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Guide to the Women's Trade Union League of New York Records WAG.112

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596
special.collections@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by and described by Nancy Schrom Dye, Description adapted by Nicole Greenhouse in April 2013

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 05, 2020 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Record updated by Weatherly Stephan to reflect rehousing of folders in box 7  , November 2020

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Women's Trade Union League of New York
Source: New York (State). Department of Labor
Title: Women's Trade Union League of New York Records
Dates [inclusive]: 1903-1955
Abstract: This collection contains the records of the Women's Trade Union League of New York, from its founding in 1903 to its fold in 1955. The collection contains minutes, correspondence, reports, publications, photographs, and other materials related to its work in organizing women's trade unions and lobbying for legislation for better conditions for workers. The collection also includes papers from the presidencies of Maud Swartz and Rose Schneiderman and the papers of special interest groups that members worked for, including the New York Conference for Unemployment Insurance Legislation, the New York Joint Committee for Ratification of the Child Labor Amendment, and the Campaign Committee against the Equal Rights Amendment.
Quantity: 13 Linear Feet 10 record cartons, 3 photograph boxes, 2 manuscript boxes, and flat file folders.
Language: Materials are in English.
Call Phrase: WAG.112

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Historical/Biographical Note

The Women's Trade Union League of New York was one of the three original locals leagues established in the months following the formation of the National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) in 1903. It was formally organized in February 1904. The WTUL of New York was founded by William English Walling and Mary Kenney O'Sullivan, who worked to recruit Margaret and Mary Dreier, Leonora O'Reilly, Pauline Newman, Clara Lemlich, Alice Bean, and Hilda Svenson, among others. The League served as a kind of training ground for the working women, many of whom had careers later in the labor movement and government service. From 1904 to 1914, the League formed several dozen small shop unions of women in various branches on the clothing industry and provided them with organizational and financial assistance until they could affiliate with the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union or the United Garment workers. The League also reached out and unionized other unorganized women workers throughout its first ten years.

By 1915, the League began to shift their focus away from organization and toward increasing emphasis upon legislation as a way to ameliorate women's working conditions. In the 1920s and 1930s, under the presidencies of Maud Swartz and Rose Schneiderman, they campaigned for for maximum hour and minimum wage laws, which were unsuccessful. Often,the local unions that they originally organized did not take over the financial burden of supporting the League, which led to a loss of resources and funds. By World War II, the League was severely restricted by lack of funds and membership. Gerel Rubien took over as president when Rose Schneiderman retired in 1949 and continued until 1955, five years after the national WTUL disbanded.

Adapted from Nancy Schrom Dye, "The Women's Trade Union League of New York," in The Women's Trade Union League and its Principal Members, ed. by Edward T. James (Woodridge, Connecticut, 1981) 179-208.

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Scope and Content Note

The records of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) of New York constitute one of the largest surviving collections of source material on the history of the WTUL. The material spans the entirety of the organizations existence, from 1903-1955. They are particularly valuable as providing the only extensive documentation of a local League. The collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, annual reports, monthly bulletins, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera. The collection also includes papers from the presidencies of Maud Swartz and Rose Schneiderman and the papers of special interest groups that members worked for, including the New York Conference for Unemployment Insurance Legislation, the New York Joint Committee for Ratification of the Child Labor Amendment, and the Campaign Committee against the Equal Rights Amendment.

Since much of the New York League's effort focused on legislation, the records provide insights into the legislative goals and tactics of a social reform organization, during the 1920s and later. There is also a good deal in the collection about labor education, both the League's own evening classes and such ventures as Brookwood Labor College and the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers. There is also correspondence on broader social movements: labor participation in third parties, efforts to ratify the Child Labor Amendment, the campaign during the depression years for social security legislation, the sustained opposition of many women reformers and activists to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment because of its impact on protective legislation for women workers.

The collection is also a source of biographical and personal data. It contains little information about Mary Dreier, from whose presidency only a few stray letters remain, or about Leonora O'Reilly. It is a bit stronger on Pauline Newman, whose membership spalled almost the whole history of the League; occasional letters from her are scattered throughout the correspondence. The collection contains a significant amount of material from Schneiderman and Swartz, for the latter, it casts light on her relations with her predecessor as national president, Margaret Dreier Robins, and with the League's national secretary, Elisabeth Christman.

