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Social Unionism in Action

Members of the waist and dressmakers local voting on their 1913 agreement

ILGWU Archives (5780PB10F8A) Kheel Center, Cornell University.

ILGWU members have been primarily immigrant women since the union’s founding in 1900, and activists within the union have frequently been women as well, although the leadership has been more likely to be immigrant men.

The 1913 vote pictured above doesn’t reveal the ethnic background of these women, although it is likely they were Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, as was the case for a majority of members at this time. We suspect some of them were activists and organizers, as were a significant number of women members. This group of women gather for a photograph documenting their August, 1913 vote on a contract. Note their finery, indicating how important they consider the occasion.