Philione Fried Collection of Sidney and Bessie Abramowitz Hillman Photographs

Collection Number: 6064 P

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


Philione Fried Collection of Sidney and Bessie Abramowitz Hillman Photographs, 1946-1956
Collection Number:
6064 P
Fried, Philoine
1.8 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Collection material in English


Sidney Hillman (March 23, 1887-July 10, 1946) was an American labor leader. He was head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and instrumental in the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He encouraged labor's support of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.
Sidney Hillman was born in Lithuania, he emigrated to America in 1907. He landed in New York City, and after finding a poor job market, he moved on to Chicago, where the job market was better. He found work in the garment industry as an apprentice.
In 1910 due to a citywide strike of 45,000 garment workers against the company Hart Schaffner & Marx, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was formed, because the garment workers were so unhappy with the agreement the United Garment Workers had come up with.
Hillman became Chief Clerk within the International Ladie's Garment Workers' Union in early 1914. The union workers that formed Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America started contacting Hillman and wanted him to take over as President, the most persuasive letter came from Bessie Abramowitz, who was one of the original leaders of the Chicago strike, and also Hillman's fiance. He accepted the offer and left the ILG the next year.
Sidney and Bessie married in 1916, and had two daughters.
Hillman's leadership encouraged the "constructive cooperation" between employers in the industry to impose industry wide working standards, which would take wages and hours out of the dispute equation. Hillman worked to get companies to use arbitration to settle disputes.
The Great Depression of 19291939 strengthened Hillman's belief in the importance of a strong partnership between government and labor. He was named to the Labor Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration in 1933 and to the National Industrial Recovery Board in 1934. One of his closest advisers helped Sen. Robert Wagner draft the historic labor legislation that became the National Labor Relations Act. And Hillman himself worked closely with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins to draft a comprehensive wage and hours bill that eventually became the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Hillman helped create the Committee for Industrial Organization in 1935. In 1937, Hillman pulled ACWA (which had re-affiliated with the AFL in 1933) out of the AFL, joining John L. Lewis and others to found the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Elected first vice president of the CIO in 1937, Hillman headed up its Textile Workers Organizing Committee and its Department Store Workers Organizing Committee.
The Textile Workers Union of America came to life in 1939, with more than 100,000 members, and that led directly to the creation of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union of America.
In both World War I and World War II, Hillman used the influence of the federal government to advance labor's social goals and its organizing needs. He was a strong supporter of Roosevelt and campaigned for him in both elections. At times leaving the labor industry wondering if he was leaving the labor movement behind.
The Sydney Hillman Foundation established in his honor, gives annual awards to journalists and writers for work that supoorts social justice and progressive public policy.
Bessie Abramowitz (May 15, 1889-December 23, 1970)
Bessie Abramowitz Hillman devoted her life to unions, organizing her first strike at fifteen, announcing her engagement on a picket line, and continuing her fight for workers' rights untill her death.
Bessie immigrated to America alone at fifteen and started work sewing buttons in a garment factory while attending night school at Hull House, run by suffragette Jane Addams. Abramowitz organized workers for the Women's Trade Union League all along the East Coast, and then went on to become education director of the Laundry Workers Joint Board in 1937. Through Laundry Workers, she became involved in civil rights issues, serving with the CIO and AFL-CIO. She also worked with the Child Welfare Committee of New York, the Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Services, and President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women, among many others.
Sidney and Bessie's daughters Sally and Philoine and grandchildren, help to carry on their legacy to this day.

Fried, Philione
Hillman, Bessie Abramowitz
Hillman, Sidney, 1887-1946

Labor leaders

Form and Genre Terms:


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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:
Philione Fried Collection of Sidney and Bessie Abramowitz Hillman Photographs #6064 P. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Box 1 Folder 1
8 photographs
Box 1 Folder 2
3 photographs
Box 1 Folder 3
71 photographs, some text
Box 2 Folder 1
30 photographs, photocopies of the photos, some text
Box 2 Folder 2
59 photographs - photo album cover was unique, so it was kept and is stored in box under the photos
Box 3 Folder 1 1954
34 photographs - Album cover included
Box 3 Folder 2 1946
Box 3 Folder 3 1956
52 photographs
Box 3 Folder 4
40 photographs
Box 3 Folder 5
9 photographs
Box 4 Folder 1
1 photograph