Workshop Guide

Why Women Should Join Unions: Organizing and Leading with Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt – Universal Declaration of Human rights 1948

Dear Labor Organizers and Educators,

I am very pleased to introduce you to a new workshop guide, “Why Women Should Join Unions: Organizing and Leading with Eleanor Roosevelt.” As many of you know recent research has identified several strategies shown to be particularly effective for organizing women workers and developing women leaders. One strategy is to highlight the accomplishments of union women, past and present.

Southern School for Union Women, Florida, 2011

Western Union Women’s Summer School, Hawaii, 2011

Northeast Union Women’s Summer School, New Jersey, 2011

Midwest Union Women’s Summer School, Michigan, 2011

Using Eleanor Roosevelt as an example, this new workshop guide explores the strategies and skills used by the First Lady, union member and activist for working women, and how they can help today. Workshop participants are then asked to identify and honor today’s women leaders at the national and local level. The guide is created for a 90 minute workshop of 10 to 20 people. The materials are designed to meet the many different interests and needs of labor activists and can be independently incorporated into existing workshops on women’s organizing and leadership.

This workshop guide is based on my recent book She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker, Cornell University Press, 2010, now available in paperback. With a grant from the Berger-Marks Foundation I travelled to ten union women’s conferences, summer schools, caucuses, and organizing institutes across the country: all four regional union women’s summer schools in Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, and Hawaii, as well meetings of the TNG, CWA, IBEW, CLUW, AFSCME, and the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute. I observed other workshops, discussed strategies with labor educators and union organizers, and tested materials with over 560 union women and a few good men. The workshops ranged from 10 to 200 participants and lasted from a half hour to 3 hours. Social media links were developed with a grant from the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund.

I found a great deal of interest in Eleanor Roosevelt and in the use of historical stories, facts, documents, and photographs. Participants were also interested in other leaders such as Rose Schneiderman, Frances Perkins, Ah Quan McElrath, and Maida Springer. I incorporated women from specific unions and regions where possible and highlighted events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire anniversary.

“Why Women Should Join Unions” offers one example of the potential for incorporating labor history into our organizing and leadership efforts: using our past to change our future.

As you work with this new labor education material please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or I can be of any help. In Solidarity,

Berger-Marks logosupports our work. For more information & news on working women & union organizing, visit the Berger-Marks web site.

Brigid O’Farrell
Mills College
UAW Local 1981

Workshop Materials

You can download a zipped file of all workshop materials, including a PowerPoint file of the Workshop slides. You can also preview them below. To download a PDF of any individual item, click on the “SlideShare” button in the preview.

Workshop Guide

Flexible Workshop Handouts

Workshop 2012 slides

Optional Small Groups

Brief Biography