Woman's Protest

Woman's Protest. Unionization, Charlotte Smith, Protest.
Woman's Protest
Woman's Protest
"If you think you can silence the working women's mouths in the Capitol...you are very much mistaken"
Woman's Protest

Washington DC: Woman's National Industrial League, June 2, 1900. First edition. Handbill measuring 6 x 9.5 inches with text to recto. Some splitting along central foldline; closed tears and chipping to edges, most significantly to bottom edge, with no loss to text. The only example on the market, the present is unrecorded by OCLC, is not listed in Stanley, and does not appear in the modern auction record. A scarce and important surviving document in women's fight for labor rights.

An American reformer dedicated to women's labor rights, Charlotte Odlum Smith took a comprehensive and inclusive view of employment equality. "Smith was a tireless advocate for working women, women inventors, sex workers, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged...She also worked for public health and safety, working for bans on adulteration, and ingredient lists on product labels. By 1891 she was already credited for fifty bills passed by Congress" (Stanley). In 1882, in the midst of political lobbying for women's increased access to patents and planning the formation of her first magazine, "Smith founded a women's labor union -- the Woman's National Industrial League. It began with female federal clerks and broadened to accept all women who worked for wages, operating as something like a modern PAC [political action committee]. In its behalf, Smith ran a periodical called The Working Woman, and the lobbied Congress and state legislatures to open more trades to and support higher wages for women" (Stanley).

It was in her capacity as president of the Woman's National Industrial League that Smith published the present open letter, vehemently opposing New Hampshire Senator Chandler's proposed bill to Congress banning U.S. civil servants from joining or participating in unions or other labor organizations designed for collective bargaining. Drawing on her powerful reputation in Washington, DC as "the first woman to organize Industrial Women in Washington and the United States" with over 20 years of experience, Smith issues a defiant warning to Senator Chandler and his colleagues. "I want to inform you before Congress adjourns, that if you think you can silence the working women's mouths in the Capitol, or keep down labor organizations through iron clad legislation, you are very much mistaken...we are entirely too strong and defy you to disband our Leagues and Unions...women are not to be intimidated in the Government's departments, for talk we will, in and out of labor organizations." Pointing out women's central roles not only in the nation's light manufacturing but also in the functioning of Government offices, she asserts that lawmakers should focus instead of creating "more just and equitable laws for women breadwinners" than on looking for ways to cheat those who contribute to national wealth. As known and respected public figure, she promises to "appeal our case and plead our cause before the bar of the American people, who will help us make and unmake statesmen through public opinion, by casting their votes at the polls and by retiring to private life those who would crush the weak and unprotected."
(Item #4618)

Price: $1,650