This collection also contains a card catalogue, photographs, and a banner.

Adapted from Nancy Schrom Dye, "The Women's Trade Union League of New York," in The Women's Trade Union League and its Principal Members, ed. by Edward T. James (Woodridge, Connecticut, 1981) 179-208.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into seven series:

Series I: Minutes and Reports
Series II: Correspondence
Series III: Special Topics
Series IV: Printed and Duplicated Materials
Series V: Miscellaneous
Series VI: Card Catalogue
Series VII: Photographs and Other Nonprint Materials

On the whole, each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items at the end. Undated items and items of the same date are arranged by author.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972

Document Type

  • Black-and-white photographs.

Subject Organizations

  • New York (State). Department of Labor

Subject Topics

  • Women labor leaders -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women labor union members -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Labor laws and legislation -- United States.

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Administrative Information

Custodial History

This collection was transferred to the New York State Department of Labor in November 1956 from the New York offices. Tamiment Library and the Robert F. Wagner Archives received the Women's Trade Union League of New York Records in 1995 from the library of the New York State Department of Labor in Brooklyn when they closed and moved to Albany.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the Women's Trade Union League of New York was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Women's Trade Union League of New York; WAG 112; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Related Archival Materials

Tamiment Library holds the Rose Schneiderman Papers (TAM 018). Tamiment also holds microfilm copies of the the Margaret Dreier Robins Papers, Mary Anderson Papers, Leonora O'Reilly Papers, and the Agnes Nestor Papers, all under the call number R-7099.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version for boxes 1-10. Microfilm call number is R-7099. Researchers are permitted access to boxes 11-15.

Published microfilm guide available in repository shelved in reference at HD6079.2.U5 P36 1981. The microfilm was created in 1981 as part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College's Papers of the Women's Trade Union League and its Principal Leaders microfilm project.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the New York State Department of Labor in Brooklyn, 1995. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 1995.015 and 1995.016.

Processing Information

When the papers were first received by the Department of Labor, there appeared to exist some original order and arrangement, this arrangement had been disrupted prior to its arrival. Rose Schneiderman while working on her autobiography removed some material which likely remained with her papers. The collection was further arranged in 1977 to prepare for microfilm.

In 2013, description from the microfilm guide was used to create a DACS compliant record. Photographs were separated from this collection during initial accessioning at Tamiment and were established as a separate collection, the Women's Trade Union League of New York Photographs (PHOTOS 68). In 2013, the photograph collection was reincorporated into Women's Trade Union League of New York Records.

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Container List

Reel
1-5
Box
2
Box
1
 

Series I: Minutes and Reports, 1905-1955, undated

Scope and Content Note

This series contains the minutes of general membership meetings, (usually held once a month except for July and August), minutes of meetings of the executive board (held once or twice a month), and monthly reports on the League's work, usually by the secretary but occasionally by the president. Other items included are minutes of the strike council, beginning in December 1910, reports of League committees on organization, legislation, and other matters, monthly reports of the League's organizer, and occasional annual reports of one or more of the officers.

The series has a few gaps; scheduled meetings were sometimes omitted and occasional minutes and secretary's reports appear to be missing. The minutes of the League's annual meeting, held in March and devoted to annual reports and to election officers for the comming year, do not appear in the files until 1920. The minutes and reports reconstruct much of its day-to-day activity: its attempts to make contact with working women, its organizing efforts in various trades, its relations with local trade unions and the labor movement generally, and its legislative work. The executive board minutes are useful for recording changes in the League's ideology and priorities.

Reel
6-16
Box
6
Box
2
Box
4
Box
5
 

Series II: Correspondence, 1908-1955, undated

Scope and Content Note

This series contains correspondence, the bulk of which comes from 1919-1926 and 1944-1955, with correspondence scattered throughout the rest of the organization's duration. It is mostly concerned with internal matters such as fundraising and the management of the League's clubhouse. The most substantial topic is the League's work for legislation at the state and national level.

