Journal of Women’s History
“We Were Not Ladies” uses the 1930s dual union fight between the United Mine Workers of America and the Progressive Miners to challenge the historiography on women’s auxiliaries in the United States. While most labor and women’s historians have focused on the traditional and supporting roles that non-wage-earning women played in male unions, I show a more radical side to working-class housewives’ activism. Through the Women’s Auxiliary of the Progressive Miners, coal miners’ daughters and wives recognized that conventional gender roles could neither gain them political and economic power in their communities, nor could these roles encompass their evolving political consciousness.
Because the mine union wars of the early 1930s opened up an opportunity for women to understand and rearticulate their identities, the episode provides a critical historical vantage on the gendering of class in the rural industrial multiracial heartland. Auxiliary women were engaged in a new “class struggle” that went beyond the traditional female spheres of home and family.
This episode of dual unionism is significant not only because women became active in the movement but also because it exposes the contradictory ways that class and gender intersected and were understood by male and female actors.
Copyright © 2006, Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Merithew, Caroline Waldron, "'We Were Not Ladies': Gender, Class, and a Women’s Auxiliary’s Battle for Mining Unionism" (2006). History Faculty Publications. 51.