Cover for CARSON: A Matter of Moral Justice: Black Women Laundry Workers and the Fight for Justice. Click for larger image

A Matter of Moral Justice

Black Women Laundry Workers and the Fight for Justice

A long-overlooked group of workers and their battle for rights and dignity

Like thousands of African American women, Charlotte Adelmond and Dollie Robinson worked in New York’s power laundry industry in the 1930s. Jenny Carson tells the story of how substandard working conditions, racial and gender discrimination, and poor pay drove them to help unionize the city’s laundry workers. Laundry work opened a door for African American women to enter industry, and their numbers allowed women like Adelmond and Robinson to join the vanguard of a successful unionization effort. But an affiliation with the powerful Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) transformed the union from a radical, community-based institution into a bureaucratic organization led by men. It also launched a difficult battle to secure economic and social justice for the mostly women and people of color in the plants. As Carson shows, this local struggle highlighted how race and gender shaped worker conditions, labor organizing, and union politics across the country in the twentieth century.

Meticulous and engaging, A Matter of Moral Justice examines the role of African American and radical women activists and their collisions with labor organizing and union politics.

Publication supported by a grant from the Howard D. and Marjorie I. Brooks Fund for Progressive Thought

Jenny Carson is an associate professor of history at Ryerson University.

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