Shout it if you need to.
You may have noticed that in the last few days, Yr Wonkette has made a bit of a stink about the term "choice" as a euphemism for "abortion." We've praised Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams both for talking about the right to abortion, and Yr Editrix, in Thursday morning's Tabs, said it's high time we "stop with the focus-grouped, mealymouthed 'right to choose.' (Choose what, choose Jif?)"
A number of folks took issue with that in the comments we don't allow, while others also were none too happy with New York magazine's Rebecca Traister for taking Democratic leaders to task for their seeming unwillingness to say "abortion." (To be sure, a number of comments focused more on how it might be bad strategy to criticize Dem leaders in an election year, also too.)
So we figured this might be a job for a Doktor of Rhetoric. Words matter, language matters, and Crom knows that ever since Frank Luntz and Newt Gingrich teamed up in 1994 to talk about the "death tax" and to make "liberal" the dirtiest word in politics, Republicans have made a dark art of finding terms that will set off electric storms in the amygdalae of rightwing voters, inflaming their emotions with language that will move the base to support policies that help the party's big donors.
A quarter century later, it's starting to feel like framing abortion rights as the "right to choose" is perhaps tainted by the same defensive reflex that led Bill Clinton to proclaim that the "era of big government is over," as he caved to the Right on "welfare reform," ushering in a regime of harsh new barriers to helping people who needed help. Speaking of a "right to choose" almost feels like a concession to the Luntzians: Instead of whole-heartedly saying abortion is essential to freedom and bodily autonomy, "choice" seems to euphemize, as if accepting the Right's insistence that abortion is shameful, a moral failing, the choice of people who should have kept their legs shut and not gotten in trouble.
This isn't to say that "choice" or "pro choice" is a bad term in itself; it's a convenient shorthand that will likely stay around for some time. But it's also good to see the shift toward people talking about abortion without hesitation or guilt, too.
As Heather Young, who had an abortion when she was 17, told CNN for a story that ran just the day before the draft decision leaked,
We need to quit tip-toeing around the word abortion. People need to know that people have abortions for all reasons, not just life or death situations. I was 17, scared. I would probably not be here today if it wasn’t for my mother and doctors who helped me.
Saying "the right to abortion" instead of "to choose" has a similar feel to the 2015 #ShoutYourAbortion social media campaign, which encouraged people to talk openly about why they'd had abortions and how it made a difference in their lives. Popularized by feminists Amelia Bonow and Lindy West after yet another GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood, the campaign inspired thousands to talk about abortion openly, with the goal of destigmatizing and normalizing it. That led in turn to Bonow and West forming the Shout Your Abortion nonprofit, which offers a very direct message: "We are out here. We are having abortions, and we are talking about them, at whatever volume we choose. It’s time for us to take back our own stories."
I absolutely get why "pro-choice" emerged as the alternative to the demonstrably empty term "pro-life," and particularly as an alternative to "pro-abortion." Heck, who wants to say they're in favor of abortion? So we got "I'm not pro-abortion; I'm in favor of protecting the right of women to have an abortion." But there's also a sense that it concedes rhetorical ground to abortion opponents, when if anything, those who want to take away the right to abortion are the ones who've been hiding behind a euphemism from the get-go.
When my very Catholic mother bundled me up and took me to a candlelight anti-abortion vigil when I was maybe 11 or 12, I know that I was sickened at the idea that people were killing babies. It's very easy to have absolute moral clarity when you're a child. But the Evangelical-driven political movement to do away with abortion rights has always been more about rightwing power than about "life" — after all, until the Religious Right seized on abortion as a wedge issue in the late 1970s, most Evangelicals, and most Republicans, supported Roe. Getting conservative Protestants to join Catholics in opposing abortion was a marriage of convenience that would be helpful in pursuing more immediate rightwing goals like preserving tax breaks for segregationist schools, and for that matter, building support for the segregationist church-run schools that sprang up in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education.