Researchers interested in the National WTUL will find here substantial portions of the official correspondence of two successive national presidents, Swartz and Schneiderman, carried on from the office of the New York League and interfiled with its correspondence.

Reel
17-21
Box
7
Box
8
Box
16
 

Series III: Special Topics, 1911-1939

Scope and Content Note

This series contains materials on special topics, which had League support and some participation by the League leaders. The largest bodies of papers within this series are the records of three ad hoc, cross organizational groups seeking legislative goals: the New York Conference for Unemployment Insurance Legislation (1931-1934), the New York Joint Committee for Ratification of the Child Labor Agreement (1937-1938), and the Campaign Committee against the Equal Rights Amendment (1938-1939). Mary Dreier was the last secretary the New York Conference for Unemployment Insurance Legislation and the chairman of the New York Joint Committee for Ratification of the Child Labor Agreement. Other files relate to the International Congress/Federation of Working Women (1919-1924), which contain correspondence and other papers kept by Maud Swartz in her capacity as the Congress's secretary and American vice president of the rechristened International Federation of Working Women.

Records generated by the New York WTUL begin with a small group of papers dating from 1911 and pertaining to the League's campaign against safety and sanitation abuses in New York factories. Other materials are made up of correspondence and related papers of the New York League's compensation service, set up to assist working women in making claims for job related injuries under the state's workmen's compensation act (1922-1924). Other materials relate to New York League benefits and to songs and skits prepared for League occasions, labor plays, and articles and speeches prepared by League members.

Processing Information

Folders 1-6 from box 7 were moved to box 16 in November 2020 to reduce the weight of the box. The order of the folders has been maintained.

Reel
22-24
Box
9
Box
10
 

Series IV: Printed and Duplicated Material, 1907-1955

Scope and Content Note

The printed and duplicated series contains the New York League's Annual Reports, Convention Reports, and  Monthly Bulletins. It also contains items issued by the National and New York Leagues and other organizations and of state and federal legislative bills, assembled by the New York League.

Reel
25
Box
11
 

Series V: Miscellaneous, 1916-1954, 1963
Women's Trade Union League of New York

Scope and Content Note

This series includes newspaper clippings pertaining to the New York WTUL, a scrapbook of the annual announcements of its Educational Department, and notes for a history of the League compiled in the late 1930s as part of a Work Progress Administration project. This series also contains financial and audit reports for the League.

Series VI: Card Catalogue, undated

Scope and Content Note

This series contains a card catalog of the collection, likely created by the Library of the Department of Labor.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 12 Card Catalogue
undated
Box: 13 Card Catalogue
undated
Box: 14 Card Cataogue
undated

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Series VII: Photographs and Other Nonprint Materials, 1910s-1950s

Scope and Content Note

This series mostly contains black-and-white photographs of varying sizes, related to the New York WTUL. The photographs are made up of headshots of leaders and other shots of WTUL officials, publicity shots, events, meetings, performances, conventions, and other photographs. There a significant amount of photographs that feature Eleanor Roosevelt. The series also contains a cloth banner bearing the legend: "New York Women's Trade Union League; Organized 1903."

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 15 8 x 10 and 5 x 7 black and white prints

Scope and Content Note

Ten folders including: undated headshots (mostly publicity photographs); staff; Nora Piore, dance class, meeting with Rose Schneiderman ca. 1940s; Washington, DC trip for students (1938); "Pilgrimage and Picnic," June 1947 (shots take at Franklin D. Roosevelt gravesite and on "Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt's grounds" [Valkill?]; events arranged chronologically between 1923-1949; performances; portraits of Eleanor Roosevelt; social gatherings; cookout/camping (possibly at Valkill, group shot with Eleanor Roosevelt) ca. 1930s; classroom shots; photocopies of pages from a scrapbook.

1935-1949, undated
Flat-File-Folder: 2 Left Oversize and Panoramic Black and White Prints

Scope and Content Note

Group portraits and celebratory dinners.

1929-1947
Box: 5 - Ephemera and Artifacts Cloth Banner: "New York Women's Trade Union League; Organized 1903"
undated

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