Rocking the Boat: Women, Unions, and Change, 1915-1975by Brigid O'Farrell
Pub. Date: 06/28/1996
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Rocking the Boat recognizes the strong, committed women who helped to build the American labor movement. Through the stories of eleven women from a wide range of backgrounds, we experience the turmoil, hardships, and accomplishments of thousands of other union women activists through the period spanning the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, the McCarthy era, the civil rights movement, and the women's movement. These women tell powerful stories that highlight and detail their many roles as workers, trade unionists, and family members. They all faced difficulties in their personal lives, overcame challenges in their unions, and individually and collectively helped improve women's everyday working lives.
Maida Springer-Kemp came from New York City's Harlem, Local 22 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, to represent the AFL-CIO in Africa. In Chicago, Alice Peurala fought for her job in the steel mill and her place in the steel workers' union. Jesse De La Cruz organized farm workers in California, Esther Peterson, organizer, educator, and lobbyist, became an advisor to four U.S. presidents. In chapters based on oral history interviews, these women and others provide new perspectives and practical advice for today's working women. They share an idealistic and practical commitment to the labor movement. As Dorothy Haener of the United Auto Workers and a founding member of the National Organization of Women said, "You have to take a look at how to rock the boat. You don't want to spill yourself out if you can avoid it, but sometimes you have to rock the boat." From these women we, too, learn how to rock the boat.
Brigid O'Farrell is a senior associate at theCenter for Women Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. She has edited or coauthored several books, including Work and Family: Policies for a Changing Workforce. Joyce L. Kornbluh, workers' educator, labor historian, and community activist, recently retired from the Labor Studies Center, University of Michigan. She is the author of A New Deal for Worker's Education: The Workers' Service Program, 1934-1943.
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