Yoking Evangelicals to the anti-abortion cause succeeded far beyond the dreams of the rightwing activists who started it, and ending abortion supplanted segregation as the Right's driving force, although the racism remained a cherished part of the culture war agenda, too. Were some people truly committed to "pro-life" ideology and the cult of the fetus? Certainly. The Right really does want to stop every last abortion if it can.
But misogyny and hatred of women's independence were constant handmaids, as it were, and that too was reflected in the language surrounding the issue, which sought to turn fetuses into humans with full rights, while dismissing people with wombs as vessels for the "pre-born child" at best, and to demonize them as murderers, or callous airheads who might terminate a pregnancy to fit into a cute dress, Doctors, of course, became villains who performed "partial birth abortions" or might even "rip a baby from the womb" at any moment prior to birth, as if anyone would carry a pregnancy nearly to term and then decide to have an abortion on a whim, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars because abortions late in pregnancy are performed only by a few specialists.
If the term "pro-life" felt like a smokescreen for most of the last 40 years, it was truly given the lie by the COVID epidemic, as Republicans made absolutely clear that they had little interest in preventing the virus from spreading, and indeed tried to suggest that Grandma Millie should be happy to die of COVID if it helped the country's GDP. Not that pointing out the hypocrisy mattered, because the Evangelicals knew it was a linguistic pretense all along.
I also can't help but think that the GOP death cult's decision to snottily coopt the language of abortion rights — "bodily autonomy" and "My body, my choice" — for the sake of not wearing masks or not getting vaccinated may also have helped sour a lot of us on the language of "choice." If the same phrase can apply to the right to have an abortion and to ignoring public health, then why not just come right out and say "abortion" so there's no confusion?
The draft opinion overturning Roe (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey) makes clear that the Right isn't about to bother pretending it's restrained by precedent or law. The Trump administration and its "alternative facts" made clear that the very nature of reality is just, like, your opinion, man, so why not be absolutely clear that the right to abortion is what's at stake here, not an abstraction like "choice."
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Because Grandma's still busy in the kitchen.
Editrix's note: Sorry, as usual, for skipping Loomis yesterday. We had a lot on our minds.
On May 3, 1965, Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit, and Clark Richart bought a seven-acre piece of land north of Trinidad, Colorado. This would become known as Drop City, among the first and most important of the countercultural communes that dotted the American landscape during the late 1960s and 1970s and continuing, in a much diminished form, to the present. While itself not a particularly important day in American labor history per se, we can use this date to serve as a window into how work was organized in the counterculture, which is quite important to understanding this key part of American history.
Both then and now, there is a stereotype that hippies avoided work. The reality was far more complicated. Sure, many in the counterculture relied heavily on the welfare state to supplement their income. But most, including many of those who qualified for state benefits, valued hard work very highly. What the counterculture by and large rejected was work within the system of corporate capitalism. They weren’t going to be The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, for instance. They didn’t want to work for wages, be union members, go into middle management. But there are many forms of work. Many in the counterculture wanted to labor for themselves, often in the beautiful nature of the American West, either regenerating both the natural world or themselves (or both) through labor. One chapter in my book Empire of Timber details the Hoedads, a group of countercultural reforestation workers in the 1970s. These people took up some of the hardest work imaginable – planting trees on the steep slopes of the Pacific Northwest. Both men and women engaged in this work that was often back-breaking. They felt they were contributing to a more just and sustainable natural world by planting trees while working for themselves outside of capitalism. This work did not make them very much money, usually less than minimum wage, and it was extremely strenuous. But it was work nonetheless.
In the communes, the work was often quite different but was still work. People such as Stewart Brand promoted countercultural work norms through the Whole Earth Catalog, focusing on self-sustaining economic and environmental projects that promoted people working for themselves. In 1971, the Whole Earth Catalog sold over 1 million copies. Believing that rural spaces were unspoiled, unlike the polluted corporate cities, many young people sought to establish themselves in the country, working on the land. The problem with this is that this work was tremendously hard and most were not ready for it. Disasters struck frequently. Communes would save money and buy a piece of relatively expensive farm equipment and then ruin it because they didn’t know how to use it. They would build unstable structures that would collapse. That they eschewed many western farming methods and instead sought authentic Native American practices, often attempting to contact Native Americans to show them the way, did not help their material conditions much. Poverty was often the result. But being in touch with the earth through planting seeds by hand, harvesting farm animals, weaving, or planting trees was work well worth the effort for thousands of people during the years, despite the economic hardships they often faced.
