Thursday, January 8, 2009

Speaker lessons on labor's front lines, 1936

Thanks to MIWomensForum on Twitter, here is a wonderful story about how women put public speaking training to use in an early auto industry strike. Appearing on Women's eNews, the article by historian Louise Berkinow recounts how "The Women's Auxiliary took their rolling pins to the front lines of the Flint sit-down strike" on December 30, 1936. The strike was a 44-day sit-in by auto workers at the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan, spurred by the firing of workers trying to start a labor union. On learning that some women were trying to get their striking husbands to come home, activist women started a "Women's Auxiliary" to educate the others about how to support the strike:
The Women's Auxiliary set up a first aid station, a day care center and a feeding operation that on some days delivered three meals a day to a crowd of strikers that numbered, at times, 2,000 men...The women walked the picket lines, distributed literature and offered public speaking classes to women who faced questions from press or public.
Later, women took to the lines with rolling pins (and other implements) to defend the strikers.