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Anderson, Mary (27 August 1872–29 January 1964), labor leader and federal administrator, was born in Lidköping, Sweden, the daughter of Magnus Anderson and Matilda Johnson, farmers. She received her only formal education at a local Lutheran school. Inspired by letters from her older sister Anna who had moved to the United States, Mary and her sister Hilda traveled to Ludington, Michigan, in 1889. Sixteen years old when she arrived in America, Anderson struggled to learn English while she worked as a dishwasher and cook in a boardinghouse for lumber workers....

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Arthur, Peter M. (1831–17 July 1903), labor leader, was born in Paisley, Scotland. Although he was born Peter McArthur, a payroll error later in his life listed him as Peter M. Arthur and he used that name thereafter. Little is known about his parents or early boyhood, but in 1842 he immigrated to the United States, where he settled on his uncle’s farm in New York state. After dropping out of school early, he worked for his uncle, then for another farmer, and later he tried unsuccessfully to establish himself in the carting business in Schenectady. In 1849 he went to work for a railroad line that soon merged with the New York Central Railroad; after a brief period as an engine wiper, a maintenance position, he was promoted to locomotive engineer....

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Bagley, Sarah George (29 April 1806–?), millworker, reformer, and physician, was born in Candia, New Hampshire, the daughter of Nathan Bagley and Rhoda Witham, farmers.

Bagley grew up in a family whose economic situation became increasingly precarious during the course of the nineteenth century. Nathan Bagley originally farmed land in Candia, which he had inherited from his father, but he later moved on to farming land in Gilford, New Hampshire. After losing litigation in 1822, he sold his land in Gilford and eventually moved to Meredith Bridge, New Hampshire (now Laconia), where he became an incorporator of the Strafford Cotton Mill Company in 1833. However, Nathan Bagley did not own a home after 1824; it was Sarah Bagley who made the down payment on a house for her family in Meredith Bridge in the 1840s. She probably used money she had saved during her stints as a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts....

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Bambace, Angela (14 February 1898–03 April 1975), labor organizer, was born in Santos, Brazil, the daughter of Antonio Bambace, a shipping company operator, and Giuseppina Calabrese. Antonio’s failing health precipitated the family’s return to Italy. In 1901 they emigrated to the United States, where they settled in New York City’s East Harlem. Due to Antonio’s ill health, Giuseppina supported the family by working in a ladies hat factory....

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Barker, Mary Cornelia (20 January 1879–15 September 1963), schoolteacher and teachers' union leader, schoolteacher and teachers’ union leader, was born in Rockmart, Georgia, the daughter of Thomas Nathaniel Barker, a teacher and small businessman, and Dora Elizabeth Lovejoy, a teacher. After spending her early years in rural Rockmart, Barker moved with her family to Atlanta, where she attended the public schools. She went on to Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, from which she received a diploma for completing the normal course in 1900....

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Barnum, Gertrude (29 September 1866–17 June 1948), settlement-house worker and labor reformer, was born in Chester, Illinois, the daughter of William Henry Barnum, a Cook County circuit court judge, and Clara Letitia Hyde. Growing up in suburban Chicago, Barnum had a privileged childhood. As a young adult, she appears to have rejected the dictates of her class when she refused to make her formal debut into Chicago society. At the age of twenty-five she went to the University of Wisconsin, majoring in English. However, after one year of study at which she excelled, Barnum left the university to become an activist for social change in the settlement-house movement....

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Barry, Leonora (13 August 1849–15 July 1930), labor leader, was born Leonora Marie Kearney in Kearney, County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of John Kearney and Honor Brown. When Kearney was three, the family sailed for the United States and settled on a farm in Pierrepont, New York, not far from the Canadian border. She grew up there, but upon her mother’s death and father’s remarriage, she determined to set out on her own. Though only fifteen, she arranged for a year of preparatory study with the head of a girls’ school in a neighboring town and obtained her teacher’s certificate. She spent the next several years teaching in a rural school....

