing came to be a profession in this country... and it shows how nurse activism made that happen.

    If you cant find it at the bookstore - contact NYSNA for info on where to get it.
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '02
  13. by   -jt
    Nurses are not unlike everybody else. Sometimes it has to hurt enough before people stop being afraid to do something. Look at how long the working women in the garment industry in NYC were organizing & striking, & fighting for better working conditions - starting around 1903. The pro-union ladies met up against those ladies who were too afraid to stand up for themselves & it makes the fight that much harder when you are struggling to make things better but your own people are sabotaging the effort because of their fear of going against the employer. But united you stand, divided you beg.....

    "My name is Pauline Newman. Id like to tell you about the kind of world we lived in 85 years ago because all of you probably werent even born then. That world 85 years ago was a world of incredible exploitation of men, women, and children.

    I went to work for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1901. The corner of the shop resembled a kindergarten because we were so young - eigth, nine, ten years old. It was a world of greed; the human being did not mean anything. The hours were from half past 7 in the morning until half past six in the evening....when it wasnt busy. When the season was "on", we worked until nine o'clock at night. No overtime pay. Not even supper money.

    My wages as a youngster were one dollar fifty cent...... for a seven-day week. I sounds exaggerated, but it is not. It is quite true. If you worked there long enough...AND were got a fifty cent per week increase.....every year. So, by the time I left the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1909, my wages were up to five dollars fifty cent. And that was quite a wage in those days.....

    I remember when we walked out in 1909. It was after the call of the local 25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union meeting in New York City. Sister Clara Lemlich rose to speak, stating:

    'I am a working girl, one of those who are now on strike against INTOLERABLE conditions. I am TIRED of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared - NOW!'

    Thousands upon thousands left the factories from every side, all of them walking down toward Union Square. It was November. The cold winter was just around the corner. We had no fur coats to keep us warm..... and yet.... there was a spirit that led us on and on.... until we got to some hall to keep warm, out of the wind and out of the least for the time being.

    I can see the young people - mostly women - walking down and not caring what might happen. The spirit.... I think the spirit of a Conqueror led them on. We did not know what was in store for us, did not really think of the hunger, the cold, the loneliness,or what could happen. We just did not care on that particular day....... That was OUR day..."
    - Pauline Newman

    <<William English Walling, Mary Dreier, Helen Marot, Mary E. McDowell, Leonora O'Reilly and Lillian D. Wald, RN were among the founders in 1909 of the NAACP, and this new organization helped support the Shirtwaist Strike by thwarting an effort of the managers to bring in black strikebreakers.........>>

    <In mid-December of 1909, the Waist and Dressmakers Manufacturers' Association presented a contract to the strikers, agreeing to a fifty-two-hour work week, piece-rate increases, the abolition of fines, and the improvement of sanitary conditions, but the Association refused to recognize the union. The
    strikers REJECTED this OPEN-SHOP plan.

    Historians have typically viewed a mass meeting at Carnegie Hall on January 2, 1910 as the climax of the shirtwaist strike. One account noted the evening's most important speeches:

    "Morris Hillquit reminded the audience that the union alone was powerless to correct social injustice, while Leonora O'Reilly evoked the urgent need of union rights and the legal right to picket."

    After the strikers rejected the open-shop plan, many upper-class women "who had based their support of the strike on a romantic conception of sisterhood abruptly lost interest." The strike's end was not entirely successful. More than 150 large firms did not settle and many refused to grant the demands of Local No. 25 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). BUT, it was the beginning of a movement for the working woman.

    The Woman's Trade Union League's (which Lillian Wald, RN was actively involved in) presence during the strike attracted many working women to their organization. The strike proved a turning point for the League: In the years before 1909, trade committees were headed by allies; but by 1910, as a result of this strike, ALL WERE NOW CHAIRED BY WORKING WOMEN."

    The strike also proved to be a turning point for trade unionism in the women's garment industry in New York City. The ILGWU grew dramatically during the strike and although the strike ended inconclusively in February, the ILGWU gained a new status. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union's new strength permitted it to negotiate a settlement to the 1910 cloakmakers' strike, known as the Protocol of Peace.

    The Protocol brought stability to the New York City garment industry over the next six years and growth to the ILGWU.>>

    All because those working women stood up for themselves.
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '02
  14. by   -jt
    Then came the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 & suddenly everybody finally hurt enough:

    <<"My name is Rose Schneiderman. I am a garment worker and have been organizing garment workers for years. It is my friends and sisters who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire 2 months ago. We will never forget March 25th, 1911. We will never forget the 146 women and girls who died in a fire because they could not escape the flames. The company had locked the doors to the stairs from the outside to prevent employees' stealing or escape; the fire ladders could not reach that high; there were no fire extinguishers; and there was only one fire escape which would have taken more than 3 hours to empty the building.

    I could see smoke pouring from the eighth and ninth floors. That was were the Triangle Shirtwaist Company had its rooms. The faces of young women and girls pressed up against the windows - hundreds of screaming heads.
    At one window a young man helped a girl onto the sill.......and let her drop..... as gently as if he was helping her into a streetcar.

    That is when I heard my first "thud".

    He brought another girl to the sill. She kissed him. Then he held her in space..... and dropped her. In a flash, he was out of the window himself. The girls had no other way out.

    The "thuds" of the falling bodies grew so loud I thought theyd be heard all over New York City.....

    So tonight we gather at the Metropolitan Opera House to DEMAND A FIRE PREVENTION BUREAU, MORE FACTORY INSPECTORS and COMPENSATION FOR THE FAMILIES. I would be a traitor to these burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship! This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city!

    Each week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed! The life of men and women is so cheap and property so sacred. There are so many of us for one job that it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.

    We have tried you citizens - you of the middle and upper classes -and we are trying you now! You have but a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and daughters and sisters by way of a charity gift. But EVERY time workers come out in the ONLY way they know to PROTEST AGAINST CONDITIONS WHICH ARE UNBEARABLE, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.

    I cannot talk fellowship to you who have gathered here!
    Too much blood has been spilled! I know from my own experience IT IS UP TO THE WORKING PEOPLE TO SAVE OURSELVES.

    The ONLY way to save ourselves is by a strong working class movement!"
    - Rose Schneiderman
    Ladies Garment Workers Union
    NYC - 1911 >>

    and thats how we got fire safety laws, child labor laws, & workmans compensation laws.

    now in the year 2002, what are nurses so afraid of?
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '02