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12 Powerful Images Of Women In The Labor Movement

Women have played key roles in workers' rights movements worldwide for over a century. Images from strikes and protests drive home women's longstanding commitment to equal pay, fair working conditions, and the right to form unions.

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1. May Day March, 1909


These women, marching on May 1, 1909 in New York, wear signs reading "Abolish Child Slavery" in English and Yiddish. Jewish workers in the US began forming unions [pdf] in the 1880s, and the Jewish labor movement experienced a turning point in the 1930s as Jewish workers turned away from Communism and began to respond to growing anti-Semitism worldwide.

2. New York Shirtwaist Strike, 1910


Women working in shirtwaist factories went on strike from late 1909 until early 1910. Management eventually met their demands for better wages and working conditions, but the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 showed that workplace safety standards still had a ways to go.


5. Women's Employment Poster, WWI


While women's factory work during World War II is better-known, women also took factory jobs while men were fighting overseas in World War I. The wage inequality they faced during this time inspired many to join unions.

8. "Rosie the Riveter" Poster, 1943


Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of women's rights in the workplace — but that's not what this famous poster was originally supposed to convey (and in fact, the name "Rosie the Riveter" wasn't associated with the image until later). Sociologists Gwen Sharp and Lisa Wade write [pdf], "Ironically, the iconic image that we now imagine as an early example of girl-power marketing served not to empower women to leave the domestic sphere and join the paid workforce, but to contain labor unrest and discourage the growth of the labor movement." It was actually meant to encourage Westinghouse employees to work hard and be loyal to the company.