Factory women


Factory women


“The manufacturer has a vote; the bosses have votes; the foremen have votes, the inspectors have votes. The working girl has no vote.” - Clara Lemlich, 1912 White working women became suffragists in large numbers when they heard working women advocate for suffrage. [Thread]

At the turn of the 19th century, Italian and Ashkenazi Jewish immigration was booming on the east coast. Immigrants who weren’t Asian became citizens easily, and the men quickly became new voters. But instead of seeking their support, national suffrage groups like NAWSA and WCTU decided they were the enemy: surely pro-liquor and anti-suffrage.

Xenophobia and anti-Semitism contributed to their certainty that these men were to be resented, not recruited. If laboring men were resented, their sisters were pitied.

In New York especially, upper class women began to take an interest in the working conditions of white women and girls, and the Consumers League became a force for reform. But factory girls were the objects of the League’s political organizing, not its authors.

The settlement house movement began to bridge this gap, and Florence Kelley especially tried to unite suffragists and working women. But do-gooder social workers weren’t persuasive messengers to factory girls, at least not re:why they should prioritize the vote over labor rights.

In 1907, the leading women of the labor movement began to speak for themselves about the crusade for voting rights. Rose Schneiderman, Pauline Newman, Clara Lemlich, and Leonora O’Reilly were stars of the labor movement in New York City.

Their embrace of women’s suffrage infused it with energy and vitality at a crucial point. But friction between suffrage and Socialism meant they were endlessly pulled in two directions. Stay tuned this week for more! #Suffrage100 #CenturyOfStruggle 


Daily Suffragist







Daily Suffragist, “Factory women,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 27, 2022, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/371.

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