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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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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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Greenway, Isabella (22 March 1886–18 December 1953), congresswoman, businesswoman, and community activist, was born Isabella Selmes in Boone County, Kentucky, the daughter of Martha Macomb Flandrau and Tilden Russell Selmes, a rancher and lawyer. After Isabella’s birth, her mother took her to join Tilden Selmes in North Dakota, where ...

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Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west....

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Lillian Parks. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Parks, Lillian Rogers (01 February 1897–06 November 1997), White House seamstress and author, was born Lillian Adele Rogers, the daughter of Emmett E. Rogers, Sr., a waiter, and Margaret “Maggie” Williams Rogers. Source information is sketchy regarding her early years, but her godchild, Peggy Holly, believes that Lillian Parks was born in the District of Columbia and as a child spent summers with relatives in Virginia. Her father—by Parks's account an alcoholic unable to hold a job—left his family when she was a child; in 1909 her mother took a job at the White House at the beginning of ...