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Labor in the U.S.

Selected Primary Sources in the Sophia Smith Collection

Personal Papers and Organization Records

Jane Addams (1860-1935), founder of Hull House, social reformer. Papers (1904-1960) include published material (articles, clippings, pamphlets) by her about trade unions and child labor.
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Ella Reeve Bloor (1862-1951), radical, labor organizer. Papers (1890-1979) include correspondence and printed materials documenting her Socialist and labor organizing work, from the late 1910s to the 1940s.
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Eleanor Gwinnel Coit (1894-1976), specialist in the field of workers' education. Papers (1913-1974) include published material covering the history and work of the American Labor Service, Inc., the development of workers' education in Europe as well as the U.S., and printed materials on the Barnard and Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers.
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Consumer's League of Kentucky (1901-?), a state organization of consumers, affiliated with the National Consumers' League, its goal being the improvement of wages and working conditions for women and children in industry. Records (1901-1951) consist of correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, reference material, and histories.
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Garrison Family, social reformers. Papers (1773-1974) include letters of Edward M. Davis to Lucretia Mott, 1849, regarding the debate over the employment of two female clerks in a retail store, with satirical drawings and a dramatic skit that go with these letters; letters from Margaret Garrison Phoutridies to her family, about her work in a knitting mill, labor unions and labor organizing, 1919-1920.
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League of Women Shoppers (1935-1945), consumer advocacy and labor reform group that investigated conditions of labor in stores and brought consumer pressure to encourage labor reform. Records (1938-1945) include such printed materials as congressional committee hearings, agenda and minutes, news bulletins, and miscellaneous correspondence.
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National Congress of Neighborhood Women (1975- ), support network for grassroots women's organizations and community leaders dedicated to empowering and providing a voice for poor and working-class women. NCNW Employment programs provide job skills training, job development, counseling and job placement for low-income women. Records (1974- ) include administrative files, correspondence, flyers and questionnaires.
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Jessie Lloyd O'Connor (1904-1988), labor journalist and life-long supporter of social justice, involved with several dramatic strikes in the 1920s and '30s. Papers (1850s-1988) include her writings and materials related to such strikes, including Gastonia Textile Strike of 1929 and the Harlan County Miners Strike of 1931. Subject files reflect her membership in various labor-related organizations such as the League of Women Shoppers and the International Labor Defense.
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Ellen Gates Starr (1859-1940), settlement worker and co-founder of Hull House. Papers (1659-1991) include speeches, pamphlets, and clippings regarding her involvement with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers strike, Chicago, 1915.
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Mary van Kleeck (1883-1972), social reformer and industrial sociologist. Papers (1883-1984) include material that documents her work, especially with the Russell Sage Foundation, Department of Industrial Studies (1908-48), and as Associate Director of the International Industrial Relations Institute (1928-48). She did research on the coal and mining industries, labor problems, and women in industry and also was involved in the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers.
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Emma France Ward (1886-1963), advocate of public health, and child labor legislation. Papers (1922-1966) include correspondence, articles, reprints on industrial health, women shipbuilders (1940s) plus selected Women's Bureau publications on the status of women in industry (1920s).
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Women's Action Alliance (1971-1997), advocacy organization founded to coordinate resources for organizations and individuals involved in the women's movement on the grassroots level. Records (1970-1996) document programs sponsored by WAA, which focused on labor issues, including the Non-Traditional Occupations for Women (1977-86) and the Women at Work Expositions (1978-79).
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YWCA of the U.S.A. (1860-2002). Social service organization founded in the 1850s to provide services, job training, education, and recreation to employed women. Records include extensive documentation (1860s-1950s) of the National Association's efforts on behalf of employed women as well as records of self-governing Industrial and Business and Professional Clubs and Councils, extensive files on domestic service (known in the YWCA as Household Employment), and women's participation in industrial work during the two World Wars. Materials include conference files, reports, studies, publications, and photographs.
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Subject Collections

The Employment Collection includes mostly published material on women labor leaders; National Women's Trade Union League (1913-36); International Congress of Working Women (1919-23); conference proceedings; industrial relations; women in war work; and women in trade unions beginning in 1878, including the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Boston Women's Trade Union League, and the Working Women's Protective Union. Also included are a collection of photographs entitled "Women at Work: Views and Visions from the Pioneer Valley, 1879-1945"; and account book of C.D. & Co., Ashuelot, N.H, (1873-1877), of work by, and payment to, male and female operatives; and a series of original late 19th century photographs from the H.J. Bartle Manufacturing Corp. View finding aid

The Settlements Collection includes annual reports of the College Settlement Association (1890-1915) which contain references to labor-related activities at the various settlement houses. View finding aid

The Suffrage Collection includes brochures on the stand of organized labor on the question of women's suffrage. View finding aid

Oral Histories

de Schweinitz Dorothea, Labor researcher. Transcript in the Dorothea and Louise de Schweinitz Papers (original audio recording in Smith College Centennial Study).

Scattergood, Margaret, Labor organizer. Trade Union Woman: Vehicle of Social Change, University of Michigan Project. Transcript (32p). In the Biography Collection.

Bary, Helen Valeska (1888-1973). "Helen Valeska Bary: Labor Administration and Social Security, a Woman's Life." Transcript (299p). In the Suffragist Oral History Collection.

Italian Immigrant Women in New York City's Garment Industry Oral Histories. Nine oral histories conducted by Colomba Furio as background research for her Ph.D. dissertation, "Immigrant Women and Industry: A Case Study: The Italian Immigrant Women and the Garment Industry, 1880-1950" (New York University, 1979). Collection includes some audio recordings and transcripts of Italian immigrants (primarily women) who worked in the New York garment industry.View finding aid

Villano, Rose and Carolina Golzio. Oral history interviews with two Italian American women involved in the Paterson, N.J., Silk Workers' Strike, 1913. Interviews conducted by Steve Golin, June 13, 1983-Sept 25, 1985. (audio recordings and transcripts). View finding aid

The Voices of Feminism Oral History Project documents the persistence and diversity of organizing for women in the U.S. during the 20th century. Narrators include a number of labor activists. Over 60 videotaped interviews average 5-6 hours and cover childhood, personal life, and political work. Audiovisual recordings are available in-house, and full transcripts are online (click on above link). See the following narrators:

  • Judith Berek
  • Michaelann Bewsee
  • Kathleen Casavant
  • Linda Chavez-Thompson
  • Lora Jo Foo
  • Karen Nussbaum
  • Patricia Reeve
  • Peggy Saika


Life and Labor (1911-20) published by the National Women's Trade Union League; The Lowell Offering (1840-45); The Operatives Magazine, Containing Articles Upon Literary and Religious Subjects Written by Manufacturing Operatives, Lowell, Mass. (May 1914); The Revolution (1868-1871), suffrage magazine containing articles about labor legislation and working conditions for women; Woman's Welfare (March 1904), "Printed quarterly for the betterment of conditions of the working women of the world"; Working Women's Journal (1887-1892), published by the New Century Guild of Working Women.
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For secondary sources, see the Browsing and Reference collections in the Special Collections Reading Room.

(Note: The SSC is actively collecting the papers and oral histories of women and the records of their organizations. Please see the complete list of collections or contact us for updated information on our holdings.)