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Dave Beck Opening the Teamsters Union convention in Miami Beach, 1957. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99543).

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Beck, Dave (16 June 1894–26 December 1993), labor union leader, was born David Daniel Beck in Stockton, California, the son of Lemuel Beck, a carpet cleaner and part-time auctioneer, and Mary Tierney, a laundress. His father, who had migrated to California from his native Tennessee in search of work, moved his family to Seattle, Washington, when Beck was four years old. Beck had dreams of becoming a lawyer but dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen to help support his chronically impoverished family. After four years of odd jobs, he found steady work driving a truck for the laundry where his mother was employed and developed a lucrative route of his own. At night he took extension courses in law, economics, and business administration at the University of Washington. Beck enlisted in the navy in 1917 and saw action as a gunner on anti-zeppelin patrols over the North Sea. While on furlough the next year, he married Dorothy E. Leschander of Seattle. The couple had one child, Warren David, who later legally changed his name to Dave Beck, Jr....

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Belanger, Mark (08 June 1944–06 October 1998), baseball player and union leader, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the son of Ed Belanger, a factory worker and technician, and Maria Bianchi Belanger. An excellent all-around athlete, Belanger stood out in basketball as well as baseball at Pittsfield High School, once scoring 41 points in a basketball game that gave his school the Western Massachusetts championship in 1962. After being scouted by Frank McGowan and Joe Cusick, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and began his professional career with Bluefield (West Virginia) in the Rookie League. Under the tutelage of manager Billy Hunter, the right handed hitter and thrower averaged .298 at the plate with 3 home runs and 23 runs batted in. In 1963 Belanger entered the Army and served one year, after which he returned to the minor leagues with Aberdeen (South Dakota) in the Northern League. He was named “Rookie of the Year” in 1964 despite only hitting .226. He advanced to Elmira (New York) in the Eastern League the following year and, despite a weak batting average of .229, was named to that league's all-star team....

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Bellanca, August (14 March 1885–13 November 1969), trade union and political activist, was born in Sciacca, Sicily, Italy. His father was a farmer and a baker, but little else is known of his parents or his childhood in Sicily. Bellanca attended elementary school in Sciacca and went to work at age sixteen, when he was apprenticed to a tailor and a barber in Sciacca. Some time between 1900 and 1905, he immigrated to the United States and worked as a cigar maker in Tampa, Florida, and San Francisco, California, until he moved to the Northeast. Bellanca helped found the Brotherhood of Tailors, which became an important dissident group in the United Garment Workers of America (UGWA), a conservative affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Bellanca’s own immigrant background enabled him to become an organizing force among the garment workers, a group composed primarily of Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants who maintained their roots in ethnic communities and cultures....

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Bellanca, Dorothy Jacobs (10 August 1894–16 August 1946), labor organizer, was born in Zemel, Latvia, the daughter of Harry Jacobs, a tailor, and Bernice Edith Levinson. Seeking a better life, the Russian Jewish family emigrated to America in 1900 and began a new life in Baltimore, Maryland. Dorothy’s mother died a short time after their arrival....

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Berry, George Leonard (12 September 1882–04 December 1948), labor leader, was born in Lee Valley, Tennessee, the son of Thomas Jefferson Berry and Cornelia Trent. Berry claimed that his father was a judge and legislator, but this is not confirmed by state records. His father died when Berry was very young (some accounts indicate 1884, some 1888). Unable to support the family, his mother placed the boy in an orphan asylum; he was later moved to a foster home in Mississippi. Berry said that when he was only nine years old he ran away and began working as a newsboy for the Jackson, Mississippi, ...

