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wtul_5780pb33f3jp600cThe Women’s Trade Union League was founded in Boston on this date in 1903 during the annual convention of the American Federation of Labor. Led in part by Lillian Wald, the organization brought together wealthy and middle-class women of the settlement house movement and working-class women active in the labor movement, and focused both on labor justice and on the empowerment of women. New York’s branch of the WTUL played a crucial role in the 1909 Uprising of the Twenty Thousand, when its members joined the picket lines of the striking garment workers, bailed them out of jail, organized legal aid services, and publicized the strike as a just cause nationwide. The WTUL also challenged the labor movement’s sexism from within and moved the AFL to support the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage). Rose Schneiderman would serve as the WTUL’s national president from 1926 until 1950, when the organization dissolved.
“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.” —Rose Schneiderman