Sisters In The Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York

Paperback | July 15, 2009

byJane LaTour

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Sisters in the Brotherhoods is an oral-history-based study of women who have, against considerable odds, broken the gender barrier to blue-collar employment in various trades in New York City beginning in the 1970s. It is a story of the fight against deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about what constitutes women's work, the middle-class bias of feminism, the daily grinding sexism of male coworkers, and the institutionalized discrimination of employers and unions. It is also the story of some gutsy women who, seeking the material rewards and personal satisfactions of skilled manual labor, have struggled to make a place for themselves among New York City's construction workers, stationary engineers, firefighters, electronic technicians, plumbers, and transit workers.Each story contributes to an important unifying theme: the way women confronted the enormous sexism embedded in union culture and developed new organizational forms to support their struggles, including and especially the United Tradeswomen.

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Sisters in the Brotherhoods is an oral-history-based study of women who have, against considerable odds, broken the gender barrier to blue-collar employment in various trades in New York City beginning in the 1970s. It is a story of the fight against deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about what constitutes women's work, the middle-...

Jane LaTour is a journalist and labor activist living in New York City. She has written for various union publications and managed the Women's Project of the Association for Union Democracy. She is a two-time winner of the Mary Heaton Vorse Award, the top labor journalism award in New York City.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:308 pages, 9.64 × 6.13 × 0.66 inPublished:July 15, 2009Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230619185

ISBN - 13:9780230619180

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Table of Contents

PART I: WRITING TRADESWOMEN INTO HISTORY * Rosie’s Daughters * United Tradeswomen: Organizing for the Guaranteed Right to Work in Any Job * PART II: CONSTRUCTION * Learning to Labor on High Steel * When Worlds Collide: The First Women in Electricians’ Local 3 * "Ticket to Ride" * PART III: THE AGENCIES * "Sticking to the Union" * Uncivil Service at the Board of Education * Double Vision: Breaking Down Doors at the FDNY * PART IV: TECHNOLOGY * From Economics to Electronics: The Making of an Activist * That's Just the Way It Was: AT&T and the Struggle for Equal Opportunity * PART V: TRANSPORTATION * Woman on the Move * PART VI: MOVING FORWARD * Against the Grain * Getting Past Pioneering * Epilogue: Where Are They Now?

