ILGWU Mary Goff Schuster Papers

Collection Number: 5780/074

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


ILGWU Mary Goff Schuster Papers, 1912-1982
Collection Number:
Schuster, Mary Goff;
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU)
1 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents).
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
The collection contains correspondence, notes and other writings by Mary Goff Schuster, documenting her varied work in Local 62.
Collection material in English


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.


Mary Goff Schuster was born in Russia on October 16, 1898, and arrived in New York City in 1905. Having joined Local 62, also known as the Underwear and White Goods Workers' Union, in 1913, Schuster served as a member of the Executive Board, Business Agent, Educational Director, and Organizer. Schuster was also a member of the Young People's Socialist League, Socialist Party, Women's Trade Union League, and the Liberal Party, among other political organizations.


The White Goods Workers' Union Local 62, also known as the Underwear and White Goods Workers Union, was chartered in 1909, but was not fully organized until 1913. Rose Schneiderman and the Women's Trade Union League assisted with the early organizing efforts of the White Goods Workers. These workers consisted mainly of young immigrant girls. Early leaders of the local included Samuel Shore. On March 1913, 15,000 workers went on strike against the sweatshop conditions. A six week strike ensued in which many of the girls on the picket lines were attacked and arrested. Gains won included a 54 hour week, no Sunday, sanitary conditions and an 18 cent an hour minimum wage. This strike made the local.
The local and its workers were originally called white goods workers as they manufactured camisoles, chemises, cambric drawers with lace ruffles and drawstrings, and corset covers. Through the years, styles changed and production shifted to panties and slips. In the 1960s, the local became the Undergarment and Negligee Workers' Union Local 62.


The collection contains correspondence, notes and other writings by Mary Goff Schuster, documenting her varied work with Local 62. Included are her personal notes when she attended membership meetings. Information on clubs, and organizations that she was a part of, as well as meetings and articles on items related to senior citizens. There is also collected material including pamphlets and broadsides, and an article in the Work World Telegram about white goods workers that features Schuster.
Also available is her personal correspondence, documentation of her work with the National Women's Trade Union League of America and the Israel Histadrut Foundation. There is election material when she was running for office and appeared on ballots and records when she studied at the Brookwood Labor College.

Gordon, Anthony
Schuster, Mary Goff
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Local 62 (New York, N.Y.)
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Clothing workers--Labor unions--New York (State)--New York.
Clothing workers--Labor unions--United States.
Clothing trade--New York (State)--New York.
Clothing trade--United States.
Textile industry--New York (State)--New York.
Textile industry--United States.

Form and Genre Terms:
Records (documents)


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 Mary Goff Schuster Papers #5780/074. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5780: ILGWU records
5780/021: ILGWU Local 62 Records
5780/022: ILGWU Local 62 Correspondence
5780/079: ILGWU Local 62 Managers' Correspondence
5780/089: ILGWU Local 62-32 Agreements


Box 1 1912-1922
[Removed to 5780 P]
Box 1 Folder 1 1975-1982
Box 1 Folder 2 1978
Box 1 Folder 3 1974-1978
Box 1 Folder 4 1925
Box 1 Folder 5 1923-1933
Box 1 Folder 6 1978-1979
Box 1 Folder 7 1949
Box 1 Folder 8 1947-1950
Box 1 Folder 9 1928-1982
Box 2 1921-1925
Also undated photo [Removed to 5780 P]
Box 2 Folder 1 1927-1982
Box 2 Folder 2 1924-1927
Box 2 Folder 3 1921-1950
Box 2 Folder 4 1924-1956
Box 2 Folder 5 1923-1954
Box 2 Folder 6 1925-1964
Box 2 Folder 7 1923-1924
Box 2 Folder 8 1929-1960
Box 2 Folder 9 1937-1976
Box 2 Folder 10 1944-1980
Box 2 Folder 11 1927-1944
Box 2 Folder 12 1923-1931