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Beyer, Clara Mortenson (13 April 1892–25 September 1990), reformer and labor law administrator, was born in Middletown, California, the daughter of Danish immigrants Morten Mortenson, a carpenter and unsuccessful chicken farmer, and Mary Frederickson. Her father died in a trolley accident when she was fifteen. As the eldest of four children remaining at home, Beyer delayed further schooling until her mother sold the farm. She then worked her way through high school and the University of California, Berkeley, gaining firsthand understanding of labor conditions and unskilled workers’ lives. At Berkeley she absorbed the institutional approach to labor economics, which emphasized the law and social institutions rather than market forces; she received a B.S. in 1915 and an M.S. in economics in 1916 with a thesis called “Organized Labor in San Francisco, from 1892–1902.”...

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Biemiller, Andrew John (23 July 1906–03 April 1982), labor lobbyist, was born in Sandusky, Ohio, the son of Andrew Frederick Biemiller, a traveling salesman who sold dry goods to small general stores, and Pearl Weber. Andrew Frederick was also chairman of the Republican Committee in Sandusky and a member of the Knights Templar. After her husband’s death in the great flu epidemic in 1918, Pearl Biemiller ran a boardinghouse....

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Bloor, Ella Reeve (08 July 1862–10 August 1951), radical labor organizer and feminist, was born on Staten Island, New York, the daughter of Charles Reeve, a successful drugstore owner, and Harriet Amanda Disbrow, a community affairs activist. While still a child, Ella moved to Bridgeton, New Jersey, where her family led a conservative, upper-middle-class life. An important counterinfluence was Ella’s great-uncle Dan Ware, a former abolitionist, liberal, Unitarian, greenbacker, and general freethinker. After attending local public schools, Ella spent a year at Ivy Hall Seminary, a finishing school she disliked. When she was fourteen, her mother began tutoring her at home....

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Borchardt, Selma Munter (01 December 1895–30 January 1968), educator and labor leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Newman Borchardt, a soldier and government official, and Sara Munter. She completed a B.S. in education at Syracuse University in 1919 and received an A.B. from the same university in 1922. In 1933 she graduated from Washington College of Law (later known as American University College of Law), and in 1934 she was admitted to the Washington, D.C., Bar Association. In 1944 Borchardt had the honor of being admitted to the Supreme Court bar. In 1937 she received an M.A. in sociology from Catholic University and went on to complete all the requirements for a Ph.D. in sociology except the dissertation....

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Boyle, Michael J. (11 June 1879–17 May 1958), labor leader, was born in Woodland, Minnesota, the son of Michael Boyle and Ann Kelly, farmers. In 1895 Boyle left school and started working as a utility company lineman in St. Paul. After holding similar jobs in Ohio and Michigan, Boyle moved to Chicago, where he became a wireman with the Chicago Tunnel Company. In 1902 he married Minnie Alice Oberlin; they had three children. Boyle had joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) when he took his first job, and in 1904 he transferred his membership to the union’s Local 134, which had jurisdiction over “inside” electrical work in Chicago. In 1908 he became business agent for the local....

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Boyle, William Anthony (01 December 1904–31 May 1985), labor union leader, was born in Bald Butte, Montana, the son of James P. Boyle, a coal miner, and Catherine Mallin. He attended public schools in Idaho and Montana and graduated from high school. Like his father, who came from a family of Irish immigrant coal miners in England and who emigrated to the United States, William A., better known as “Tony,” Boyle became a coal miner. Like most miners in the state of Montana, he joined the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the union that by the middle of the 1930s represented nearly all the nation’s coal miners. On 3 June 1928 Boyle married Ethel V. Williams; they had one child....

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Bridges, Harry Renton (28 July 1901–30 March 1990), labor leader, was born Alfred Renton Bridges in Kensington, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne, the son of Alfred Bridges, a real estate agent and promoter, and Julia Dorgan, a sometime shopkeeper whose parents were Irish. He began while a teenager to call himself Harry, after an uncle who advocated trade unionism and the socialism of the Australian Labor party. Upon completing the tenth grade, Bridges began a college preparatory program but dropped out and soon went to sea....