“Whatever the fight, don’t be ladylike.”
So said labor organizer and self-professed “hell-raiser” Mary “Mother Jones” Harris more than a century ago as she called to action the wives of striking coal miners across Appalachia. Their combined efforts helped drum up public support and turn the tide in the miners’ favor. At the time, women were shut out of union activity and shunted to the sidelines during labor battles; they were relegated to domestic duties or caught in the crossfire as collateral damage.
As Harris and other trailblazers demonstrated, the working class can succeed only by harnessing the power of all workers, regardless of gender. Today, public support for unions is at a record high, the feared fallout of the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME failed to materialize, and fast-growing sectors like digital media and fast-food service have added thousands of members to union rolls.