Mollie T. Marchione History 897 Directed Readings (Fall '98) Prof. Gerald Zahavi February 23, 1999

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Mollie T. Marchione

History 897 Directed Readings (Fall '98)

Prof. Gerald Zahavi

February 23, 1999

Part II:

Selected Annotated Bibliography

American Labor History

Braverman, Harry. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974. 465 pp. Analyzes the division of labor in the 20th century and concludes that capital accumulation was more important than technology in fragmenting the labor process and creating new relations within the working population. The employer’s purchase of labor power over an agreed period of time made capitalist production unique. Labor was purchased with the purpose of appropriating a surplus value over and above what was paid. The surplus value of productive labor (manufacturing) resulted in a continuous mass growth of employment of unproductive labor (clerical work), which became mechanized by Taylorism.


Brier, Stephen, ed. et al. Who Built America? Volume 2. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992. 723 pp. Continues the story of the labor movement in Volume 1, beginning with the social and political transformations that resulted from industrial growth centered in cities in the late nineteenth century and the subsequent conflict between the wage-labor system and republican government. Acquisitive individualism became the highest realization of the American ideal of freedom to the industrial elite and the middle class, in stark contrast to working-class notions of cooperative life. Workers protested the growing class division in American society and the corruption of traditional American values by drawing on shared religious, political, and craft traditions. This working-class collectivity was reflected in the establishment of the Populist Party, and in the Homestead Strike and Pullman Strike of the nineteenth century as well as in the CIO auto workers’ sit-down strikes of the twentieth century. At various times during the last one-hundred years, the strength and size of the labor movement has fluctuated with the impact of prevailing forces, including corporate influence on politics, wartime patriotism, Keynesian economics, automation, and an increasingly multi-racial and female work force.

20th century

Buhle, Mari Jo, “Gender and Labor History,” pp. 55-79; Michael Reich “Capitalist Development, Class Relations, and Labor History,” pp. 30-54 in Carroll Moody and Alice Kessler Harris, Perspectives on American Labor History: The Problems of Synthesis. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989. 236 pp. Buhle and Reich seek a multi-dimensional approach to writing labor history that integrates old and new scholarship. Buhle calls for a synthesis of class and gender analysis. Previously, historians focused on workers in relation to production. Recent women’s historians have shaped their analysis around the importance of household work in forming female identity and social relations. The familial and reproductive roles of women workers must be taken into account. Reich discusses how new scholarship has uncovered working-class culture used by workers to comprehend, confront, and transform the social order. Within this culture, historians see that workers’ consciousness and organizations developed in a conflictual context created by unequal class relations and institutionalized power of industrial capitalism. This approach enriches older scholarship which viewed economic forces and technology as the primary determinants in understanding the working class.


Chafe, William. The American Woman: Her Changing Social, Economic, and Political Roles, 1920-1970. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. 351 pp. Examines the reasons why sweeping changes in women’s social, economic, and political roles did not occur after suffrage. Women’s relationship to men as their “helpmate” prevented the growth of a female independent constituency. With no dramatic “women’s issue” in politics following 1920, women voted like their husbands or did not vote at all. Suffrage did not alter the structure of gender relations; women were still relegated to the domestic sphere. Women lacked cohesiveness in the work force after suffrage. Few women belonged to unions, since many of them worked in unskilled or seasonal jobs. The nation’s need for workers during WW II brought significant changes, as millions of married women over 35 years old entered the work force.


Cohen, Lizabeth. Making A New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 526 pp. Attributes changes in workers’ political perspectives to a gradual shift in their attitudes and behavior that resulted from a wide range of social and cultural experiences. The external influence of welfare capitalism, ethnic institutions, and mass culture fragmented immigrant industrial workers and thwarted or encouraged their efforts to act politically. Argues that while unionization was a result that might indicate the maturing of an industrial era, it was the product of developments that were not exclusively rooted in the industrial economy.

19th century

Diner, Hasia R. Erin’s Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. 192 pp. Examines young Irish immigrant women’s place in Irish culture and family life and their traditional values that persisted in America. Their view of marriage as an economic arrangement, the importance of sibling relationships, the dominant role of women in home life, and the gendered division of social life comprised a behavioral code distinctly different from middle-class America’s cult of true womanhood. Attributes the Irish women’s desire for economic security and independence, which overshadowed romantic notions of love and marriage, to their personal experiences in a famine-stricken homeland.

19th century

Dublin, Thomas. Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. 312 pp. Focuses on the first generation of American women to work outside the home, the mill workers of Lowell. This homogeneous Yankee work force developed bonds in the mills and in the company boardinghouses where they lived. Drawing on their solidarity as the daughters of freemen, these women turned out against their employer when wages were lowered or when boardinghouse rates increased. By mid-century, the Irish assumed skilled mill jobs as the number of native-born workers dwindled. The Irish women were older, married, and lived outside company property. Their strike demands for the wages necessary for family subsistence differed from those of earlier native-born women who viewed management’s actions as threats to their economic independence.

