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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

A Woman's Place is in Her Union: Gender, Race, and the Creation of the UAW's Women's Bureau

This paper investigates the intersection of race and gender among labor union leadership near the end of World War II. Other historians have thoroughly demonstrated that most unions were concerned exclusively with the problems of their male members during the war, and failed to protect the seniority and job security of its women workers job during reconversion. However, a study of the UAW at the point when reconversion plans were being developed may reveal the expectation of a much different relationship between the men, women, whites and African-Americans of the UAW than the one that actually happened after reconversion. The establishment of the UAW’s Women’s Bureau in 1943 and the subsequent appointment of Mildred Jeffrey as the UAW’s first female department head, as well as the planning and execution of the Women’s Bureau’s 1944 Women’s Conference, can help to illuminate the historical moment in which the UAW questioned notions of gender and race as they prepared their reconversion plans. By studying the personal and professional papers of Mildred Jeffrey; the notes, agendas, and actual proceedings pertaining to the 1944 Women’s Conference; and Detroit-area newspapers that ran stories about the Women’s Bureau and its Conference, this project will contest the conclusion that the UAW disregarded the needs of its women members during the war, and may help to explain why its commitment to women failed so dismally in the years following World War II.

Presenter: Tiffany Baugh-Helton (Binghamton University (SUNY)) -- Tbaugh1@binghamton.edu
Topic: History I - Panel
Location: 219 Hartwell
Time: 1:45 pm (Session III)

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