National Women's Trade Union League of America Records on Microfilm, 1903-1950
Collection Number: 5709 mf

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives
Cornell University Library


National Women's Trade Union League of America Records on Microfilm, 1903-1950
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives
Collection Number:
5709 mf
These records include correspondence, reports, speeches, notes, printed matter, minutes of meetings, proceedings of the League and of the International Congress of Working Women, biographical material on the League's officers, and correspondence between the National League and its local branches. Major issues covered include the eight-hour day, minimum wage, establishment of sanitary work areas, federal aid to education, civil rights, price controls and social security. Unpublished guide available.
National Women's Trade Union League
2.78 cubic feet
Collection material in English

Biographical / Historical

As the League's president from 1907 to 1922, Margaret Dreier Robins, the well-to-do daughter of a Brooklyn businessman, guided it through the period of its most active work. Among her close associates were several working class women who served as officers of the national or local Leagues, including Leonora O'Reilly of New York and Agnes Nestor and Mary Anderson of Chicago. After 1922, working women took over the leadership; Rose Schneiderman, a veteran leader of strikes in the needle trades, served as national president from 1926 to 1950.

Biographical / Historical

The Women's Trade Union League was founded in 1903 during the annual convention of the American Federation of Labor. Local branches were organized within a year in Boston, Chicago and New York. In 1907 its name became the National Women's Trade Union League of America. The League sought to counter the exploitation of working women by organizing them into trade unions and by securing protective legislation regulating their hours and working conditions and setting minimum wage standards. Its dual membership of working and middle class women made the League unique among social reform organizations of its day.

The records of the National Women's Trade Union League of America (NWTUL) span the lifetime of the organization from the first meeting in Boston in 1903 to the last bulletin of its official organ, LIFE AND LABOR, announcing the termination of the League's national charter in 1950. The records consist of correspondence, memoranda, speeches, clippings, notes, printed matter, and miscellaneous other items.
The NWTUL's administrative operations are well documented in the headquarters records. Its policies and activities are recorded in the minutes of the Executive Board meetings and in the correspondence. Most of the letters and memoranda are from the various national League secretaries, particularly Elisabeth Christman, who held the position from 1921 to 1950. There is, as well, correspondence from various members of both the national and local Leagues, especially from the New York, Boston, and Chicago branches. Many of the local League members also served as officers and/or Executive Board members of the national League and are represented in the headquarters records. Included in this group are Margaret Dreier Robins, Mary Morton Kehew, Jane Addams, Rose Schneiderman, Mary Kenney O'Sullivan, Melinda Scott, Agnes Nestor, and Mary E. Dreier. Interspersed with the materials documenting the activities of the League are financial statements enumerating sources of income and costs of operation.
The subject files as well as the headquarters records offer a major source of information concerning the League's goal of organizing women wage workers into trade unions. There is considerable material on the early history of the League in the historical data file. Many of the files on individual members contain biographical information, and the file on the American Federation of Labor sheds light on the League's relationship to that organization. Here and in the headquarters records is correspondence with Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, Frank Duffy, and Florence C. Thorne.
Both series (headquarters records and subject files) contain documentation of the League's efforts to improve women's working conditions through supporting strikes, particularly in the garment industry, through the use of a training school to develop leadership among women of the working class, and through lobbying for the enactment of protective labor legislation. Issues such as the eight-hour day, a minimum wage, and the establishment of sanitary work areas were the focus of the League's early days. However, its interests broadened in later years to include federal aid to education, civil rights, price control, and social security. Correspondents include Ethel M. Smith, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sophonisba P. Breckinridge, Mary Anderson, Alice Henry, and Frances Perkins.
The records of the NWTUL also contain proceedings for 10 of the 13 national conventions and mimeographed corrected copies of the proceedings of the three international congresses which the League sponsored.
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Conditions Governing Use

This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.


Preferred Citation

National Women's Trade Union League of America Records on Microfilm #5709 mf. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.

Related Materials

Related Collections: 5690 mf: Women's Trade Union League Papers on Microfilm


Addams, Jane. 1860-1935.
Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964.
Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1866-1948.
Christman, Elisabeth.
Dreier, Mary E.
Duffy, Frank, 1861-1955.
Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924.
Henry, Alice, 1957-1943
Kehew, Mary Morton.
Morrison, Frank, 1859-1949
Nestor, Agnes, 1880-1948.
O'Sullivan, Mary Kenney, 1864-1943.
Perkins, Frances, 1882-1965.
Robins, Margaret Dreier.
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-
Scott, Melinda.
Smith, Ethel M.
Thorne, Florence Calvert.
American Federation of Labor.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
National Women's Trade Union League of America.
American Federation of Labor.
Women's Trade Union League of Boston.
Women's Trade Union League of Chicago.
Women's Trade Union League of New York.
Civil rights--United States.
Eight-hour movement.
Federal aid to education--United States.
Hours of labor. Law and Legislation. United States.
Industrial hygiene. Law and legislation. United States.
Labor laws and legislation--United States.
Social security--United States.
Strikes and lockouts. Clothing industry. United States.
Labor leaders. United States.
Wage-price policy--United States.
Wages. Law and legislation. United States.
Wages. Minimum wage. Law and legislation. United States.
Wages. Women. Law and legislation. United States.
Women in trade-unions. United States. Organizing.
Women social reformers--United States.
Women. Employment. Law and legislation. United States.
Women. Law and legislation. United States.
Women. Working conditions. United States.
Workers' education. Women. United States.
Working class women--United States.
Working conditions. Law and legislation. United States.

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