Editorial Reviews

"An eye-opening recounting of how little legal protection women had in the workplace just 40 years ago." - New York Post "An important and powerful acknowledgment of what tradeswomen have accomplished." - Women's Review of Books "Jane LaTour's Sisters in the Brotherhoods, is a conscientiously researched oral history of the first women who organized for gender equality in New York City unions. What's startling about the book is the freshness of its narratives: the women remember everything that happened to them. They remember it like it was yesterday. LaTour's urgent voice breathes color into the old days of all-male and nearly-all-white telephone companies and fire departments. LaTour, who describes her process of writing the book as "quilting,"embroiders the events (legal actions, organizing drives, intra-union battles) that surrounded the women's apprenticeships with the words of the women themselves. LaTour is a documentarian who uses her own voice in service of rendering the invisible visible." - Booklsut "Latour's documentation of the experiences of these forerunners in notational, blue-collar jobs is a testament to their legacy to the young women of the next and future generations ... enlightening and empowering." - Feminist Review"Sisters in the Brotherhoods is an engaging read for anyone interested in both the historical background and the present status of women's work in traditionally male jobs." - Labor Studies Journal "By presenting these stories within the context of labor history, Jane LaTour goes far in dispelling misunderstandings of blue-collar women's engagement with the Second Wave Feminist movement. Sisters in the Brotherhoods adds important voices to labor history, New York history, and the history of the feminist movements." - Oral History Review "Jane LaTour documents the stories of courageous women who persevered, despite all odds, in some of the most hostile work environments imaginable." - New Labor Forum "Jane LaTour skillfully weaves together the stories of New York women pioneer electricians, fire fighters, police officers, truck drivers and iron workers. In this book you'll meet the brave pioneers who had the gumption to break the barriers, often facing heart-breaking contempt, in other cases, earning an uneasy peace and acceptance as their pioneering efforts opened the door." - Grand Prairie Union News "Compelling." - Oral History Forum d'histoire orale "Injects the suspense of a thriller into a portrait of women breaking into blue-collar jobs ... LaTour shatters tradeswomen's invisibility by providing in-depth portraits of the vast range of women who challenged exclusionary practices." - Working USA "Sisters in the Brotherhoods is a gem of a book. With it, LaTour has given us important documentation of an inspiring piece of history that is too little known." - Z Magazine "A reminder of how much has changed, and how much hasn't." - World Wide Work "Sisters in the Brotherhoods is one of the most exciting books that I've read in years. It is nothing less than a history of the late twentieth century movement of women into non-traditional jobs as recalled by and through the voices of the women who opened the doors. Jane Latour seamlessly melds the aspirations, experiences, doubts and achievements of the courageous women who earned their livings in trades reserved for men into a persuasive analysis of generational change. Every young woman should read this resonant and moving book." - Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America "Jane LaTour's book Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City is a great reminder that when we have equal opportunities in every line of work we thrive. When women change the way work is done, they make lasting change in the culture of the workplace." - Billie Jean King "Jane LaTour tells the history of the tradeswomen movement by focusing on events in New York City. She captures the real lives of tradeswomen through stories that are poignant, raw, and uplifting.It brought back to me the frustration of trying to engage the Women's Movement in seeing tradeswomen as more than role models for our daughters.In our sex-segregated economy tradeswomen are on the front line in the battle for economic justice." - Dale McCormick, the first woman to complete the carpentry apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 1260 in Iowa City, in 1975 "In Sisters in the Brotherhoods, Jane LaTour draws on extensive interviews and oral histories with women who broke into the building trades in New York City over the last several decades.The interviews are enormously rich sources, filled with stunning stories of male resistance, abuse, and hostility toward the integration of women and equally stirring tales of women's determination to survive this treatment.Even as they were subjected to various hair-raising and harrowing forms of harassment and intimidation, the women whose oral histories form the heart of this compelling and moving book sought to challenge and reform the system.Reform could be incredibly hard and scary work; it took one woman fourteen years to find the courage to speak at her own local.But they did speak out and by their individual and collective efforts, they organized women and sympathetic men and empowered them to fight for their rights.Sisters in the Brotherhoods illuminates an aspect of women's and labor history that has been understudied and overlooked.In the women's challenge to existing union arrangements and their own deployment of labor movement principles and practices to achieve their ends lies a fundamental contradiction of post-World War II labor history.Jane LaTour's book compels a reassessment and revision of the view of post-World War II unions as inimical to working women's interests and as vehicles for conservatism rather than progressive change." - Nancy Gabin, Department of History, Purdue University "Sisters in the Brotherhoods profiles the indomitable women who fought their way into some of the best-defended male monopolies in the U.S. labor force: the skilled trades of New York City. Jane Latour's engaging oral histories reveal the diverse routes women traveled to claim these jobs, the alliances that sustained them, and the strategies they developed to master their crafts in the face of employer hostility, co-worker harassment, union corruption, and a government that all but abandoned them in the 1980s. Tradeswomen, feminists, labor and civil rights activists, historians, and social scientists will all find wisdom and inspiration in these pages." - Nancy MacLean, author of Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace and The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000: A Brief History with Documents "LaTour rips aside the bromides of superficial victories to explore the punishing ordeals of female pioneers in male dominated industries ... What makes the interviews so compelling is the author's own on-the-job experience in a series of blue collar occupations and academic positions. The camaraderie makes her questions harder in substance by more sensitive in the asking." - Scott Molloy, Ph.D., Schmidt Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island "This is a bitter tale of courage, told for the first time. In the words of the women themselves, we hear the gut-wrenching experiences of pioneers who toughed their way into apprenticeships and on to strenuous blue-collar jobs that civil rights laws in the 1970s were designed to open to them. These women, mostly without allies, learned a cruel lesson: you could fight to cling to the job that would support a family, but you could not at the same time fight the hostility of the shop steward, the connivance of the union with the contractor. Women on the job, they learned, were viewed as an affront to the masculinity of their fellows: supporting a family was men's work. They have told their colleague Jane LaTour, often reluctantly, the details of their daily struggle. What we see about us today underlines the painful truth of this book: unions built by fathers and sons would make no space for mothers and daughters. This is an important part of a lost history." - Betsy Wade, former president, Local 3, The Newspaper Guild of New York; named plaintiff, Boylan v. New York Times, 74 CIV. 4891 "Sisters in the Brotherhoods gives an account of brave woemn entering treacherous territories, while also exposing the villainy of labor unions, deeply entrenched cultural assumptions rooted in sexism, and the institutionalized discrimination by employers...Through her harrowing and uplifting stories, Latour shows that individual struffles and triumphs are the essence of historical vitality, and that they remain very relevant to those of us still fighting for equality in the workplace today." - Samantha Fingerhut, WhatNOW "In Sisters in the Brotherhoods, Jane Latour provides timely responses both to Obama's challenge of creating good jobs with equal opportunities and Limbaugh's charge of reverse dicrimination for the undeserving. She offers her insights for moving toward the long-neglected promise of equal opportunity for women, regardless of race, ethnicity, and class, through the voices of pioneers who broke job barriers in the 1970s. - Brigid O'Farrell, Women's Review of Books "Vivid ... Sisters in the Brotherhoods is full of stories of courage and heartbreak and lessons on coming together while being pushed out." - Kate Flynn, Against the Currents