Remembering the Strong Women of the Labor Movement

Women’s history month is a time to remember the important women that have fought for solutions to a number of social and political problems that women have faced. Today, we will be recognizing several women who may not be well-known, but have dedicated their lives to help women gain their rights.


A poster commemorating Lucy Parsons in the Images of Labor campaign. AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art collection.

Continue reading


Curator’s Choice: Favorite Item in the Labor History Exhibit

For the past year I have helped co-curate the Labor History Collections exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” It has been an exciting and rewarding experience that has taught me so much about the vast history of the labor movement. One of the displays that I designed and installed was “Breaking the Gender Barrier: A Woman’s Place is in Her Union,” which focuses on how women fought to become a central part of organized labor and to make the movement a leading force for gender equality on and off the job. One of the items within this display is a button from the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) that states “A Woman’s Place is in Her Union.”


Check out the Labor History exhibit in the Hornbake Library to get a replica of this button!

Continue reading

International Women’s Day: Strike for Change

Happy International Women’s Day! In celebration of this holiday we will be exploring the holiday’s evolving history and how its creation intertwines with the labor movement. The purpose of International Women’s Day is to bring attention to the social, political, and economic issues that women face. It is also used as a day to recognize women who have made achievements toward creating solutions for these many issues. The spirit of this holiday, which has been carried on since the early 1900s, has been to use demonstrations as a way to showcase the value of women to society. This holiday was started by women striking for basic workers’ rights.


Newspaper article from the UIU Journal, 1978. Artificial Collections, Vertical Files, 1881-1999.

Continue reading

Fembot Edit-A-thon

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Fembot, the University of Maryland Department of Women’s Studies, the University of Maryland Libraries, the LGBT Equity Center, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, are hosting a two-day Wikipedia Edit-a-thon  to write women of color, trans, and/or non-conforming people and related organizations and ideas into Wikipedia.


Please join Fembot and our partners for the 2018 Fembot Edit-a-thon! The Edit-A-thon will take place Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, from 10:30-4:00pm in McKeldin Library Rooms 6107 and 6103.  This Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon will contribute to the world of free and accessible knowledge, while at the same time working toward an anti-racist, gender inclusive history of everything within Wikipedia’s vast database.

More details about the event:

Continue reading

The Montgomery Bus Boycott & Labor: Not the Strategy You’d Expect

In the course of research for our labor exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” I came across several files on the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  I was excited about this “find” because of the high profile and historical nature of the boycott, and I wanted to see why it was in the AFL-CIO Archive, which documents the labor movement activities of the AFL-CIO.  A letter from Matthew Woll, AFL-CIO’s General Counsel, to George Meany (AFL-CIO President) explains the reasoning behind the AFL-CIO’s non-action on the boycott, which had direct ties to the transportation trades, specifically the leaders and members of the AFL-CIO affiliated Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Alabama. Continue reading

Labor’s Role in Abolishing the Poll Tax


This circa 1940s broadside was used in the state of Texas to notify voters to pay their poll tax.
AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art, 1900- (RG99-001)

So, what IS a poll tax?

As far back as the 14th century, poll taxes were used to create revenue, as well as maintain caste and class systems by taxing individuals at a fixed amount, rather than based on income, in the United States.  It almost exclusively applied to taxing certain individuals when they went to vote.  Continue reading

African-Americans in the Early Labor Movement

DYK that labor unions did not allow African-Americans to become members back in the day? Being a member of a union was important to be able to bargain for workers’ rights and fight against the discrimination that black workers faced. Many skilled black workers sought to join unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) between 1881 and 1915. But, white craft union members, who were primarily affiliated with the AFL, were afraid of the competition and didn’t allow African Americans to join. On the other hand, industrial unions were more accepting of black workers.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) union members pose with locomotive firemen, ca. 1940. AFL-CIO Photographic Print Collection (RG96-001)

Who were early allies?

The Knights of Labor, the AFL until 1915, the United Mine Workers of America, the International Longshoreman’s Union, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Some black workers allowed to join:

The Teamsters, the Cigar Makers, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, the Carpenters, and the Printers.

Very few black workers allowed to join:

The Pressmen, the Lithographers, the Photo-Engravers, the Iron Steel and Tin Workers, the Molders, the Pattern Makers, the Glass Workers, the Boot and Shoe Workers, and the Wood Workers

For more information about the relationship of the civil rights movement and the labor movement, visit our exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” in person or online or email us at

Jen Eidson is a Special Collections Processing Archivist in the University of Maryland Libraries.