By Karen Pastorello
At a New York City suffrage parade in the fall of 1912, Wage Earner’s Suffrage League vice-president Leonora O’Reilly led a delegation of working women toward Union Square toting a sign that read “We Want the Vote for Fire Protection.” Other women marching held signs depicting the “Asch Building Fire” that had ripped through the Triangle Shirtwaist Company the previous year. The industrial tragedy shook the city and exposed the plight of urban immigrant workers to the rest of the world for the first time in history. For activists already engaged in working to better the lives of industrial workers, women labor activists’ reaction to the tragedy directly linked the possibility of improving working women’s lives to the vote. Women in the United States felt powerless in the workplace and the broader world around them. They did not have the right to influence legislation that would affect their daily lives. They did not have the right to vote. Suffrage would give working-class women another weapon to fight against the harsh conditions of their labor.
By Sandra Roff
Teaching as a profession aims to achieve the most noble of principles — educating children to be responsible, productive citizens. Unfortunately, the teachers hired in the early years of the new republic and well into the nineteenth century were usually untrained and unprepared for the job ahead. The civic-minded movers and shakers in New York City at the time were interested in the education of its youth, but the path to securing qualified teachers for the schools was slow to be realized.
“Invaders”: Black Ladies of the ILGWU and the Emergence of the Early Civil Rights Movement in New York City
By Janette Gayle
Black female industrial workers are strikingly absent from literature on the Great Migration and black industrial labor in the twentieth century. Studies like Joe William Trotter Jr.’s Black Milwaukee, James R. Grossman’s Land of Hope, Richard W. Thomas’s Life for Us Is What We Make It, and Peter Gottlieb’s Making Their Own Way have advanced our understanding of black industrial workers and their importance in the making of black communities in the Midwest and northern urban industrial cities, but they focus almost exclusively on the experiences of skilled men. Skilled women are virtually absent from these studies. But women were there. If we look closely at the sources, another picture comes into focus, one in which women such as Maida Springer Kemp, Eldica Riley, Edith Ransom, and thousands of others were indeed part of the black industrial workforce in New York City. If we look closely we will also see that the Great Migration was not a completely unskilled migration. Many migrants -- men as well as women -- were skilled workers. The ones who caught my eye were the dressmakers.
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