'Women of Power' in the labor movement

Molly Orbon

A new Kheel Center exhibit aims to show the often-overshadowed impact of women in labor history.

“Sometimes the idea of labor is associated with masculinist, industrial labor; for example, images of men with sledgehammers in the 1930s,” said Cheryl Beredo, director of the Kheel Center. “But the Kheel Center actually has several premier collections where women feature prominently, whether they’re garment workers, health care workers or teachers.”

The exhibit, “Women of Power,” showcases a diverse range of women, such as Rose Pesotta, the anarchist, feminist and labor organizer who served as vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, the labor organizer Maida Springer Kemp, and organizer Dollie Lowther Robinson, education director of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

These women showed initiative, organizational skills and the ability to build grassroots movements and alliances, said research and reference archivist Patrizia Sione, who curated the exhibit. Their spheres of influence stretch from union organizing to the administration of the ILR School.

The display, outside Kheel’s entrance in Catherwood Library, also serves as an invitation to explore more of the Kheel Center archive.

“Gender issues have been at the forefront of public awareness lately,” Sione said. “So we thought we could address such issues in our own way by drawing from our collections examples of particularly powerful women who played important roles in movements – whether or not they held formal positions of power and authority.”

The exhibit runs through December 2017.

- Molly Orbon ’16