Newman, Pauline M. Autobiography.

Collection Number: 6036/008

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


Newman, Pauline M. Autobiography., 1969-1969
Collection Number:
Newman, Pauline M.
.2 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Articles, reprints, pamphlets, correspondence, photographs.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
The collection consists of a manuscript of Pauline Newman's autobiography.
Collection material in English


Founded in 1900 by local union delegates representing about 2,000 members in cities in the northeastern United States, the ILGWU grew in geographical scope, membership size, 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. In 1995, the ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).


Pauline Newman was born in Lithuania around 1890 and came to the United States in 1901 with her mother and sisters after the death of her father. Shortly after her arrival, she went to work to help support her family. After working in various factories, Newman became employed at the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. factory. Newman was involved in the 1909 Shirtwaist Makers' Strike and following the strike, became the first woman organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, traveling through the Midwest and Northeast. By the time of the 1911 Triangle Fire, she was no longer employed at the factory, but many of her former coworkers perished in the fire and Newman marked the anniversary of the tragedy every year. In 1914, she served on the Joint Board of Sanitary Control in New York City, which was a combined trade union and manufacturers' unit designed to establish standards for maintaining sanitary conditions in the shops. From 1918 to her retirement, Newman was the director of education for the Union Health Center. As health educator, she arranged for lectures and programs, created an innovative preventive health care program, and served as a liaison between the medical staff and the local unions. Newman often spoke on behalf of workers' health care before city, state and federal government panels.
Additionally, Newman was a member and officer of numerous labor and civic organizations, including the Women's Trade Union League, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, the New York State Commission on enforcing equal pay law, and the New York State Department of Labor's Minimum Wage Board. She died in 1986 at the age of 96.


The collection consists of Pauline Newman's autobiography in the form of a letter addressed to Michael and Hugh in which she recounts stories and details of her life while she is on board a ship heading to Switzerland to attend a meeting of the International Labor Organization. In her recollections, Newman begins with her childhood and village life in Lithuania and discusses immigrating to the U.S. after the death of her father in 1901. She vividly details the difficult trip across the Atlantic and the conditions for new immigrants upon arrival in New York. Newman writes about her early employment experiences in various factories before ultimately finding work in the garment industry. Of particular interest are the passages in which she describes her employment at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, including the inhuman working conditions in the factory, the long hours, and the little pay. Newman also spends time discussing her activities outside the ILGWU, including her involvement in the Socialist Party and the Socialist Literary Society. She provides a first-hand account of the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 and her subsequent work with the ILGWU, including her organizing trips and assignments across the country.

Newman, Pauline.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
UNITE HERE (Organization)
Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

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:
Newman, Pauline M. Autobiography. #6036/008. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5780: ILGWU records
5780/060: ILGWU. Union Health Center records
5780/171: ILGWU. Union Health Center publications


Box 1 Folder 1