No roses, chocolates or congratulations, please! Do you know these women? Guess why not!
Who was Anita Whitney?
Leader and early founder of the American Communist Party, she was an ardent suffragist and working women’s rights advocate who went to jail for her beliefs.
Who was Valeska Bary?
Working within the government, she advocated zealously for the minimum wage for women with the Department of Social Welfare in California, and went on to an appointment to the Federal War Labor Policies Board in 1918.
Women’s Day was designed to commemorate the women who led the Labor Movement in 1900-1920 and it began as a socialist “holiday”. No roses, chocolates or congratulations please. Just an equal right to work, to fair and living-wage pay, to benefits and to success on our own merits, thank you. #WomensHistoryMonth #InternationalWomensDay
Read more in The Harlot’s Pen, the story of women in the labor movement in 1920, as told by a woman journalist, through the eyes of a prostitute. And no chocolates, thanks.
Never heard of Helen Valeska Bary? Of course not. Nor, probably, of Maud Younger, Sara Bard Field, Alice Paul, or Anita Whitney! All these remarkable women are invisible in our history books, but they did much to shape our country and our laws. Helen Valeska Bary 1888-1973, worked for the Labor Commission, the department of Social Security, negotiated labor strikes across California. She toiled for the minimum wage for women at a time when employers had “girls” sign a statement upon application for work stating that they were not using the funds for support of a family, so as to get around the need to pay a living wage.
Post World War 1 San Francisco saw the progress women had made in the work-force diminish as concerns that they were “stealing” work from men drove public opinion against them. At the same time, a wave of puritanism, the same wave that brought us prohibition, fueled the closure of brothels. Women who had made their living on their backs now made it on their feet, but any hope of a living wage was dashed by public resistance. Valeska Bary rose through the ranks of government during the War, but managed to remain not only employed but with a growing sphere of influence, after the men returned home.
Sara Bard Field
An amazing oral history of Valeska Bary, along with other feminists of bygone times, can be found at the Bancroft Library. Here’s a quote from her interview:
“Also, I saw something that annoyed me very much. That was that an application for employment at Nathan Dohrmann’s contained a statement just above the signature that the applicant was living at home and not dependent on her wages….
When you talked about low wages with many people, they would tell you that these women were living at home and whatever they earned was just pin money. Every girl, in applying for a job, had to say that it was just pin money….She did not need it. You may say that cleared their skirts from the idea that they were grinding the faces of the poor, it was just a pin money occupation.”
See more, and more and more, at: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/suffragist/