Rocking the Boat: Women, Unions, and Change, 1915-1975

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New Brunswick, NJ 1996 Hard cover Good. Glued binding. Cloth over boards. 317 p.

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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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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These two collections of oral histories document women's activities in the labor movements of the 20th century. Both books omit the questions posed and construct a seamless narrative of the women's words, broken only by short paragraphs of textual explanation or introductory remarks. Both contain remarkable stories. Moore's collection highlights the struggle of women to work in the mines for equal pay and equal respect. The women relate their experiences working in the mines (both company and family-owned) and recall strikes, union activities, and family hardships. Testimony is drawn from both union members and union activists; from whites, African Americans, and Native Americans; and primarily from the Appalachian region. Moore, a former miner and associate editor of the United Mine Worker's Journal, has produced an astounding collection that gives the scholar and casual reader alike an important view of women's lives. O'Farrell and Kornbluh's collection is smalleronly 11 women to Moore's 25with a wider range. The authors interviewed women activists from such unions as the American Federation of Teachers, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Both academics, the authors find common themes of women in unions such as the need for education, federal involvement, and women's participation and the importance of women in leadership positions and cross-union solidarity. This collection is a more academic treatment than Moore's volume, which may be the better choice for most libraries. Where affordable, both volumes are highly recommended for all libraries.Jenny Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813522685
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1996
  • Pages: 325
  • Lexile: 1070L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.82 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 An Overview: And Not Falling Out 1
Ch. 2 Equal Is Equal, Brothers: Lilian Herstein, American Federation of Teachers (1886-1983) 10
Ch. 3 First a Troublemaker, Then a Troubleshooter: Carmen Lucia, United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers International Union (1902-1985) 34
Ch. 4 You Can't Giddyup by Saying Whoa: Esther Peterson, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1906-) 58
Ch. 5 We Did Change Some Attitudes: Maida Springer-Kemp, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (1910-) 84
Ch. 6 Forty Years I'm Secretary-Treasurer of the Local: Mary Callahan, International Union of Electrical Workers (1914-1981) 110
Ch. 7 The Challenge Is Still There: Ah Quon McElrath, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (1915-) 135
Ch. 8 Sometimes You Have to Rock the Boat: Dorothy Haener, United Auto Workers (1918-) 159
Ch. 9 The Vote Does Make a Difference: Fannie Allen Neal, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1919-1990) 184
Ch. 10 Just Sign a Contract and You Can Call Me Anything: Jessie De La Cruz, United Farm Workers of America (1919-) 208
Ch. 11 Somebody Has to Have the Guts: Catherine Conroy, Communications Workers of America (1920-1989) 231
Ch. 12 People in the Plant Looked on Me as a Fighter: Alice Peurala, United Steelworkers of America (1928-1986) 257
Postscript: Union Update 279
Notes 281
Bibliography 301
Index 307
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