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Labor History: Published Primary Sources -- Women's Labor History

A guide to U.S. labor history resources in NYU's Tamiment Library and beyond.

Published Primary Sources - Women's Labor History

Following is a selection of published primary sources related to women's labor history.  The information here was adpated from Kathleen Barry's 2000 Bibliography of Sources in U.S. Women's History.  It includes collections of correspondence, photographs, songs, oral history transcripts, films, government documents, and other sources available in the Tamiment Library. 

Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. The Inheritance: Adapted from the 50th Anniversary Film of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, 1964. Over one hundred historical photos, with brief captions and a running narrative, that tell story of garment workers and their union.

Argersinger, Jo Ann.  The Triangle Fire:  A Brief History with DocumentsBoston:  Bedford-St. Martin's, 2009.  From the publisher:  Includes, "[D]ocuments from newspaper reports to the personal stories of labor agitators and fire survivors continue the story, giving voice to the 'girl strikers,' their enemies and upper-class allies in the effort to reform the garment industry, and the public outrage that followed the fire. Document headnotes, a chronology, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and an index enrich students’ understanding of this historical moment."

Baxandall, Rosalyn, and Linda Gordon, eds. America's Working Women: A Documentary History, 1600 to the Present. New York: Norton, 1995. Expanded and revised version of important 1976 collection, co-edited with Susan Reverby. Includes diverse selections from diaries, popular magazines, oral histories, letters, songs, fiction, etc., showing women's work and activism in broad array of contexts.

Blewett, Mary H., ed. The Last Generation: Work and Life in the Textile Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1910-1960. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. Edited collection of textile workers' oral histories, interwoven with historical context and analysis.

Blewett, Mary H. We Will Rise in Our Might: Workingwomen's Voices from Nineteenth-Century New England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. Excerpts of primary documents, placed in detailed historical context.

Brownlee, W. Elliot, and Mary M. Brownlee. Women in the American Economy: A Documentary History, 1675 to 1929  New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976. Documents selected to show the diversity of women's attitudes toward work and historical complexity of their participation in the marketplace.

Bobbins & Bayonets: Documentary Sources on the Lawrence, Massachusetts Textile Strike. United States: Random House, 197[?]. Includes photos, documents, and narratives of the famous 1912 textile strike involving many immigrant women workers and the IWW.

Boris, Eileen, and Nelson Lichtenstein. Major Problems in the History of American Workers: Documents and Essays. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1991.

Byerly, Victoria. Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls: Personal Histories of Womanhood and Poverty in the South. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, Cornell University, 1986. Oral histories of black and white women workers in North Carolina's cotton mill villages.

Cantarow, Ellen, with Susan O'Malley and Sharon Strom. Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1980. Oral histories of three activists: Florence Luscomb (suffrage, labor, peace), Ella Baker (civil rights), and Jessie Lopez de la Cruz (farmworkers' rights).

Comerford, Georgeen. 1199, A Family Portrait: Photographs of Hospital Workers. New York: District 1199, Cultural Center, Inc., 1984. Around forty photographs, with brief introductory essay. Based on an exhibit for 1199's "Bread & Roses" Cultural Project.

Craig, Bette, and Joyce Kornbluh. I Just Wanted Someone to Know: A Documentary Play. Brooklyn, NY: Smyrna Press, 1981. Dramatic presentation of twenty-six wage-earning women's oral histories of life and work in various fields over the twentieth century.

Eisenberg, Susan. We'll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1998. Oral histories of women who began to integrate the male world of construction in the late 1970s but have remained a very small and embattled minority in the building trades.

Fields, Leslie Leyland. The Entangling Net: Alaska's Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997. Twenty women discuss their work in a dangerous and male-dominated occupation.

Foner, Philip S., and Ronald L. Lewis, eds. Black Workers: A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.

Gluck, Sherna Berger. Rosie the Riveter Revisited: Women, the War, and Social Change. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Oral histories of ten women who were aircraft industry workers in California during World War II. Places war work in the context of their diverse life-long experiences.

Hine, Lewis W. Women at Work: 153 Photographs. Ed. Jonathan L. Doherty. Rochester and NY, NY: George Eastman House; In Association with Dover Publications, 1981. Collection of portraits by the pioneering social-documentary photographer of women in factories, homework, service, and other employments from 1907 to 1938.