But for all the potentially world-changing implications of countercultural work norms, one thing that is striking is how gender- traditional it all was. The counterculture broadly speaking, and certainly many if not most of the communes, internalized traditional gendered work norms. In the communes, men did most of the outdoor labor of constructing buildings, killing hogs, or plowing fields, while women both planted seeds in those fields and worked inside the buildings, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children. Women who tried to lay bricks with men reported being ignored and facing huge social pressure to return to the house. Over time, this did begin to fade in some communes, with men being forced to take on some childcare and women doing more physical farmworking tasks.
But this depended on the commune. On The Farm, in Tennessee, founder Stephen Gaskin — considered a guru by many of his followers — set up a traditional gendered world. Because Gaskin believed in the sacred power of women’s reproductive yin and men’s creative yang, he created a sexual division of labor that largely replicated an idealized past of what was considered 19th century rural gender roles. Quickly realizing that they were in over their heads in terms of the physical creation of community and self-sustainability, 12 to 14 hour work days with highly specialized roles became common. When they couldn’t make enough money, men hired themselves to local farmers for cash. Women on the other hand created collectivized childcare and worked in cottage industries, financing the enterprises, cooking, farming, teaching in the commune’s schools, and other tasks deemed feminine because they were seen as reproductive. In particular, the commune valued midwives as the highest form of female labor and they often played important social and political roles in these groups. Gaskin’s teachings reinforced these ideas, calling men “knights” that needed to protect and provide for women. There was an attempt to reject an unproductive animalistic masculinity in exchange for what he called the creation of the New Age sensitive man, but the gendered norms remained powerful and deeply connected to labor.
By the late 1970s, the commune movement was fading fast for a variety of reasons. Hippies were becoming old people and out of touch with the youth, or at least that’s how both the hippies themselves and young people saw it. Continued hardship and poverty were not appealing to a lot of men and women who were highly educated, and even if they had taken a decade off from the rat race, they still had Vassar or Columbia degrees and a lot of racial and cultural capital they could turn into future careers as lawyers or other professions. The revolutionary work ideas of the commune movement would largely go untapped, but their influence can be seen today in the organic farming and DIY work movements, both of which remain vital.
Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, Daughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture
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Sarah Palin's ghostwriter is back, baby!
Rebecca Mansour, the senior editor-at-large for Breitbart and former ghostwriter for the Palins, tweeted out a fascinating revisionist view of the anti-abortion movement Monday night. She insisted that unlike "the Left," which is always burning down cities and threatening people to get its way, "pro-life" folks are just the most law-abiding, nonviolent people who ever harassed women trying to get mammograms or birth control at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Her four-tweet rhapsody over the absolutely model behavior of the anti-abortion cause closed with a warning that "the Left" will doubtless respond to the expected overturning of Roe v. Wade with "rioting, violence, fear-mongering" and "intimidation tactic[s]," because after all, that's all "the Left" ever does.
Here's Mansour's initial thread, transcribed for easier reading:
The freakout you are witnessing from the left is very instructive. When Roe was handed down 49 years ago, pro-lifers didn’t riot, didn’t call for SCOTUS to be burned down, didn’t threaten the lives of justices, didn’t try to stack the Court.
Pro-lifers (mostly Catholics at first) organized at the grassroots level. They planned an annual peaceful march on Washington. They created crisis pregnancy centers. The got involved in electing politicians.
They passed pro-life legislation. They WORKED WITHIN THE SYSTEM of our Constitutional republic to enact change at the ballot box and in the hearts and minds of their fellow Americans.
