United Apart: Gender and the Rise of Craft Unionism
In the late nineteenth century, most jobs were strictly segregated by sex. And yet, despite their separation at work, male and female employees regularly banded together when they or their unions considered striking. In her groundbreaking book, Ileen A. DeVault explores how gender helped to shape the outcome of job actions?and how gender bias became central to unionism in America.
Covering the period from the formation of the American Federation of Labor in 1886 to the establishment of the Women's Trade Union League in 1903, DeVault analyzes forty strikes from across the nation in the tobacco, textile, clothing, and boot and shoe industries. She draws extensively on her research in local newspapers as she traces the daily encounters among male and female coworkers in workplaces, homes, and union halls. Jobs considered appropriate for men and those for women were, she finds, sufficiently interdependent that the success of the action depended on both sexes cooperating. At the same time, with their livelihoods at stake, tensions between women and men often appeared.
The AFL entered the twentieth century as the country's primary vehicle for unionized workers, and its attitude toward women formed the basis for virtually all later attempts at their organization. United Apart transforms conventional wisdom on the rise of the AFL by showing how its member unions developed their central beliefs about female workers and how those beliefs affected male workers as well.