Using History Today

New Grant: Using History to Organize Today

Why Women Should Join Unions: Using History to Organize Today
A Workshop Guide

Organizing young women workers is proven strategy for improving women’s wages and working conditions. For many unions organizing women is a high priority. The importance of this effort is supported by She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker. Based on the book, Brigid O’Farrell is developing a workshop guide titled “Why Women Should Join Unions,” providing a human rights framework for women organizing and leading today. She is the director of this project at Mills College in Oakland, CA,

The guide will follow ER and her trade union friends from the settlement houses of New York to the National Women’ Trade Union League, through her years in the White House and the United Nations, to her final role as chair of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women. Drawing on her newspaper columns, articles, correspondence, documents, speeches, and photographs, workshop facilitators will be able to lead discussions on how to use the historical documents to reach out to young women, develop their leadership skills, strengthen union women, and improve organizing efforts.

The guide will be tested in workshops presented to ten union women’s schools and conferences. The final guide will be made available on several lists serves and on the web page with links to unions, labor education programs, foundations, women’s organizations, and women’s studies programs.

Mills College’s sponsorship of this project follows a proud tradition of women’s colleges supporting the rights of working women, beginning with the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Working Women and the Women’s Trade Union League at the turn of the twentieth century:

Funding is gratefully acknowledged from the Berger-Marks Foundation.

Workshop and conference schedule to date:

  1. Western Summer School for Union Women, June 17-20, Hawaii
  2. The Newspaper Guild Convention, July 12, Nevada
  3. Northeast Union Women’s Summer School, July 17-22, New Jersey
  4. Midwest Summer School for Union Women, July 28-31, Michigan
  5. Southern Summer School for Union Women, August 4-7, Florida
  6. Communication Workers’ of America Women’s Conference, August 21-23, Chicago
  7. Coalition of Labor Union Women Convention, September 6-9, Florida
  8. Int. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Women’s Caucus, September 15-16, Vancouver
  9. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Women’s Conference, September 28-October 2, Wisconsin,
  10. AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, November 17-20, Connecticut