Honey, Maureen, ed. Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. Photos, essays, fiction, and poetry by and about black women collected from the leading African-American periodicals of the era. Editor's introduction places them in historical context of unique opportunities and enduring racism and sexism surrounding war work, and highlights the unacknowledged artistic contributions they represent.

International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. The Position of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in Relation to CIO and AFL, 1934-1938, Chronicled in Documents and Records. New York: International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, 1938. A booklet that reprints in chronological order declarations, resolutions, public statements and official editorial comments on the ILGWU's views of the CIO and its relations with both it and its older rival in the 1930s, the AFL.

Jensen, Joan M. With These Hands: Women Working on the Land. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1981. Journals, letters, oral histories, myths, fiction, and other oral and literary sources documenting the experiences of some of the millions of Native American, Latina, Asian American, African American and Euro-American women who have done agricultural labor from the early 19th century through the 1980s.

LaTour, Jane.  Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City.  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. "

Lynip, Ryllis (Alexander) Goslin, and Omar Pancoast Goslin. Growing Up: 21 Years of Education with the I.L.G.W.U. New York: Educational Department, International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, 1938. A thoroughly illustrated historical review of the union's many educational and cultural programs.

Martin, Molly, ed.; Photographs by Sandy Thacker. Hard-Hatted Women: Life on the Job. 2nd ed. Seattle: Seal Press, 1997. Twenty-six women describe life on the job in a variety of traditionally male trades.

Michelson, Maureen R., and Michael R. Dressler, eds. Women & Work: Photographs and Personal Writings. Pasadena, Calif.: New Sage Press, 1988. Eighty-five women in diverse fields talk about their jobs and lives, and are photographed at work. Chosen as a "best book for young adults" by American Library Association.

National Women's Trade Union League of America. Songs, First International Congress of Working Women, Washington, DC, October, 1919. Chicago: National Women's Trade Union League of America, 1919. Lyrics to sixteen songs, with some music.

New York State Federation of Teachers Unions. Sing With the Union. Edited by Anne Meeropol, assisted by Fred Rosenberg; cover design by Juleon. Albany, NY: New York State Federation of Teachers Unions, 19[??]. Includes lyrics to twenty-six songs.

Niemann, Linda; Photographs by Lina Bertucci. Railroad Voices. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. A collective memoir/oral history of the world of work on railroads, with many photographs, authored by two of the first women to work as "brakemen."  

O'Farrell, Brigid, and Joyce L. Kornbluh, eds. Rocking the Boat: Union Women's Voices, 1915-1975. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996. Produced to make accessible to broader audience some of the interviews from The Twentieth Century Trade Union Woman, Vehicle for Social Change oral history project (see listing below). Provides eleven oral histories of activists.

Perkins, Frances. The Reminiscences of Frances Perkins [microform]. Glen Rock, NJ: Microfilming Corp. of America, 1977. 61 microfiches, from New York Times Oral History Program and Columbia University Oral History Collection; pt. 3, no. 182. Microfiche of typescript originally issued in nine books. Transcript of interviews conducted by Dean Albertson in Washington, DC, during the years 1951 through 1955. Includes indexes.

Program on Women and Work at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. The Twentieth Century Trade Union Woman, Vehicle for Social Change [microform]: Oral History Project. Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1979- , ©1978- . Transcripts of interviews with many women union activists, famous organizers such as Pauline Newman as well as many lesser-known but important figures.

Schroedel, Jean Reith. Alone in a Crowd: Women in the Trades Tell their Stories. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985. Oral histories of diverse group of Seattle women in non-traditional jobs, presented under five themes: feminism, occupational health and safety, race, union, and family.

Seifer, Nancy. Nobody Speaks For Me! Self-Portraits of American Working Class Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976. Thematically-organized oral histories of ten women whose lives generally illustrate transformations from housewives to activists.

Sidel, Ruth. Urban Survival: The World of Working-Class Women. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995, ©1978. Oral histories of eight working-class women of different ages and races, who discuss their concerns about child care, healthcare, social services, job insecurity, etc., and their survival strategies.

Wallerstein, Jane.  Voices from the Paterson Silk Mills.  Charleston, SC:  Arcadia Publishing, 2000.  Interviews and images of immigrant mill workers and mill owners alike.

Wise, Nancy Baker, and Christy Wise. A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994. Oral histories of around one hundred women who discuss their experiences in industrial, clerical, professional, and service work during WWII.