Union Women and the Feminist Movement: Telling Untold Stories
St. Louis, Mo. – "If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you are going,” was an observation consistently made by the late Addie Wyatt, a founder and Executive Vice President Emerita of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
Wyatt, a long-time leader of the United Packing House Workers in Chicago, would have been proud to witness a recent Veteran Feminists of America conference celebrating the inter-related histories of the feminist movement and the labor movement -- a conference where CLUW Chicago President Katie Jordan, a friend and colleague, spoke about Sister Addie Wyatt’s contributions.
Moderated by VFA chair and NOW co-founder Muriel Fox, the panel also included stories about Caroline Davis and Dorothy Haener (UAW) and Catherine Conroy (CWA) also founding members of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Conroy, an activist from Wisconsin, had said that she often felt like she was “the token labor woman in the women’s groups and the token feminist at the union meetings.” Millie Jeffrey (UAW) was also honored.
Veteran Feminists of America is a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the history of “second wave” feminism, from the 1960s to 1975, including progress on reproductive rights, employment and education rights, and the equal rights amendment to the Constitution. The VFA conference, “Labor & the Women’s Movement: The Untold Story and Why It Matters,” was held in St. Louis Sept. 27th to celebrate the contributions of labor women and to chart a joint path forward.
As we will see, “first wave” feminism focused mainly on suffrage ending with the nineteenth amendment in 1920 securing women’s right to vote. “Third wave” feminism” – which describes the movement’s present form – is built on these legal and institutional rights, but focusing on intersections between racial, economic, LGBTQ and gender justice, while adding social media to the mix.
A number of union women were recognized by the Veteran Feminists of America for their outstanding work. Pictured from the left are CLUW members from the St. Louis Metro Chapter Marcia Cline, Alice Moore-Jones, Tina Hays and Carol Johnson. Not pictured is another CLUW winner, Linda Whitley. Award recipient also not pictured is Mary Bennett, CLUW member from the Chicago Chapter.
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