If this draft SCOTUS decision holds, then these pro-life Americans (who are now a majority of Americans, I might add) won the right way. And no amount of rioting, violence, fear-mongering, or any other left-wing intimidation tactic can change that.
And yes, Mansour has parts of the history right. The road to eliminating Roe was a decades-long political movement that involved mobilizing rightwing voters, building a political machine that allied the evangelical Right with conservative Catholics — whom Evangelicals had previously considered disloyal threats to America — and creating institutions like the Federalist Society that would educate an army of rightwing lawyers, who could eventually become rightwing federal judges, and here we are.
Strangely, it seems Mansour's initial thread didn't mention a single instance of the decades-long campaign of "pro-life" murder, bombings, and violent threats targeted at clinics, doctors, nurses, and politicians who support abortion rights. Oh, and as for that line about how anti-abortion activists "didn’t threaten the lives of justices," recovering journalist Dan Nguyen called attention to a 1985 Washington Post article whose lede made clear the exact opposite was the case:
Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who has been the target of frequent death threats since he wrote the court's controversial 1973 decision legalizing abortion, said yesterday that a bullet was fired through a window of his Arlington apartment Thursday night. [...]
Both Blackmun and his wife, Dorothy, were at home at the time, but neither was injured by the single shot, which a law enforcement source said showered glass on Dorothy Blackmun as she sat in the living room of the Blackmuns' third-floor apartment. The source said Blackmun had just left the room when the shot was fired.
The article went on to note that Blackmun had "received a particularly graphic death threat" within the prior week, that he "has been the target of numerous threats from antiabortion groups," and that he had "been placed under constant police protection" after receiving death threats from the anti-abortion terrorist group the "Army of God," whose members and admirers committed multiple attacks on clinics and clinic staff, including murders and attempted murders.
One Army of God acolyte was Eric Rudolph, who was convicted in the deadly bombing of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as the 1998 bombing of a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed an off-duty cop working security. He also bombed other clinics and a lesbian nightclub to help Jesus fight the New World Order.
Here's a quick rundown of the anti-abortion movement's greatest hits, as it were:
Since Roe was handed down 49 years ago, "pro-lifers" in the US have committed:\n-11 murders\n-26 attempted murders\n-4 kidnappings\n-42 bombings\n-667 bomb threats\n-100 butyric acid attacks\n-189 arsons\n-663 Anthrax /bioterrorism threats\n-25,000+ acts of phone harassment or hate mailhttps://twitter.com/RAMansour/status/1521341524746809345\u00a0\u2026— Jill Filipovic (@Jill Filipovic) 1651594132
Ms. Filipovic also helpfully noted that "pro-lifers" have in fact murdered "more people than there are Supreme Court justices."
And then of course there's the day to day threats and harassment directed at people working at or just walking into clinics, or working for pro-choice groups, and the like.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people took issue with the idea that conservatives didn't "stack the Court," which is only true if you define court-stacking as expanding the number of justices (which, like abortion, isn't mentioned in the Constitution). Making overturning Roe the prime criterion for appointing judges and refusing to hold hearings for a Democratic president's nominee isn't stacking, it's entirely "rule of law" and norm-following, don't you see.
Eventually, a good 13 hours after her initial thread, Mansour posted an "update" that dismissed the decades of violence, because after all, those violent people were No True Pro-Lifers (to say nothing of Scotsmen). Here's her brilliant rebuttal:
Update: Yes, I’m well aware that some violent fringe extremists targeted abortion providers. Pro-life leaders & activists denounced these criminal actions, and the criminals were punished according to the law. In other words, our legal system worked as it’s supposed to.
The assaults on abortion providers did NOT lead to Roe being overturned. The SCOTUS decision (if the draft stands) happened because pro-lifers WORKED WITHIN THE SYSTEM by fostering pro-life jurisprudence, electing politicians, and drafting legislation.
