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9th Annual Labor Day lecture highlights history of women’s labor movement

September 9, 2016

Over the years, Labor Day has developed into society’s excuse for a day off and to enjoy summer’s “last weekend.” However, it’s important to take the annual opportunity of Labor Day to reflect back on United States labor history, particularly the history of the women’s labor movement.

To highlight the role of women in the workforce and labor unions, Monmouth College History Department sponsored history, women’s and gender studies assistant professor Katherine Turk from the University of North Carolina. Dr. Turk spoke to an attentive audience in the Highlander Room in the Stockdale Center on Monday, September 5. Turk’s lecture, “Beyond Rosie the Riveter: How Labor Union Women Changed American History,” was the 9th annual Monmouth College Labor Day Lecture.

Turk spoke the history of working women and how the treatment of those women encouraged two different workplace campaigns in the 20th century. The two campaigns in the 1970s involved the New York Times, the Sears, Roebuck, and Company in Chicago, and the National Organization for Women (NOW). Turk emphasized the importance of these campaigns and what they can teach today’s world about workplace equality and standing up for what is right on the job. Turk said, “these women changed the national conversation and American history. They exposed the sexist systems that made all working Americans less secure.”

This Labor Day, the audience that filled the Highlander room was a diverse mix of both genders. Junior Daniel Johnson said he attended because, “I was sort of interested in what she had to say, particularly because it’s not something I feel like gets a lot of press and often gets glazed over by whatever hot thing is happening in the news.”

In a time when people think of Labor Day as the cutoff date to wear white clothing, it’s important to look at the struggles women have had to gain equality in the workplace. Turk says,“Workers have been fighting these battles forever, for as long as there has been work. We can look to the past to try to understand how women in a different context, different time, and maybe a different place understood these problems and how they strategized to solve these problems.”

Taylor Ewald
Contributing Writer

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