Why have some working women succeeded at organizing in spite of obstacles to labor activity? Under what circumstances were they able to form alliances with male workers?
Carole Turbin explores these and other questions by examining the case of Troy, New York. In the 1860s, Troy produced nearly all the nation's detachable shirt collars and cuffs. The city's collar laundresses were largely Irish immigrants. Their union was officially the nation's first women's labor organization, and one of the best organized. Turbin provides a new perspective on gender and shows that women's family ties are not necessarily a conservative influence but may encourage women's and men's collective action.