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The main Woolworth's store was already on strike, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) was threatening to escalate the strike to all of the stores in Detroit." (Cobble, 2003)
Myra had been nicknamed the: "Battling Belle of Detroit" by media in the Detroit area because Myra is said to have:.." relished a good fight with employers, particularly over the issues close to her heart. A lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) she insisted, for example, on sending out racially integrated crews from the union's hiring hall, rejecting such standard employer requests as 'black waiters only, white gloves required." (Cobble, 2003) Myra was involved in many more organized protests and strikes and is stated to "consider herself a feminists...outspoken about her commitment to end sex discrimination...lobbied against the ERA until 1972...chaired the national committee against a repeal of women-only state labor laws.." among other activities into the 1970s. The women who were like Wolfgang leading the women's labor movement "can best be described as 'labor feminists'...who recognized that women suffer disadvantages due to their sex and because they sought to eliminate sex-based disadvantages." (Cobble, 2003)
These women were those who "articulated a particular variant of feminism that put the needs of working-class women at its core and because they championed the labor movement as the principle vehicle through which the lives of the majority of women could be bettered." (Cobble, 2003) Cobble 2003 states that these labor feminists during the post-depression decades "were the intellectual daughters and granddaughters of Progressive Era 'social feminists' like Florence Kelley, Rose Schneiderman, and Jane Addams." The belief of these feminists, similar to earlier social feminists beliefs held that "women's disadvantages stemmed from multiple sources and that a range of social reforms was necessary to remedy women's secondary status." (Cobble, 2003) the individualism of 'equal rights feminism' did not set well with these women and it was these labor women who assisted in the modernization of 'social feminism'.
Labor feminists claimed that women had equal rights to what is termed "full industrial citizenship...gaining the right to market work for all women..." which meant social rights being secured for women or alternatively the required social supports in family caretaking instead of waged work. Thee women looked to both the states and unions in assisting the transformation of the structures and norms of wage work and in curbing the inequalities of a discriminatory labor market. (Cobble, 2003; paraphrased) This impact has traditionally placed states and labor unions in a supporting role in transformation of the labor market at the request and behest of women who clearly speak and require the other parties to this system to react in a manner that is productive and positive in terms of ridding the labor market of inequality and discriminatory behavior toward working-women.
Cobble writes that: "...the numbers of women unionists rose after the 1930's both in absolute and percentage terms. By the early 1950s, some three million women were union members a far cry from the 800,000 who belonged in 1940, and the percentage of unionists who were women had doubled, reaching 18%. In addition, some two million women belonged to labor auxiliaries at their peak in the 1940s and early 1950s. Few of these women sat at the collective bargaining table. Fewer still stood behind the podium gaveling the union convention to order." (Cobble, 2003) However, the fact is the lack of visualization of these women in roles of leadership "should not necessarily be taken as an indication of female powerlessness or lack of influence." (Cobble, 2003) Specifically, the work of Karen Sacks revealed structures that were informal and hidden in the system of power that were different from the more obvious formal powers but that were however, still quite influential powers. Sack's research states findings that in unions and organizing communities the "male union leaders and spokesmen took positions only after consulting with and gaining the approval of key women on the shop floor - women who never held formal positions of leadership but who wielded considerable influence nonetheless." (REF 19; in Cobble, 2003)
Just as significant was the movement of women into leadership positions in local, regional and national levels within the labor movement. While "gender parity was not achieved by any stretch of the imagination, and men continued to predominate in top executive positions..." even still, there was an evident increase in the influence of women as well as in "the emergence in many unions of a critical mass of labor women committed to women's equality and social justice." (Cobble, 2003) Among these ranks are named: "Ester Peterson, Gladys Dickason, Dorothy Lowther Robinson, and Anne Draper of Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) as well as many others from other organized unions across the United States. The reform agenda championed by these women put to "...end unfair sex discrimination, equal pay for comparable work, a family or living wage for women and men, the revaluing of the skills in 'women's jobs', economic security and shorter hours, social supports from the state and from employers for child-bearing and child-rearing..." (Cobble, 2003)
All of this culminated in expansion of "...a fundamental reassessment of the norms and practices governing employment that is still going on." (Cobble, 2003) While these labor-women did not always accomplish specific contract provisions they sought and neither were they always successful in welfare state expansion as they had hoped these women were "among the principal actors in the postwar struggle over the course each would take." (Cobble, 2003) Cobbles states that study has brought to light: "...the myriad ways women have affected states policies. They also demonstrate how concerns over gender and race have figured as prominently in the creation of the social and economic policy as has redistributive impulses and anxieties about consumer purchasing power. In the United States, however, social welfare cannot be understood without analyzing the employment-based entitlements developed in the private sector. The United States developed a mixed welfare system: supplemental income, health and welfare coverage, and other benefits were as much a function of one's employment status as of one's citizenship. Labor women operated in both the public and private realms, pursuing a dual strategy of reform through legislation and collective bargaining." (Cobble, 2003) it is the contention of Cobble that "class differences remained salient in the New Deal and after, although in newly disguised forms, and that labor ideologies and institutions had a powerful effect on the formulation and implementation of social and employment policy." (2003)
During the second World War women replaced men in factories and "Rosie the Riveter" is said to have "become the model of the patriotic women working a defense plant." (Walls,
However, following the war, the women were expected to remove themselves from the places of work and back into the role of homemakers and while women "continued to move into the workforce..." It was in the traditional occupations. Women were achieving higher levels of education than previously and when the birth control pill came, available fewer women became pregnant after sometime in 1964 and women began to plan their children around their work and educational pursuits.
The work of Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer (2003) entitled: "The Democratic Experiment: New Directions in American Political History" published by the Princeton University Press has as its focus two primary questions with the first being related to the relationship between government and citizens in the context of citizen suspicion toward the power of the state which has been the "overriding theme of American political culture." (Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer, 2003) the second being the continual evolution of mechanisms of democratic participation. Since the beginning of American democracy, American citizens have "fought protracted struggles over the exercise of strong central state authority." (Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer, 2003) Additionally noted by Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer (2003) is the voting public's relationship to the political elite and the element of the institutions of politics and voluntary participation that enabled Americans in gaining their political standing. These institutions of mediation linked the citizens and elected officials and were instrumental in bringing about reform in a process that was evolving continuously pushed from grassroots toward gaining the notice and consideration of elected officials and in what was a pressurized yet democratic process of change. However, simultaneously occurring is the traditional political, interest groups and other voluntary participation organizations along with other."..institutionalized forms of political representation" which enabled the actors of government to effectively enlarge government. Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer (2003) relate that the patterns of the growth of state government have been characterized by "fits and starts." In the study of political history synthesis of the organization of government opened up the discussion of politics to embrace policy experts, think tanks, lobbyists, academics, bureaucrats, staffers, and congressional committees that shaped the workings of government in Washington and state Capitals. Jacobs, Novak and Zelizer inform that the work of Stephen Skowronek reviews the manner in which reformers in the Progressive Era were…[continue]
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