A Needle, a Bobbin, a Strike

Women Needleworkers in America
Edited by Joan M. Jensen and Sue Davidson
With a Foreword by Michelle Haberland

Almost exclusively considered "women's work," the sewing trades have a history of toil, exploitation, and unfinished protest. These essays trace the shift in needleworkers' environments—the home, sweatshop, department store, and factory—from the nineteenth into the twentieth century, and their adaptation to changes wrought by the sewing machine. The effects of unionization and the first landmark strikes in Cleveland, Rochester, Chicago, and New York City are compared to contemporary issues for clothing workers. The exploitation of foreign labor as well as minority workers in this country along with the re-emergence of sweatshops is the final focus.

No other study of the apparel industry achieves the scope of A Needle, a Bobbin, a Strike. Published just as historians were eager to shed the trappings of Old Labor History, Jensen and Davidson’s collection tells a different history about women clothing workers who were divided by race, region, ethnicity, and class, from the nineteenth throughout the twentieth century.