The History of Women in the Labor Movement

 lowellmill 1843
Female textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts form the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA). Led by organizer Sarah Bagley, they testify before the Massachusetts legislature about workplace risks to health and safety, and petition for a 10-hour work day.
 atlanta1 1866
Newly freed black women, working as laundresses in Jackson, Mississippi, form a union and strike for higher wages.
 StCrispin 1869
Women shoe stitchers from six states form the first national women’s labor organization, the Daughters of St. Crispin.
 leonora 1881
The Knights of Labor, the first large scale national labor federation, agrees to admit women. Leonora O’Reilly, a member of the Knights of Labor, organized a female chapter naming it the United Garment Workers of America. The Atlanta Washerwoman’s Strike sees thousands of Black laundresses on strike for higher wages, respect for their work, and control over how their work was organized.
 200px-Lucy_Parsons.1920 1883
Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), along with her husband Albert Parsons helped find the International Working People’s Association (IWPA).
 afllogo 1886
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is founded. Its first President, Samuel Gompers, denies membership to women.
JaneAddamsJane Addams 1899
The National Consumers’ League is founded by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell to improve working conditions for women.
 ilgwu_strikers_5780pb32f28cp700g 1900
International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is formed by the amalgamation of seven local unions. Lucy Parsons is a key organizer for the new union.
 mother_jones_march 1903
The Women’s Trade Union League, formed at an AFL convention, becomes the first national association dedicated to organizing women workers.  Mary Harris Jones, nicknamed “Mother Jones,” leads a 125-mile march of child workers to bring the evils of child labor to the attention of the President and the national press.
 iww2 1905
The Industrial Workers of the World is founded with the help of organizer Lucy Parsons.
 uprising1909 1909
Female sewers in garment factories are dismissed for union activity. Leonora O’Reilly is influential during the “Uprising of the 20,000” among garment workers.
 Triangle-Fire 1911
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire claims 146 lives of female garment workers, turning a spotlight on unsafe labor practices.
 breadroses 1912
The Bread and Roses strike begun by immigrant women in Massachusetts ends with 23,000 men and women and children on strike and with as many as 20,000 on the picket line. The Department of Labor is created. Massachusetts establishes the first minimum wage law, protecting pay for women and minors.
 ludlow 1914
The Ludlow Massacre during the Colorado miner’s strike kills 13 women and children, and seven men.
 Chicago_Hunger_Riot__Jan_1915__Banner_Cartoon 1915
Lucy Parsons organizes the Chicago Hunger Demonstrations, pushing the AFL, Socialist Party, and Jane Addams’ Hull House to participate in a huge demonstration around class struggles, poverty, and unemployment.
 nfbpwc1 1919
A Women’s War Council is established by the War Department to organize the resources of professional women. The National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs is founded.
 womensbureau 1920
The U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau is founded.
 RosinaTucker 1930
Rosina Tucker helps organize the first Black labor union — the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
 LucyRandolphMason 1931
Lucy Randolph Mason writes, “Standards for Workers in Southern Industry.”
 frances-perkins 1933
President Franklin D. Roosevelt appoints Frances Perkins the first woman cabinet member, as Secretary of Labor. Perkins is instrumental in the creation of Social Security and the New Deal.
 NCNW 1935
The National Council of Negro Women is formed to lobby against racism, sexism, and job discrimination. The Wagner Act creates the National Labor Relations Board.
 Lucy Randolph Mason During a Hearing 1937
Lucy Randolph Mason becomes the Public Relations Representative for the CIO in the South.
Luisa-MorenoLuisa Moreno 1938
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also Federal Wage and Hour Law, establishes a national minimum wage for men and women alike. The wives of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters establish the International Ladies Auxiliary with Rosina Tucker as secretary-treasurer. Luisa Moreno, a Guatemalan immigrant, becomes the first Latina vice president of a major labor union: the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA).
ncssp 1939
Under the leadership of Luisa Moreno, El Congreso Nacional del Pueblo de Habla Hispana (The National Congress of Spanish-Speaking Peoples) is founded as the first national effort to bring together Hispanic workers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
 We_Can_Do_It 1941
During World War II, seven million women become industrial “Rosie the Riveters” and over 400,000 join the military. Workers at Kelsey-Hays Wheel Corporation strike to remove female workers.
 estherpeterson 1944
Esther Peterson becomes the first lobbyist for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union (ACWU).
