ILGWU Education Department, Fannia Cohn Photographs

Collection Number: 5780/049 P

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library


ILGWU Education Department, Fannia Cohn Photographs, 1916-1935
Collection Number:
5780/049 P
Cohn, Fannia M. (Fannia Mary);
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU)
0.5 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Photographs .
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Collection consists of photographs pulled from the Fannia Cohn papers. Photographs include portraits of Cohn, as well as document activities of Local 66, trips to Unity House, Triangle Factory fire commemoration, and other union activities.
Collection material in English, Russian, Yiddish


The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was once one of the largest labor unions in the United States founded in 1900 by local union delegates representing about 2,000 members in cities in the northeastern United States. It was one of the first U.S. Unions to have a membership consisting of mostly females, and it played a key role in the labor history of the 1920s and 1930s. The union is generally referred to as the "ILGWU" or the "ILG". The ILGWU grew in geographical scope, membership size, and political influence to become one of the most powerful forces in American organized labor by mid-century. Representing workers in the women's garment industry, the ILGWU worked to improve working and living conditions of its members through collective bargaining agreements, training programs, health care facilities, cooperative housing, educational opportunities, and other efforts. The ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in 1995 to form the Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). UNITE merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) in 2004 to create a new union known as UNITE HERE. The two unions that formed UNITE in 1995 represented only 250,000 workers between them, down from the ILGWU's peak membership of 450,000 in 1969.


Fannia Cohn, garment worker, labor organizer and educator,
and officer, International Ladies' Garment Workers'
Union. Fannia Cohn was born in Minsk in the late 1880s
(there is disagreement as to the exact year). She
emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and began working in a New
York garment factory in 1905. She joined the ILGWU in
1909 and quickly emerged as a skilled leader and
organizer. She was the first woman vice-president of the
ILGWU and in 1918 became Executive Secretary of the
Education Department, a position she held until her
retirement in 1961. She played a significant role in
worker education and was a co-founder of both the
Workers' Education Bureau and the Brookwood Labor
College. She died in 1962 in New York City.


Local union's of the ILGWU established and maintained robust, ambitious educational departments early on in the international's history. As these groups grew in size and scope, the international office sought to coordinate and centralize educational programming for the union's members, culminating in the formation of the Educational Department in 1918.
The department's programming included courses at the Workers' University at the Washington Irving High School in New York City, lectures at Unity Centers and Unity Houses in the northeastern United States, and other events. The educational offerings of the International's Education Department were varied, as had been the education departments of the local unions, and included not only classes in labor studies but also courses in languages, music, and the arts. The ILGWU's 1937 musical "Pins and Needles" exemplified the diversity of the union's programs.
Directors of the Education Department, especially Fannia Cohn and Mark Starr, wrote extensively on the ILGWU's programs and worker education in general. Longtime director Gus Tyler not only directed the department, but also served as the ILGWU's on-staff scholar. In later years, the Education Department went beyond collaborating with other education organizations and arranging in-house programs to also supporting post-secondary education for union members and their families.


