Sisters in the Brotherhoods is an oral-history-based study of women who have, against considerable odds, broken the gender barrier to blue-collar employment in various trades in New York City beginning in the 1970s. It is a story of the fight against deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about what constitutes women's work, the middle-class bias of feminism, the daily grinding sexism of male co-workers, and the institutionalised discrimination of employers and unions. It is also the story of some gutsy women who, seeking the material rewards and personal satisfactions of skilled manual labour, have struggled to make a place for themselves among New York City's construction workers, stationary engineers, firefighters, electronic technicians, plumbers, and transit workers. Each story contributes to an important unifying theme: the way women confronted the enormous sexism embedded in union culture and developed new organisational forms to support their struggles, including and especially the United Tradeswomen.
|Publisher:||Palgrave Macmillan US|
|Series:||Palgrave Studies in Oral History Series|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Jane LaTour is a journalist and labor activist living in New York City. She has written for various union publications and managed the Women's Project of the Association for Union Democracy. She is a two-time winner of the Mary Heaton Vorse Award, the top labor journalism award in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As an avid reader I often find that journalists write the best non-fiction books. They know how to write, edit and keep the reader turning the pages, often til 3 or 4 in the morning when you should be sleeping. I'm happy to say that Jane LaTour is both a labor activist and labor journalist and she strongly fits into this category. Ms. LaTour has written a great "David versus Goliath" story chronicling the battles of women to enter predominantly all-male blue-collar industries starting in the 1970's. Groups like United Tradeswomen (founded in 1979) fought for women's rights on the job, got fired workers their jobs back, talked about racism and spurred the growth of other groups in the 1980's. Ms. LaTour chronicles the women's experiences of constant harassment, including threats to their lives by their senior union "brothers" who did not want women in their workplace. On top of racism, sexism and homophobia came fights against corruption and mob control in unions that had functioned for decades as personal fiefdoms of the union leadership. Legislation passed through the rising women's movement opened up more and more job categories to women. Women who were routinely fired for getting pregnant won their cases through the courts and established precedents for all of the women who followed. The 1980's saw major battles against the New York City Fire Department over discriminatory hiring practices and requirements for job tests. Heartbreaking stories of failures and dissension within the women's movement go hand in hand with the victories but overall the book is an inspiring story of triumph with a lot of victories still yet to be won. It should be a required book in any college-level history class.
I still have my hard hat. I know right where it is in my closet. I can still feel the steel of my boot tips on my toes. I kept those too! They¿re in a box in the basement. It¿s been more than 20 years since I walked out the doors of the Milwaukee Road Railroad¿s Wheel shop but those years and blood and sweat and smiles and yes¿tears still remain fresh in my mind¿s eye. As I write this I¿m looking at a shiny, polished, never-used¿railroad spike with ¿Sue. Machinist. 1978¿ written on it in yellow train wheel marker. It was given to me by a machinist brother as a token of friendship and trust from all the guys in the Wheel Shop. I treasure it. That¿s why reading Jane ¿s new book ¿Sisters in the Brotherhoods¿Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City¿ was especially meaningful and gut-wrenching to me. All women who have ever worked in blue-collar trades. All partners, spouses, friends and relatives of those women. All advocates and good solid union brothers¿will live the stories told by the tradeswomen in ¿s book. What a lot of us won¿t ¿re-live¿ are the portions of those stories that describe in horrific detail what it was like working as tradeswomen dealing with the Mafia on construction sites and union job halls in New York City. I look back on my time in the machinist trade in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and can¿t even imagine how magnified and horrific my stress would¿ve been had I been worried about being knifed or locked into bathrooms by mobsters who didn¿t want a woman speaking up about safety or job assignments or other issues that the mob controlled. Sure there were males who didn¿t want me at the railroad back in the 1970¿s¿¿taking the place¿ of men who ¿really needed¿ those jobs. Etc. Etc. Etc. Blah. Blah. Blah. Sure a couple times I was set up to get killed on the job. But these guys were just stupid sexists¿and they were dealt with. If they had been Mafioso¿would I still be here writing this book review. I think not. ¿Sisters in the Brotherhoods¿ is a book filled with courageous and proud tradeswomen speaking their truths and job stories. But it¿s more than that. Sisters¿is a facts-of-life education that will send chills down your spine. And Jane LaTour should be given more than a medal for being brave enough to research and write it!