Women and Labor Movements

"Women and Labor Movements" is a research guide created by Duke's  Story+ program on behalf of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture within Duke's David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It highlights the wealth of materials related to women, labor, and labor organizing within the Bingham Center and the Rubenstein Library. The acquisition of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection in 2015 enhanced the historical context of these collections with a wide range of publications about women in labor movements as well as materials documenting women as workers over time, including a monumental collection of letters and publications by labor activist Emma Goldman and her circle. The Baskin Collection, made up of more than 17,000 items, catalogs the enduring presence of women at work across five centuries. Central themes include early modern printed materials by or about women, suffrage and anti-slavery materials, history of medicine, women artists and makers, and women's literature. This combination of significant material from the Baskin Collection with long-held collections of the Bingham Center and other labor holdings of the Rubenstein Library offers a unique opportunity for scholars to make new connections among the histories and ongoing stories of women’s work in labor movements within and beyond the U.S.

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This research guide offers an overview of Rubenstein Library materials connected to women and labor organizing. It showcases important collections including the records of the International Ladies Garment Workers Unions, the papers of Durham activist Theresa El-Amin, the Southeast Women's Employment Coalition Records, and the Lowell Offering, a newspaper published by and for employees of the Lowell, MA textile mills.

Students in the "Women and Labor Movements" project studied the intersection of feminism and labor organizing today as they examined expressions of these themes across archival collections. Each student has explored a theme in depth and built an online exhibit showcasing how it is represented in Rubenstein Library collections. There are The World's Oldest Profession: Labor Organizing in Prostitution and The Working Mom. The timeline below, built by team member Gia Cummings, comes from her exhibit and highlights key moments in the legal history of motherhood and the workplace.

Banner photos: Southeast Women's Employment Coalition Records, Box 4, Folder "Women in the Southern Economy: Who are We?" 1982-1984 and undated