Skip to Main Content

The Rediscovery of Working-Class Americans (April 2021): Working-Class Women

By David Cullen

Working-Class Women

The first two generations of labor historians also tended to overlook one half of the working class: women. The third generation has begun to correct this omission. Dennis Deslippe presents a survey of women workers in “Rights, Not Roses”: Unions and the Rise of Working-Class Feminism, 1945–80, as do Silke Roth’s Building Movement Bridges: The Coalition of Labor Union Women and Ruth Milkman’s edited volume Women, Work, and Protest: A Century of U.S. Women’s Labor History. Additionally, Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Nan Enstad and Writing the Wrongs: Eva Valesh and the Rise of Labor Journalism by Elizabeth Faue capture the overlooked but important role women played in shaping the public’s image of the labor movement.

More specific studies of women in workplaces include Kathleen Barry’s Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants; Michelle Haberland’s Striking Beauties: Women Apparel Workers in the U.S. South, 1930–2000; and Jessica Wilkerson’s To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice. Meanwhile, Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household and Premilla Nadsen’s Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement join Eileen Boris’s Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States as reminders of the sometimes-invisible workplace, the home, and the workers who inhabit that space.