Please ignore the widespread terror campaign, because the actual Supreme Court decision wasn't written by Eric Rudolph, so shut up. And golly, the official leadership of the anti-abortion movement denounced the radical militants, at least when Fox News wasn't inviting them to appear on air. And look, Bill O'Reilly never actually encouraged anyone to go and murder Dr. George Tiller; he just repeatedly called him "Tiller the baby killer" and regularly compared him to Dr. Josef Mengele. It would be very unfair to suggest that anyone in the "pro-life" movement ever egged on the folks who printed up "Wanted" posters for doctors who happened to later end up being murdered in the name of saving the precious babies.
Besides, Mansour added, "Other human rights movements—from the abolition movement to the civil rights movement to the anti-apartheid movement—all had some violent extremists," and that certainly doesn't undermine the good they did, now did it?
Yes, this is where Mansour's also asking us to accept that ending the legal right to abortion won't be, in itself, an act of violence against women, because if ladies don't want to die from an illegal abortion, they would just keep their legs together so they wouldn't have unwanted pregnancies. That's just logic.
In conclusion, please, you radical leftists, try to suppress your violent impulses and work for change the right way, like the pro-life movement always did without fail (please ignore the extremists, they don't count). You can work for change through the ballot box, at least if you can stop burning down cities and killing police long enough to remember to vote. Oh, wait, "the Left" can't be trusted not to cheat, so Republicans will make voting harder, too.
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Because it was not actually just a bunch of flannel-wearing white dudes.
This article was initially published on May 1, 2019
When we talk about the history of feminism, we tend to think about the causes and struggles of middle class white women. When we talk about labor history, we tend to think about the causes and struggles of white working class men.
And that is some absolute bullshit.
Working class women, very often women of color and immigrant women, were, are and always have been the backbone of the labor movement. They were working and organizing well before Second Wave Feminism "made it possible" for women to enter the workforce. They're the ones who first fought for equal pay, and they're the ones who were doing the bulk of feminist work and activism during the years in between getting the right to vote and The Feminine Mystique. They are still fighting today.
So, since it's May Day, AKA International Worker's Day, let's celebrate the hell out of them, starting with the woman who started it all.
Lucy Parsons"Governments never lead; they follow progress.When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then."
"Governments never lead; they follow progress. When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then." assets.rebelmouse.io
"More dangerous than a thousand rioters," anarchist Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons was a writer, orator, one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World and tireless campaigner for the rights of people of color, all women and all workers. Her husband, Albert Parsons, was one of the Haymarket martyrs.
We, the women of this country, have no ballot even if we wished to use it...but we have our labor. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men. Wherever wages are to be reduced, the capitalist class uses women to reduce them, and if there is anything that you men should do in the future, it is to organize the women.
Though Parsons and Emma Goldman were widely regarded as the most prominent female anarchists of the day, they, very notably, did not get along so well. Parsons believed that oppression based on gender and race was a function of capitalism and would be eliminated when capitalism was eliminated, whereas Goldman believed such oppression was inherent in all things. Parsons was all class struggle all the time, and felt that the "intellectual anarchists" like Goldman spent too much time bothering with appealing to the middle class.
One of her most important contributions to the labor movement was the concept of factory takeovers.
"My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in, and take possession of the necessary property of production."
Parsons is best known for being the woman who really started the celebration of May Day as a day for workers' rights -- leading a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair. Soon, nearly every other country in the world followed suit and proclaimed this day International Worker's Day. Alas, here in America, we go with the less radical and more picnic-y Labor Day, because Grover Cleveland thought a federal holiday commemorating the Haymarket Affair would encourage people to become anarchists and socialists, and no thank you, he did not want that.
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses too
Not much is known about Anna LoPizzo, other than that she was a 34-year-old mill worker who was murdered by police officer Oscar Benoit during the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike -- also known as the Bread and Roses Strike. Initially, police tried to charge two IWW organizers who were miles away for her murder, even though literally everyone there had seen Benoit shoot her.