19th century

Dudden, Faye. Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1983. 344 pp. Studies the transformation of help to domestics as reflective of the economic and ideological changes associated with the emergence of industrial capitalism. Housekeeping grew more burdensome with the mass marketing of machine-made furnishings for the middle-class home. New technology increased the number of household tasks, and improvements in municipal services to the home raised standards of cleanliness, cooking, manners, and motherhood. Young immigrant women and black women worked as live-in domestics and the endless hours of drudgery that they performed were supervised by their employer’s wife. Ironically, few middle-class women supervisors who also considered themselves feminists took advantage of household service to pursue the logic of the liberation of women.


Edsforth, Ronald. Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus: The Making of a Mass Consumer Society in Flint, Michigan. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 294 pp. The city of Flint, Michigan, experienced the “second industrial revolution” during 1900-1930 that was centered on automobile production. The prosperous times of the auto boom were key to the Republican businessmen’s control of civic matters in Flint by the 1920s halting the local socialist government’s threats to their authority. High wages for auto workers made material goods attainable. The business class constructed a culture of abundance in Flint that working people embraced, thereby blocking the creation of working-class consciousness. However, when workers were degraded by the economic collapse of the Depression, they finally organized with the UAW-CIO and held strikes against Flint automakers.

1890 - 1925

Ewen, Elizabeth. Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side, 1890-1925. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1985. 303 pp. A story of first- and second-generation Italian and Jewish women who lived in New York City’s Lower East Side. Told in part through oral histories, this study reveals the immigrant mother’s struggle in daily life between her ethnic traditions and American modernity. The hard economic realities of urban working-class life demanded that women preserve those features of ethnic tradition that were essential to survival — cooking, childrearing, and community life. Old World traditions held families together, while social workers preached Americanization.


Foner, Philip. “Organized Labor and the Woman Worker,” History of the Labor Movement in the United States: Labor and World War I, 1914-1918, Volume 7.

197-222. The relationships between male and female workers varied from one union to another depending on the extent of male workers’ prejudice and union hostility. After America’s entrance into WW I, the federal government expected the national unions to admit women where contracts included closed or union shops, but that was not the case. Union leaders feared that hiring women would break unions or reduce wages. Women who filled male jobs as streetcar conductors and meat cutters defended their interests. Women’s first contact with militant males taught them the value of being organized and the advantages of trade union protectionism.


Frank, Dana. Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement, 1919-1929. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 349 pp. Examines the relationship between consumer culture and politics in the 20th century. Seattle’s AFL unions used consumption politically through boycotts, cooperatives, and labor-owned businesses during the 1920s when the open shop drive and the closing of shipyards weakened the AFL. The success of organizing working-class consumption depended largely on the participation of women unionists and the full-time housewives of male workers. The AFL unions’ efforts to mobilize consumption on behalf of a class agenda were limited by their inability to address women workers’ issues.

18th & 19th century

Frisch, Michael H. and Daniel J. Walkowitz. Working-Class America: Essays on Labor Community, and American Society. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983. 313 pp. Essays focus on four themes of the new labor history: culture and class politics, economic history, political culture, and trade unions. Topics explored include how the historical reading of public ceremony of late 18th-century artisans can reveal popular thought, political culture, and the relationship between rituals and republicanism; and how women’s “outwork” in late 19th-century cities reinforced ties to domestic world and limited women’s consciousness of themselves as workers.


Gerstle, Gary. Working-Class Americanism; The Politics of Labor in a Textile City, 1914-1960. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. 356 pp. An account of working-class politics in the 1930s and 1940s in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where the Independent Textile Union successfully joined skilled immigrants and their radicalism with conservative Franco-Americans. The language of Americanism, a political and cultural campaign of Americanization conducted in the early 20th century, gave cohesion to working-class traditional values of religion and ethnicity.


Groneman, Carol and Mary Beth Norton, eds. “To Toil the Livelong Day”: America’s Women at Work, 1780-1980. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987. 312 pp. A collection of papers presented at the Sixth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women held at Smith College in June 1884. The essays examine the ways in which gender has shaped the experience of working women and influenced their behavior, relationships, and wages for centuries. Two themes unite working women across time: household labor, which was defined and determined by culturally shaped needs of the family; and the sexual division of labor in families. Includes articles on agricultural and industrial workers.

1600s - 1960s

Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. 400 pp. Studies women’s work from colonial times through the 1960s. In preindustrial times, women’s home and work roles were complementary. As technology deskilled men’s crafts during the 19th century, women entered wage labor. This transition threatened the organization of the family and the power relations derived from it. Ideas about women’s proper role as mother and keeper of the home sanctuary were institutionalized by the 1850s. Class distinctions were drawn between ladies who did not work for wages and women who did. The debate over a woman’s place continued through the 1950s, even when a wife’s wage became critical to her family’s attainment of the good life. Married middle-class women’s entrance to the world beyond the home created a backdrop for the revival of the drive for equality in the 1960s. However, feminists ran up against persistent attitudes about a woman’s place which had been passed down to men and women in families and through socialization.

20th century

Kessler-Harris, Alice. A Woman’s Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences. Lexington: The University of Kentucky, 1990. 168 pp. A collection of essays that explores the meanings of the wage in the 20th century and how it constructs gendered expectations for working women. Traces women’s progress from economic dependence to independence via the family wage, living wage, and minimum wage to equal pay and comparable worth.

