Working women


Working women


Work. Throughout the 19th century, even suffragists saw paid work as something poor women _had_ to do, not something women would _want_ to do. Most of the movement’s full-time activists (both white and Black) had family money or a husband who supported them. Thread.

While some women made their own money as lecturers, editors, doctors, or lawyers, at century’s end this was still rare. Laboring women: domestics, factory workers--Irish, Italian, Jewish immigrant women--were seen by “club women” as people to be pitied and aided, not organized.

Harriot Stanton Blatch helped change that. Harriot returned to the U.S. in 1902 because her mother was dying. As a suffragist, she lived in her famous mother’s shadow - a new problem for a woman! (Here: Harriot w/her mother and her daughter.)

Harriot’s years in England gave her space to craft her own identity. There she was deeply involved in the Fabian Society, where she absorbed socialism and a class analysis that was new to her. She developed a feminist philosophy that valued working women as agents of power.

In other words, she grasped that the vote mattered to all women. Not only to wealthy women who wanted to improve the law _on behalf_ of the poor factory girls, but to the factory girls who wanted power to make the laws themselves. Duh, right? But it was a significant shift then.

At the beginning of the 20th century, working-class women and wealthy women were beginning to organize collaboratively for the first time. In 1903 they created the Women’s Trade Union League. The WTUL’s primary goal was to promote unionization among working women, and it did.

It was also a place for working women and elite women to engage in a shared political effort as partners. Harriot Stanton Blatch embraced it immediately, and became one of the first wealthy women to join the WTUL's New York chapter.

She could see fierce immigrant activists like Rose Schneiderman and Leonora O’Reilly as partners - and she could explain to elite women why they needed to work together. Read about O'Reilly if you missed her👇 And then...

Stay tuned for how the Women’s Trade Union League helped the suffrage movement shake off its torpor. #Suffrage100 Apr 30, 2020


Daily Suffragist




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Daily Suffragist, “Working women,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 27, 2022,

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