Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865-1920

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Overview

This study of feminist labor reform examines how working women pursued equality by claiming new identities for themselves as citizens and as breadwinners. Lara Vapnek tells the story of American labor feminism from the end of the Civil War through the winning of woman suffrage rights, a period in which working women in the nation's industrializing cities launched a series of campaigns to gain economic equality and political power.

Focusing particularly on disjunctions between middle-class and working-class women's notions of independence, Vapnek highlights the specific contributions of reformers such as Jennie Collins, Leonora O'Reilly, and Helen Campbell, and organizations such as the National Consumers' League, the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, and the Women's Trade Union League. Locating households as important sites of class conflict, Breadwinners recovers the class and gender politics behind the marginalization of domestic workers in debates over labor reform while documenting the ways in which working-class women raised their voices on their own behalf.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Reads almost like a prequel to When Everything Changed, a history of American women since 1960 by Gail Collins."—The New York Times

"A quite nuanced discussion of the impact of gender on the forging of class identities from the Gilded Age into the Progressive Era. . . . Highly Recommended"—Choice

"Illuminates the strong connections between labor rights and political rights and enhances our understanding of the promises and the perils of cross-class organizing."—Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252076619
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 11/2/2009
  • Series: Women in American History
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,394,498
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lara Vapnek is an assistant professor of history at St. John's University in Queens, New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Daily Labor of Our Own Hands 2

Chapter 2 Working Girls and White Slaves 34

Chapter 3 Gender, Class, and Consumption 66

Chapter 4 Solving the Servant Problem 102

Chapter 5 Democracy Is Only an Aspiration 129

Notes 165

Index 209

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