Dishing It Out

Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century
Author: Dorothy Sue Cobble
Paper – $29
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/1992
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

Back when SOS or Adam and Eve on a raft were things to order if youwere hungry but a little short on time and money, nearly one-fourth of all waitresses belonged to unions. By the time their movement peaked in the 1940s and 1950s, the women had developed a distinctive form of working-class feminism, simultaneously pushing for equal rights and pay and affirming their need for special protections.

Dorothy Sue Cobble shows how sexual and racial segregation persistedin wait work, but she rejects the idea that this was caused byemployers' actions or the exclusionary policies of male trade unionists.Dishing It Out contends that the success of waitress unionism wasdue to several factors: waitresses, for the most part, had nontraditionalfamily backgrounds, and most were primary wage-earners. Theirclose-knit occupational community and sex-separate union encouragedfemale assertiveness and a decidedly unromantic view of men andmarriage. Cobble skillfully combines oral interviews and extensivearchival records to show how waitresses adopted the basic tenets ofmale-dominated craft unions but rejected other aspects of male unionculture. The result is a book that will expand our understanding offeminism and unionism by including the gender consciousperspectives of working women.

About the Author

DOROTHY SUE COBBLE, assistant professor in the labor education department at Rutgers University, has published articles in Feminist Studies, International Labor and Working-Class History, and elsewhere, and has also worked as a waitress and as a stevedore.



"Rich in detail, studded with telling anecdotes, Dishing It Out is just as vivid and evocative as its title suggests. . . . This book speaks with clarity and good sense to the major debates in the history of work and gender and will become a landmark in our growing understanding of the relationships between the two." -- Susan Porter Benson, author of Counter Cultures

"In this imaginative study of waitresses, work, and unionism, Cobble challenges us all to rethink the conventional wisdom about the relationship between craft unionism and the possibilities for women workers' collective action. Women's labor history will never be the same." -- Ruth Milkman, author of Gender at Work: The Dynamics of Job Segregation by Sex during World War II