The reason for the strike in the first place was that the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, cut worker pay after the state cut the number of hours women could legally work from 56 down to 54. The Industrial Workers of the World, led by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (we'll get to her in a minute), organized more than 20,000 workers of more than 40 different nationalities to demand they get their fair wages. One of the primary tactics used in the strike was sending the starving families of the mill workers on a tour to New York City so that people there could see for themselves what these low wages were doing to children. Between that and LoPizzo's death, sympathy was on the side of the workers. Congressional hearings into the conditions of the mills were held, and the mills themselves ended up settling the strike by giving all workers across New England a 20% raise.
"Human interest and passion for human progress break down barriers centuries old." assets.rebelmouse.io
Susan B. Anthony isn't the only important feminist buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in my hometown of Rochester, New York. There is another. Her name was Lillian Wald, and she was a total fucking bad ass. She wasn't just a suffragist -- she was also an early advocate for healthcare for all people regardless of economic class or citizenship, a founding member of the NAACP, lobbied against child labor, advocated for the rights of immigrants, helped to found the Women's Trade Union League and was an anti-war activist. Wald also founded the Henry Street Settlement House in New York City, which provides -- to this day -- social services, education and health care to the impoverished. And she was active in the ACLU.
WHY THE HELL IS SHE NOT MORE FAMOUS? I am legitimately bothered by this and bring it up often.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
"The IWW has been accused of pushing women to the front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so they have naturally moved to the front." assets.rebelmouse.io
"The IWW has been accused of pushing women to the front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so they have naturally moved to the front."
Hey! You know who was super freaking awesome? Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. As previously mentioned, she was an organizer with Industrial Workers of the World who helped organize the Lawrence Textile Strike. She also organized a hell of a lot of other strikes across the country, helped found the ACLU, and was known for the creative tactics she used to elicit sympathy and support for the American worker.
"Coming from Alabama, this seemed like the civil rights struggle…the labor movement and the civil rights movement, you cannot separate the two of them." assets.rebelmouse.io
When Hattie Canty's husband died in 1972, she found herself supporting eight children on her own. She found work as a maid at a Las Vegas hotel where she joined the Las Vegas Hotel and Culinary Workers Union Local 226. By 1990, she was president of that union, leading one of the longest strikes in American history -- a six year strike of hospitality workers which, happily, ended in victory.
The Women of The Atlanta Washerwomen's Strike
We mean business this week or no washing!
Back in the 1880s, only two decades after the Civil War ended, the most common occupation for black women was as laundresses -- this was largely because if poor white families were going to hire anyone to do chores for them at all, they were going to hire someone to do their laundry. These women were independent workers, often working from their own homes and making their own soap, and they only made about $4 a month. (Average non-black-woman laborers earned about $35 a month in 1880.)
One day in 1881, about 20 of them got together and decided that $4 a month was some bullshit for all the work they were doing and decided to go on strike and demand wages of $1 for every 12 pounds of washing. Three weeks later, 3,000 other women joined them. Unsurprisingly, the city freaked out. They fined any participants $25 -- which was a lot of money when you only made $4 a month -- and they offered tax breaks to any corporation that would come down there to start a commercial steam cleaning business. Still, the women did not back down.
Eventually, people got really sick of doing their own laundry, and the city decided to back down on the fines, and cede to their demands for fear that the unrest would spread to other industries.
"Every minute a chance to change the world." assets.rebelmouse.io
Dolores Huerta, along with Cesar Chavez, helped to organize the National Farmworkers Association, which later became United Farm Workers. She wasn't a farmworker herself -- rather, she was an elementary school teacher who was tired of seeing the children she taught living in poverty because their parents were not making enough money as farmworkers.
I couldn't tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.
Together with Chavez, Huerta organized the successful Delano Grape Strike (or as your mom calls it, "that time we couldn't eat grapes for five years" or as Rebecca's mom calls it "serious people don't care if a boycott 'ends'"), which led to better wages and working conditions for farmworkers, and she has continued working as an activist and an organizer ever since.
Angela and Maria Bambace
Angela and Maria Bambace assets.rebelmouse.io
Though she's not as well known as some of the other women on here, Angela Bambace, an organizer the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union who started unionizing her fellow shirtwaist factory workers at age 18, is a personal hero of mine, along with her sister Maria. Angela was known to punch strikebreakers in the nose, which was pretty freaking bad ass.
