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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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Collins, Jennie (1828–20 July 1887), labor reformer and woman suffragist, was born in Amoskeag, New Hampshire, to humble circumstances. Orphaned by the age of fourteen and largely self-taught, Collins joined the ranks of New England women employed in the textile mills of Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts. In the 1840s she moved to Boston, where she worked briefly as a domestic servant and then became a tailor in the city’s prospering garment industry....

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Dodd, Bella Visono ( October 1904–29 April 1969), teachers' union lobbyist and lawyer, teachers’ union lobbyist and lawyer, was born Maria Assunta Isabella Visono in Picerno, Italy, southeast of Naples, the daughter of Rocco Visono, a grocer, and Teresa Marsica. She was raised in the nearby village of Avialano by foster parents until she was old enough to join her family in New York City at the age of five. Her family moved several times and finally out of the tenements into a large house in Westchester left to her mother by two elderly women for whom she had worked. Determined to become “an American,” Bella excelled in school, rejected Catholicism, and, after World War I, avidly began reading newspapers....

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Dreier, Mary Elisabeth (26 September 1875–15 August 1963), labor reformer and suffragist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Theodor Dreier, a partner in an iron firm and elder in the German Evangelical church, and Dorothea Adelheid. Mary Dreier attended George Brackett’s School in Brooklyn and was tutored in music, art and language. Her parents raised Dreier and her siblings to be independent and morally responsible. After her father died in 1897, her mother founded a rest and recreation home for poor women in his memory before she died two years later. A large inheritance allowed her to live comfortably and dedicate her life to social reform....

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Dudley, Helena Stuart (31 August 1858–29 September 1932), settlement house worker and peace activist, was born in Florence, Nebraska, the daughter of Judson H. Dudley, a land developer, and Caroline Bates. Her early life was rather unsettled as the Dudley family moved about the West in pursuit of her father’s real estate ventures. Helena Dudley did not attend college until the age of twenty-six when she spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then went on to Bryn Mawr college, graduating with the first class in 1889 with a degree in biology. Like so many other college-educated women of her generation, she became a teacher, first at the Pratt Institute and, a year later, at the Packer Institute, both in Brooklyn, New York....

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Margaret Hinchey photograph by Bain News Service Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ggbain-23027)

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Hinchey, Margaret (10 December 1870–29 February 1944), suffragist and labor leader, was born in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of Thomas Hinchey and Mary Maloney. Known informally as “Maggie,” she immigrated to New York City in 1897. Little record survives of her early life, but irregular spelling and grammar in her later correspondence suggest limited formal education....

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Malkiel, Theresa Serber (01 May 1874–17 November 1949), trade union leader, woman suffragist, publicist, and educator, was born in Bar, Russia. In 1891 she emigrated with her parents to the United States.

Soon after her arrival, Theresa Serber became a pioneer in the Jewish workers’ movement and socialist labor agitation in New York City. Employed in the garment industry, she joined the Russian Workingmen’s Club in 1892. In October 1894 she was among a group of seventy women who founded the Infant Cloak Makers Union (ICMU). Although it was a depression year, she and her associates decided not to accept wage cuts and deteriorating labor conditions any longer. Their action was front-page news. Eventually the ICMU became part of the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance. In 1896, Serber was among the delegates to the first convention of the latter alliance; in 1899, along with many others, she broke with labor leader ...

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Tenayuca, Emma (21 December 1916–23 July 1999), labor organizer, community activist, school teacher, was born in San Antonio, Texas, the first daughter of eleven children born to Sam Tenayuca and Benita Hernandez Zepeda. Her parents had eleven children and to relieve their economic burden, the maternal grandparents raised some of the children, including Emma. Her grandfather worked as a carpenter and followed politics. Tenayuca developed an early understanding of transnational politics when, at age seven, she was taken to the ...