18th & 19th century

Levine, Bruce et al. Who Built America? Volume 1. New York: Pantheon Books, 1989. 606 pp. A narrative of American labor history during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which depicts the growing conflict between labor and capital for control of the nation’s political and economic institutions and cultural ideals. Traces the development of industrial capitalism and how it undermined the economic system of local craft production and family farming. Social changes accompanied industrialization which created sharper divisions in men’s and women’s work and leisure. The influx of immigrants over time expanded the working class. Loss of control of the workshop and recurrent economic troubles spurred workers to organize protests and strikes against employers leading to the first national strike by rail workers in 1877. Improvements in transportation, technology, and westward expansion by the mid-nineteenth century posed challenges to philosophical ideals of republican government. With the North and South divided by wage vs. slave labor and the Western Plains available for farming and business, a civil war over which labor system would prevail became inevitable.

20th century

Melosh, Barbara. "The Physician’s Hand": Work Culture and Conflict in American Nursing. Philadelphia: Temple University Pres, 1982. 260 pp. Traces the history of the professionalization of nursing as it separated from the sphere of women’s domestic work to paid work that required training. The content and cultural meaning of nursing changed during the 20th century as medical care became tied to hospitals, not the home. The nurses’ work culture was rooted in the apprenticeship of hospital schools since the 1920s, which valued craft methods and practical experience and offered female autonomy. While the professional nursing association's leaders wanted college-based training, which became a requirement in the 1950s, the rank-and-file nurses resisted change.


Milkman, Ruth, ed. Women, Work and Protest: A Century of Women’s Labor History. Boston, MA: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1985. 333 pp. A study of the complex relationship between gender, consciousness, and working-class activism. This collection of essays examines the relationship of women to trade unions, focusing on the historical conditions which encouraged women’s militancy. Topics include the 1912 Lawrence Strike, Irish transportation workers in the 1930s, and the ILGWU.

1890s -1920s

Peiss, Kathy. Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986. 244 pp. A study of working women’s leisure activities in dance halls, movies, and amusement parks. In these heterosocial spaces, young working-class women expressed their desire for self-determined pleasure, sexuality, and autonomy. Women’s participation in commercialized recreation was consciously encouraged by entrepreneurs who defined recreation as a commodity. Middle-class reformers’ attempts to control immigrant behavior were outmatched by the sensuality and modernity of cheap amusements.

19th century

Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York: Verso, 1991. 191 pp. Argues that working-class formation and the systematic development of a sense of whiteness went hand-in-hand for America’s white working class during the 19th century. From colonial times, anti-black attitudes created a popular sense of whiteness. As black slavery flourished in America, it was stigmatized as the antithesis of republican citizenship. Racial stereotypes helped to forge the identity of white workers. The white working class rejected notions of themselves as “slaves” to wage labor, accepted their white skin color as a “public and psychological” wage that compensated for a low monetary wage. Workers’ self-identification as white free labor prevented them from fully challenging class exploitation.


Rosenzweig, Roy. Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 304 pp. Examines the central values, beliefs, and traditions of working-class immigrants in Worcester, Massachusetts, and how culture and class relations changed from the 19th to the 20th century. In saloons, public parks, celebrations of ethnic holidays, and working-class organizations immigrant groups were exclusive and autonomous. The commercialization of leisure, especially movies, made the mixing of class, gender, and ethnicity possible in a normally segregated leisure space. The creation of mass culture offered immigrants a new perception of themselves as Americans and brought Worcester’s working class closer to the mainstream of American society.


Scott, Joan W. "On Language, Gender, and Working-Class History," 1-13; Bryan D. Palmer. "Response to Joan Scott," 14-23, in International Labor And Working-Class History 31, Spring 1987. Using Gareth Stedman Jones's essay called "Rethinking Chartism" in Languages of Class, Scott addresses the problem of bringing women as a subject and gender as an analytic category in writing labor history. She suggests that historians have used theories of language only superficially in understanding conceptions of politics and class, and in so doing, have ignored gender in the study of working-class life. Since language assumes multiple references and is multidimensional, Scott contends it is key to understanding the differences in the construction of meaning that make gender visible. Palmer agrees that language plays a role in understanding how working-class conceptions of political and social differentiation were ordered. But he warns against the pitfall of historians' using language theories as an "interpretive panacea" which results in idealist and ahistorical arguments about gendered conceptions of class. Palmer remains unconvinced that Scott has found the best way to attend to language and gender.

19th century

White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985. 216 pp. Illuminates the private world of female slaves and their complementary roles to male slaves. Rejects myth of the slave woman as Mammy or Jezebel. Slave women operated outside the woman’s sphere of white culture and created their own independent definition of womanhood. They performed masculine labor, remained autonomous in slave marriages, lived separately from spouses and relied on a network of female kin and friends for support. Gender-divided work and social time forged cooperation and interdependence among slave women. In their private female world they identified leaders and established a hierarchy reflected in job status as midwife, doctor woman, seamstress, or cook.


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