The Education Department records document activities across the entire period of the department's existence, with the bulk of the records covering the 1970s and 1990s. It contains papers from directors of the Education Department: Fannia Cohn, Mark Starr, Gus Tyler, and Kitty Krupat.
The earliest documentation of the department's work is found in the Fannia Cohn papers (5780/049, 5780/049 P); these contain correspondence, subject files, speeches, photographs, and printed material from her work as director of the Educational Department. A microfilm copy of the Fannia Cohn papers held at the New York Public Library (5998 mf) complements the Kheel Center's holdings. Documentation of the work of another longtime leader of the Education Department, Mark Starr, is contained in these records (5780/166, 5780/166 PUBS), as well as in a related collection from Starr on worker education programs (5243).
Documentation of the work of Gus Tyler, who led the merged Education and Political Department after Mark Starr's retirement in 1960, is also contained in the ILGWU records (5780/052, 5780/088, 5780/096). Tyler's papers are complemented by those of Assistant Director Jasper Peyton (5780/086) and Special Projects Coordinator Beverly Shulman (5780/106). These collections contain routine correspondence and memoranda, reports, materials relating to training institutes, seminars, and conferences, and printed material.
The papers of Kitty Krupat, who was serving as Education Director at the time of the ILGWU/ACTWU merger in 1995, constitute the entirety of Education Department records from the 1990s. They include correspondence, memoranda, reports, and financial records relating to the ILGWU's independent and collaborative education projects, including the Worker-Family Education Program, the Joint Union-University Committee on Labor Education, and the Consortium for Worker Education, as well as numerous trainings, conferences, and seminars. Also included in the files are materials from local unions and regional departments of the ILGWU, files on the Internationals' conventions, and reports to the General Executive Board.
The Fannia Cohn papers (5780/049) contain correspondence, subject files, speeches, articles, photographs, and programs from Fannia Cohn's term as Executive Secretary of the ILGWU Education Department. The materials in Series I are primarily letters between Cohn and various individuals pertaining to trade union matters in general and the ILGWU in particular. Included in the series are programs for lectures, concerts, museum visits and tours of New York City that were offered to ILGWU members and others as part of the Education Department's activities. Series II consists of bulletins, articles, lectures and course outlines. Most of these materials were written by Cohn herself or were prepared under her direction for use at the union's Unity Centers and at the Workers' University. A number of articles are by Mark Starr. There are also lectures by Charles A. Beard; Robert Brure; Babette Deutsch; Paul H. Douglas; Harry Laidler; A.J. Muste; Grace Scribner; Alexander Trachtenberg; Carl Van Doren; and Theresa Wolfson, among others. Significant individuals represented in the collection include David Dubinsky, Samuel Gompers, Morris Sigman ,Rose Pesotta, and H.G. Wells. Organizations include the Education Department of the ILGWU, the Brookwood Labor College, the AFL, Pioneer Youth of America, the Rand School of Social Science, and Unity House.

Bereowitz, Edith
Bosel, Mary
Bosel, Sadie
Calderon, Abe
Cohn, Fannia M.(Fannia Mary), 1885-
Curbelo, Carmen
Dubinsky, David, 1892-1982
Frati, Lucy
Fried, Lazar
Gidda, Sam
Goff, Mary
Kadison, Harry
Karlowski, Ann
Kula, Anna
Leonotti, Jimmy
Liberti, Frank
Lubin, Gertrude
Miller, Ruth
Pesotta, Rose, 1896-
Provenzale, Catherine
Provenzale, Christine
Rivera, Ambaro
Rosenfelt, Ada
Rossi, David
Rothberg, Clara
Sosnovsky, Anna
Starr, Mark
Vengen, Frances
Weiss, Bessie
Wertis, David
Wolfson, Theresa, 1897-1972
American Federation of Labor.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Educational Dept.

Clothing workers--Labor unions--United States.
Labor unions--Officials and employees.
Labor movement.
Labor movement--United States.
Labor unions.
Labor unions--United States.
Labor unions and education--United States.
Working class-- Education--United States.

Form and Genre Terms:


Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
ILGWU Education Department, Fannia Cohn Photographs #5780/049 P. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5780: ILGWU records
5780/106: ILGWU Education Department, Beverly Shulman Papers
5780/138: ILGWU Education Department, Kitty Krupat Papers
5780/166: ILGWU Education Department Records
5780/166 PUBS: ILGWU Education Department Publications
5780/086: ILGWU Education Department, Jasper Peyton Papers
5780/049: ILGWU Education Department, Fannia Cohn Papers
5780/049 mf: ILGWU Education Department, Fannia Cohn Papers on Microfilm


