WOMEN'S IDENTITIES

1930S-1950S

MARGARET HYLAND

 

1930S

ROSE SCHNEIDERMAN

Rose Schneiderman was one of the most influential women in the labor movement of the early 20th century. Schneiderman, originally born in Poland, moved to the United States in 1882. Schneiderman was a strong advocate for social justice feminism and a participant in the suffragist movement. As a social justice feminist as well as a labor rights advocate, Schneiderman was able to take into account the needs of working class women in a way most other feminists or labor rights activists did not. Schneiderman opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because it “failed to protect working women from dangerous working conditions and unequal wage regulation, and that they should acknowledge that men and women require different labor legislations”. In 1933, Schneiderman was elected to the National Labor Advisory Board by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and served as the only woman on the board. Schneiderman’s position allowed her to have influence with Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation such as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the National Industrial Recovery Act. From 1937 to 1943 Schneiderman served as the secretary of the New York State Department of Labor. Schneiderman’s positions of power throughout her life stood up to the patriarchal expectations of the time and her strong feminist beliefs were able to inform and influence her other activist work within the labor rights movement.

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MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE

Mary Bethune was born in 1875. She studied to become an educator and in 1904, after her divorce, opened a boarding school called the Daytona Beach Literacy and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Bethune was elected President of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club in 1924. In 1935, Bethune became the founding President of the National Council of Negro Women. A year later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration making her the highest ranking African American woman in the government at the time. In 1937 Bethune organized a conference on the Problems of the Negro and Negro Youth, and fought to end discrimination and lynching. In 1940, she became the Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons. Bethune’s ability to hold so much power and responsibility at a time when women, especially Black women, were not taken seriously is undeniably impressive. Bethune certainly paved the way for many women after her. Not to mention her success as a single woman during the depression, a time when many women had to rely extra on men financially.

 

1940S

ELLA BAKER

Ella Baker was born in Virginia in 1903. After graduating from Shaw University, Baker moved to New York where she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League. Their mission was “to develop black economic power through collective planning”. In 1940, Baker began working with the NAACP as a field secretary and eventually became the director of branches from 1943 to 1946. Baker raised money to help fight Jim Crow laws in the deep south and eventually went on to help organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King. As a Black woman, Ella Baker was fighting against both racism and sexism at a time in American history where both were incredibly prevalent. Baker continued her activism and fight for civil rights until her death in 1986.

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EMILY GREENE BALCH

Emily Greene Balch was born on January 8th 1867. Balch attended and graduated from Bryn Mawr University in 1889 as a member of their first graduating class. After World War 1 broke out, Balch was convinced that her “lifework lay in furthering humanity’s effort to rid the world of war”. In 1915, Balch helped found the Women’s International Committee for Permanent Peace. In 1919, Balch became the secretary for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Balch also had a hand in a lot of the work that the League of Nations did such as disarmament, drug control, and the internationalization of aviation. At the age of Seventy-Nine Balch won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in disarmament and peace in 1946. She continued her work until her death in 1961. 

 

1950S

DAISY GATSON BATES

Bates was born in 1914. When she was only three years old, her mother was killed by three white men which made a significant impact on Bates. It forced her to confront race relations in America at an incredibly early age and she ended up dedicating her life to ending racial injustice. After traveling with her husband throughout the South, the couple settled down in Little Rock, Arkansas. After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional, Bates gathered Black students to enroll in white schools in Arkansas. When the NAACP started to focus on integrating schools in Arkansas they looked to Bates to help organize the movement. Bates organized the successful integration of the Little Rock Nine in 1957. Because of her major role in school integration, Bates was often the target of intimidation tactics. There were multiple occasions where rocks were thrown at and into Bates’ house. However, that did not stop Bates’ activism. She continued her work in “improving the status of African Americans in the South” until her death in 1999. Bates was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1999 after her passing.

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PHYLLIS LYON AND DEL MARTIN

Phyllis Lyon was born in 1924. Del Martin was born in 1921. Both of the women were established journalists who met and fell in love in 1950. In 1955 the couple founded the first Lesbian organization in America called the Daughters of Bilitis. They used their journalism skills to work together, write, and spread the word about lesbian activism and rights. Martin also helped found a group called the Lesbian Mothers Union. The women used their activism to stand up to the patriarchal heteronormative standards at a time when America was doubling down on their xenophobia. The cold war produced a lot of fear of “otherness” and even inspired a chain of events known as the ‘lavender scare’ where LGBTQ+ government workers were fired out of fear that they could potentially be compromised by communist spies. Standing up against that fear was more important than ever in Lyon and Martin’s time. The couple stayed together and continued their activist work for the rest of their lives. They got married twice, once in 2004 before same sex marraige was federally legal, and again in 2008 after the supreme court rules same sex marraige as a legal right for all citizens. Unfortunately, Martin passed away in 2008 and Lyon passed away in 2020.

 

WORKS CITED

Work Cited

Brooks, Laken. “The Lyon-Martin House Preserves the Story of Lesbian Advocates Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin: National Trust for Historic Preservation.” Saving Places, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 3 May 2021, https://savingplaces.org/stories/the-lyon-martin-house-preserves-the-story-of-lesbian-advocates-phyllis-lyon-and-del-martin#.YbZO6_HMIdU

“Emily Greene Balch Biography.” NobelPrize.org, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1946/balch/biographical/

“Emily Greene Balch Facts.” NobelPrize.org, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1946/balch/facts/

Kim, Rachel. “Rose Schneiderman.” First Wave Feminisms, 13 Dec. 2020, https://sites.uw.edu/twomn347/2020/12/13/rose-schneiderman/

“Mary McLeod Bethune.” Edited by Debra Michals, National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-mcleod-bethune

Norwood, Arlisha. “Daisy Bates.” National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/daisy-bates

Norwood, Arlisha. “Daisy Bates.” National Women's History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/daisy-bates

“Rose Schneiderman (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/people/rose-schneiderman.htm

“Who Was Ella Baker?” Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, https://ellabakercenter.org/who-was-ella-baker/