March 2004


Editors : Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin

Published by Alexander Street Press and the

Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender, SUNY Binghamton


About the Journal | Contents

In "How Did Gender and Family Divisions among Shoeworkers Shape the 1860 New England Strike?" Mary H. Blewett argues that the adaptation in 1852 of the sewing machine to stitch light leather and its use in early steam-powered factories resulted in the deterioration of the pre-industrial work of women shoebinders who sewed by hand at home in rural New England and in shoe centers such as Lynn, Massachusetts. Outworkers quickly identified and opposed the threats of mechanization and centralization to their ability to earn wages and contribute to the family wage economy. For other women, the emergence of mechanized stitching in small factories offered a chance of full-time work outside the home at relatively high wages for females. Like the women operatives in early New England textile factories, shoe stitchers, drawn to factories in Essex County, Massachusetts, demanded factory reform. Both groups participated in the New England shoe strike in 1860, the most powerful demonstration of labor unrest prior to the Civil War. These documents demonstrate the potential during the process of mid-nineteenth-century industrialization of a gender/class coalition among women laboring at home and in shoe factories.

In the 1920s feminist and progressive female reformers attempted to use their newly gained electoral citizenship to advance a series of social welfare and reform measures. In the same period female antifeminists garnered energy, political power and support to defeat these measures and question the wisdom of female political involvement. They extended the antiradicalism of the post-World War I Red Scare to characterize female reformers as radicals. In "How Did Women Antifeminists Shape and Limit the Social Reform Movements of the 1920s?" Kim Nielsen analyzes the methods, ideologies, and impact of antifeminists in this period.

Thomas Dublin shows in "How Did the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and Chinese Garment Workers Unite to Organize the 1938 National Dollar Stores Strike?" that although the labor movement in California had demonized Chinese immigrant laborers, countervailing pressures gave trade union leaders reasons for seeking to organize Chinese workers. The very existence of a low-wage Chinese sector in San Francisco manufacturing was a cause for concern among labor leaders in the city and that concern grew in periods of high unemployment such as the Great Depression. This document project explores a moment when the concerns of a national union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and the aspirations of Chinese women garment workers came together and resulted, first, in a significant organizing campaign, and, second, in a successful strike against the largest garment manufacturer in San Francisco's Chinatown. The National Dollar Stores strike marked an important transition in the labor history of Chinese and Chinese-American women in the United States, demonstrating that Chinese women garment workers would organize to improve wages and working conditions and establishing a link between Chinese women garment workers and the nation's leading union in the women's garment industry.

In "How Did Women Shape the Discourse and Further Interracial Cooperation in the Worldwide Mass Movement to 'Free the Scottsboro Boys?'" Sara L. Creed explores the influence that women exerted in the mass movement for justice and civil rights surrounding the 1930s trials of the Scottsboro Boys. Through original documents, drawn largely from the resources of the Tamiment Library at New York University, the project reveals how a variety of female voices, images, sympathies and concerns contributed to and shaped the worldwide campaign that galvanized public opinion and led to major legal victories for representation and due process for all Americans.

Nancy Hewitt argues in "From Wollstonecraft to Mill: What British and European Ideas and Social Movements Influenced the Emergence of Feminism in the Atlantic World, 1792-1869?" that feminist ideas and social movements emerged in Europe, Great Britain, and the United States in an international context that promoted the migration of people and ideas across national boundaries. Between the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (1869), ideas, social movements, and individual feminists migrated across land and sea, generating a powerful new context for the advancement of women's rights. These documents illuminate that process.

As the Civil War approached, many American families were split over the highly emotional subject of slavery. The differences in opinion were particularly extreme when relatives in the North were abolitionists and those in the South were slaveholders. Sherry H. Penney and James D. Livingston, in "How Did Abolitionist Women and Their Slaveholding Relatives Negotiate Their Conflict over the Issue of Slavery?" focus on abolitionists Martha Coffin Pelham Wright (1806-1875) and her daughter Marianna Pelham Mott (1825-1872) and their relationships with their slaveholding Pelham relatives. The project includes correspondence of Martha and Marianna with Martha's brother-in-law William Pelham and three of her nephews. To Martha, it was clear that she was in the right and slaveholders were in the wrong. Many Southerners were equally convinced that they were in the right, as is clear from letters included in this project. Yet Martha, Marianna, and the Pelhams also set great value on family relationships, and their differences over slavery did not significantly damage their ties to one another until the nation went to war.



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