Box 1 Folder 1 1916-1934
Includes: Niagara Falls "ILGWU Convention Special," 1934; Fairfield, Connecticut, 1934; Bermuda 1924; A.F. of L. Convention, 1916; and unspecified.
Box 1 Folder 2
Includes: Formal portraits of Fannia Cohn, some on postcards, from Unity House and her time as Executive Secretary of the ILGWU Educational Department
Box 1 Folder 3
Includes: Local 66 excursion to Bear Mountain (1935) Fannia Cohn on the Local 66 Excursion (S.S. Colvert?) (1935)
Box 1 Folder 4 1926-1935
Includes: Individuals, groups and activities at Bryn Mawr Summer School (Mt. Ivy, Pomona, New York), the Brookwood (Summer) Institute/Session (Katonah, New York); Commonwealth College; unnamed “affiliated school”; “P.Y. Camp,” 1931; Local 89 students, 1935. Identified individuals include: Fannia Cohn, Dr. Theresa Wolfson; Christine Provenzale; Brookwood Commencement, graduates including 2 from Puerto Rico: Ruth Miller, Rebecca Goldberg, Anna Kula, Edith Bereowitz, Anna Sosnovsky, Fannia M. Cohn, Mary Goff, Ambaro Rivera, Frances Vengen, Carmen Curbelo, Mark Starr, Abe Calderon.
Box 1 Folder 5
Commemoration of Triangle Fire victims including ILGWU Committee members laying wreaths, gravestones (of Sarah Cooper, age 16; Rosie Mehl, age 15, and Isi Rosen, age 17
Box 1 Folder 6 1930-1935
Includes: Waterbury [Materbury?] Strike, 1935; two female ILGWU strikers Feb. 14, 1935 with signs “Strike at Osgood and Sons” and “We Want Recognition of our Union;” Marion Memorial meeting, Oct. 1930; graphic of marchers with ILGWU banner, and images portraying education and healthcare, partial bottom reads: “…Pioneers in Bringing Education, Recreation, Art and Medical Science to the Service of Labor;” and women beneath an “ILGWU Educational Department” sign, ca. 1930s. Identified individuals include Fannia Cohn, Ann Karlowski, Helen [?] Reed, Rose Pesotta, Clara Rothberg, Theresa Wolfson and Dr. Igo [?] Goldstone probably at Brookwood ca. 1930s
Box 1 Folder 7 1924-1935
Includes: Fannia Cohn; ILGWU Training For Trade Union Activity Institute; ILGWU Education Department; and union Locals 1, 32, 35, and 143 members. Educational Department Unity House Institute including Out-Of-Town students (1935); training for Trade Union Activity/Institute(1935); sports and recreation including boating, basketball, theatrical productions and hiking; ILGWU Players; art exhibition and lecture on “Appreciation of Art” (1935); Pine Grove - Unity House (1934). People include: Fannia Cohn; David Dubinsky; Frank Liberti; A. Ostrofsky; Bessie Weiss; Jimmy Leonotti; Molly Mottola/Matolla; Mamie Troccoli; Lucy Frati; Sam Gidda; Sadie Basel/Bosel; Mary Bosel; Lazar Fried; David Rossi; Harry Kadison; Gertrude Lubin; Nathalie Opatowsky; Sarah Shapiro; Rose Wertis; Ada Rosenfelt; Christine Provenzale; Catherine Provenzale; Gertrude Lubin; Paul Degribetzer[?]; Harry Kadison; and others.
Box 1 Folder 8
Includes: perhaps baby, childhood, and youth photos; signed photo of an infant and toddler (“Jan. 1931 A Happy New Year to you Fannia dear - from Teddy Peggy Pooky”); Photograph postcard of middle-aged and elder gentleman; Postcard with Russian and Hebrew typeface mother and baby; young man; and with who might be Fannia or a relative; two women holding a child; Christmas note with two children, addressed to Fannia from Evelyn (1931); Fannia with a young child; young boy. Postcard of Robert Smillie; Postcard - one man and two women at work outdoors.
Box 2