 Maida_Springer-Kemp 1945
Maida Springer-Kemp, Pan-Africanist and International Labor Leader, became the first African-American woman to represent labor abroad. The Women’s Pay Act of 1945, the first ever legislation to require equal pay, is introduced in the U.S. Congress, but fails.
 saltoftheearth 1950
The Salt of the Earth Strike—the first major strike conducted by women and children—runs from October 1950 until January 1952 in the mines of southern New Mexico. The Women’s Trade Union League is dissolved.
 maida_springer_Kemp 1955
Maida Springer-Kemp begins a 10-year position as an AFL-CIO international representative to Africa.
 bpwf 1956
The Business and Professional Women Foundation is incorporated, to provide research information, career development programs, and scholarships to disadvantaged women, workshops and other training opportunities.
 peterson-esther 1957
Esther Peterson joins the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, becoming its first woman lobbyist.
 COTSOW 1961
Esther Peterson becomes director of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, and establishes the first President’s Commission on the Status of Women. Eleanor Roosevelt serves as Chair.
 doloresandcesar 1962
Dolores Huerta co-founds the National Farm Workers Association with César Chávez, which would later become the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.
 equalpayact 1963
The Commission on the Status of Women issues a report detailing employment discrimination, unequal pay, legal inequality, and insufficient support services for working women. This report leads directly to The Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay different wages to men and women who performed the same work. Shirley Ware organizes an East Bay nursing home into Local 250.
 civilrightsact 1964
Passage of the Civil Rights Act leads to the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
 huertagrapes 1965
Dolores Huerta becomes the first female leader of the United Farm Workers, and directs the national boycott during the Delano grape strike.
 maida-springer-kemp_photo-by-judith-sedwick_courtesy-of-schlesinger-library_305px 1966
Maida Springer-Kemp joins UNITE HERE, as a general organizer. Dolores Huerta negotiates a contract between the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time farm workers successfully bargain with an agricultural enterprise.
 EEOC 1969
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) declares protective legislation for women invalid, opening up new fields of employment to women.
 ShirleyWare1971 1971
Shirley Ware joins the staff of Local 250, becoming the first African-American field representative in the union’s history.
 ginsburg_intro 1972
Ruth Bader Ginsburg founds the Women’s Rights Project (WRP) of the ACLU, focused on fighting discrimination towards women.
 cluw 1974
The Coalition of Labor Union Women is founded as America’s only national organization for union women.
 Marykay1 1979
Mary Kay Henry joins the staff of SEIU.
 afscmerights 1983
AFSCME’s Women’s Rights Department is established.
 ShirleyWare2 1988
Shirley Ware becomes Secretary-Treasurer of Local 250.
FMLAsigning 1993
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is signed by President Clinton, enacted to provide job-protected leave to employees who need time off to care for themselves or their families.
Linda-Chavez-Thompson 1995
Linda Chavez-Thompson is elected as the AFL-CIO’s Executive vice President, becoming the first Latina elected to an executive office in the AFL-CIO.
 womansplace 2000
Women are two-thirds of new union members in the U.S.
 MKH2 2004
Mary Kay Henry is elected as International Executive Vice President of SEIU.
 workersunited 2008
Worker’s United–descended from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union–affiliates with SEIU.
 SEIU Executive President, Mary Kay Henry 2010
Mary Kay Henry is unanimously elected International President and becomes the first woman to lead SEIU.
MKH_influential 2012
Mary Kay Henry named one of the most influential women in Washington by the National Journal.
1963 at an East Bay nursing home, Shirley quickly organized the facility into Local 250 and became a militant voice for fellow healthcare workers and their families. – See more at:
1963 at an East Bay nursing home, Shirley quickly organized the facility into Local 250 and became a militant voice for fellow healthcare workers and their families. – See more at:
Shirley joined the staff of Local 250 in 1971, assuming a pioneering position as the first African-American woman field representative in the union’s history. – See more at:

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