Women of the Depression: Caste and Culture in San Antonio, 1929-1939

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[8]
Women and the Labor Movement

It is easier to organize those who make more. [Infants'-wear workers] are intimidated until they don't know whether their souls belong to them or not.

-- Myrle Zappone, garment worker and ILGWU organizer1

SAN ANTONIO'S women workers engaged in a number of major strikes during the Depression. Mexican-American women were especially prominent in labor protest. After 1934 the Congress of Industrial Organizations provided critical economic and organizational resources for female workers. While the American Federation of Labor refrained from strike support, throughout the Depression the San Antonio Trades Council gave moral encouragement and modest financial support to striking AFL locals. The San Antonio Weekly Dispatch, edited and published first by William L. Hoefgen and after 1935 by William B. Arnold, informed members about the council's union activities and featured national labor news. Throughout the Depression women were most active as members not of AFL unions but of union wives' auxiliaries. As the 1930s progressed, the number of women organized into AFL unions in San Antonio increased, but at the end of the decade there was only a handful of AFL unions in which women predominated or were well represented.

In the early years of the Depression it was the women's auxiliaries rather than the unions themselves that dealt most directly with the realities of rising unemployment. Union wives solicited funds from working families for the relief of unemployed union members and organized fund-raising activities. In 1931 the Weekly Dispatch carried a plea from one group that "in their work of charity among needy families of printers, the ladies of the Typographical Auxiliary have found that with cooler weather approaching, contributions of clothing from members to help these cases will be a factor in helping to alleviate suffering from this source."2 The women also held a

____________________
1
Interview with Myrle Zappone, October 5, 1936, Workers Alliance File, Labor Movement in Texas Collection, Barker Texas History Collection, University of Texas at Austin.
2
San Antonio Weekly Dispatch, October 29, 1931.

-130-

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Women of the Depression: Caste and Culture in San Antonio, 1929-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • List of Tables xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Introduction 3
  • [1] - The Neglected City 13
  • [2] - The Family and the Female Life Cycle 25
  • [3] - Coping: Middle- and Upper-Class Women 43
  • [4] - Working: Women's Participation in the Labor Force 60
  • [5] - Adapting: Occupational Segregation And Unemployment 75
  • [6] - Home and Shop: Wages and Working Conditions 90
  • [7] - Unemployment Relief and Emergency Job Programs 109
  • [8] - Women and the Labor Movement 130
  • [9] - Crime: the Role of Women 152
  • [10] - Consequences 168
  • Appendixes 185
  • Sources 255
  • Index 273
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