She also left her husband and a traditional marriage in which she was confined to "making tomato sauce and homemade gnocchi" --and lost her parental rights in doing so, because back then, women didn't have any -- to fight for workers' rights on the front lines. She was the first Italian-American woman elected Vice-President of the ILGWU, where she worked from 1936 until 1972.
"The Chinatown community then had more and more small garment factories and the Chinese employers thought they could play on ethnic loyalties to get the workers to turn away from the union. They were very, very badly mistaken."
May Chen, also of the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union, led the New York Chinatown strike of 1982 -- 20,000 workers strong and one of the largest strikes in American history. As a result of the strike, employers cut back on wage cuts, gave workers time off for holidays and hired bilingual interpreters in order to accommodate the needs of immigrant workers.
Lucy Randolph Mason
Lucy Randolph Mason assets.rebelmouse.io
Lucy Randolph Mason was a weird one. She was a well-off Southern lady from Virginia, related to George Mason (author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights), Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, and, uh, Robert E. Lee. So, you know, you might have an idea in your head about what her deal might be. And you would be so wrong. In a good way.
So, despite being from this very fancy family, Lucy goes and gets a job as a secretary for the YWCA at 20. 1918, she gets into the whole suffragette thing. Women get the vote, but Lucy's not done. She starts organizing for labor rights and integration and ending white supremacy in the South. She organizes interfaith, integrated unions in the South, which you can imagine was a pretty big deal at that time. She does it through the YWCA. She writes a pamphlet telling consumers to boycott companies that don't treat their workers well. Eventually, she becomes the CIO's ambassador to the South and spends the next 16 years of her life going to all these small towns where bad things would happen to anyone who tried to unionize, and explaining worker's rights and why integration is good and racism is bad to pretty much anyone with any kind of power. Neat!
Ask for work, if they do not give you work, ask for bread, if they will not give you bread, steal bread assets.rebelmouse.io
Though not a union organizer by trade, anarcha-feminist Emma Goldman's advocacy for worker's rights and human dignity and freedom empowered workers and organizers throughout the country, and motivated them to stand up for their own rights. She was considered the most dangerous woman in America for a reason.
She was a feminist, an anti-racist, an atheist, an advocate of free love, an opposer of the institution of marriage and -- very unusually for the time (she pretty much started right after Haymarket, which was 1886, and continued until her death in 1940) was living in -- one of the first advocates of gay rights.
"It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life."
I could probably go on about Emma Goldman forever, but I have to get to other people and also this is not my sophomore year in college.
"I looked him right in the eye and banged on his desk and told him I was not employed by the Pullman company and that my husband had nothing to do with any activity I was engaged in ... I said, 'I want you to take care of this situation or I will be back.' He must have been afraid ... because a black woman didn't speak to a white man in this manner. My husband was put back on his run."
Rosina Tucker is best known for helping to organize the first black labor union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, started by A. Philip Randolph in 1925. A Brotherhood? But she was a woman, you say! Well, the Pullman porters wanted to organize, but they were afraid of losing their jobs. With good reason, because their bosses kept trying to fire them for trying to unionize. So Rosina and other wives of the porters got together and started the Ladies Auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in order to raise funds to start the union.
In 1963, along with A. Philip Randolph of the BSCP, she helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and continued to be active in civil rights and labor rights until she passed away in 1987, at the age of 105.
The women on this list, along with the many others who also fought for labor rights in this country and others, didn't only fight a fight for workers. They fought a feminist fight, they fought for civil rights, they fought for human rights -- they understood the interconnectedness of it all, they understood that without economic justice there is no social justice and without social justice there is no economic justice. They understood the way that the labor movement could be used as a catalyst for making social change possible at a time when they didn't have any political support or power -- and that's a thing we could all do well to remember ourselves.
Stephen and I will be back here for a "live" chat at 12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern — good news for that one person who once said we should have a whole musical theater discussion because we have thoughts about the Funny Girl revival.
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