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Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City (Palgrave Studies in Oral History) 2008th Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230619180
ISBN-10: 0230619185
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sisters in the Brotherhoods is one of the most exciting books that I've read in years. It is nothing less than a history of the late twentieth century movement of women into non-traditional jobs as recalled by and through the voices of the women who opened the doors. Jane Latour seamlessly melds the aspirations, experiences, doubts and achievements of the courageous women who earned their livings in trades reserved for men into a persuasive analysis of generational change. Every young woman should read this resonant and moving book." - Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America "Jane LaTour's book Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City is a great reminder that when we have equal opportunities in every line of work we thrive. When women change the way work is done, they make lasting change in the culture of the workplace." - Billie Jean King "Jane LaTour tells the history of the tradeswomen movement by focusing on events in New York City. She captures the real lives of tradeswomen through stories that are poignant, raw, and uplifting. It brought back to me the frustration of trying to engage the Women's Movement in seeing tradeswomen as more than role models for our daughters. In our sex-segregated economy tradeswomen are on the front line in the battle for economic justice." - Dale McCormick, the first woman to complete the carpentry apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 1260 in Iowa City, in 1975

"In Sisters in the Brotherhoods, Jane LaTour draws on extensive interviews and oral histories with women who broke into the building trades in New York City over the last several decades. The interviews are enormously rich sources, filled with stunning stories of male resistance, abuse, and hostility toward the integration of women and equally stirring tales of women's determination to survive this treatment. Even as they were subjected to various hair-raising and harrowing forms of harassment and intimidation, the women whose oral histories form the heart of this compelling and moving book sought to challenge and reform the system. Reform could be incredibly hard and scary work; it took one woman fourteen years to find the courage to speak at her own local. But they did speak out and by their individual and collective efforts, they organized women and sympathetic men and empowered them to fight for their rights. Sisters in the Brotherhoods illuminates an aspect of women's and labor history that has been understudied and overlooked. In the women's challenge to existing union arrangements and their own deployment of labor movement principles and practices to achieve their ends lies a fundamental contradiction of post-World War II labor history. Jane LaTour's book compels a reassessment and revision of the view of post-World War II unions as inimical to working women's interests and as vehicles for conservatism rather than progressive change." - Nancy Gabin, Department of History, Purdue University "Sisters in the Brotherhoods profiles the indomitable women who fought their way into some of the best-defended male monopolies in the U.S. labor force: the skilled trades of New York City. Jane Latour's engaging oral histories reveal the diverse routes women traveled to claim these jobs, the alliances that sustained them, and the strategies they developed to master their crafts in the face of employer hostility, co-worker harassment, union corruption, and a government that all but abandoned them in the 1980s. Tradeswomen, feminists, labor and civil rights activists, historians, and social scientists will all find wisdom and inspiration in these pages."

- Nancy MacLean, author of Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace and The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000: A Brief History with Documents "LaTour rips aside the bromides of superficial victories to explore the punishing ordeals of female pioneers in male dominated industries . . . What makes the interviews so compelling is the author's own on-the-job experience in a series of blue collar occupations and academic positions. The camaraderie makes her questions harder in substance by more sensitive in the asking." - Scott Molloy, Ph.D., Schmidt Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island "This is a bitter tale of courage, told for the first time. In the words of the women themselves, we hear the gut-wrenching experiences of pioneers who toughed their way into apprenticeships and on to strenuous blue-collar jobs that civil rights laws in the 1970s were designed to open to them. These women, mostly without allies, learned a cruel lesson: you could fight to cling to the job that would support a family, but you could not at the same time fight the hostility of the shop steward, the connivance of the union with the contractor. Women on the job, they learned, were viewed as an affront to the masculinity of their fellows: supporting a family was men's work. They have told their colleague Jane LaTour, often reluctantly, the details of their daily struggle. What we see about us today underlines the painful truth of this book: unions built by fathers and sons would make no space for mothers and daughters. This is an important part of a lost history." - Betsy Wade, former president, Local 3, The Newspaper Guild of New York; named plaintiff, Boylan v. New York Times, 74 CIV. 4891

About the Author

Jane LaTour is a journalist and labor activist living in New York City. She has written for various union publications and managed the Women's Project of the Association for Union Democracy. She is a two-time winner of the Mary Heaton Vorse Award, the top labor journalism award in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Series: Palgrave Studies in Oral History
  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2008 edition (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230619185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230619180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,904,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Gardner on February 25, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We have many women that work in male dominated industries that are faced with difficulties not always recognized or talked about. It is refreshing to see women more and more infiltrating these workplaces and speaking out to other women about it!
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Format: Paperback
Nowadays, to find a woman CEO leading a Fortune 500 company is no longer a novelty. The most recent list has a dozen, including the bosses of Pepsi, ADM, Kraft, Xerox and Wellpoint. A couple of years ago, a woman was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. And perhaps, if she'd she taken her underdog rival more seriously, a woman would now be the Democratic Party's nominee for the Presidency.

But some barriers - seemingly a lot lower and less elite -- remain formidable. Anyone who reads Jane LaTour's revelatory Sisters in the Brotherhoods, will come to understand why it's not unlikely that Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country, will have another woman president before a woman is ever elected president of a national blue collar construction union in the U.S.A.

LaTour, a former Teamster herself, as well as a union democracy activist and award winning labor journalist, has produced the most illuminating history yet written of America's most embattled and undeservedly obscure civil rights movement.

Beginning in the late 70's, there began a dramatic, sometimes violent battle by ordinary women to vault over the parapets of blue-collar male privilege. But why are most of us just learning of these battles? Even on the Left, the claims of far smaller groups - think of the transsexual and the transgendered -- are more often invoked than the rights of blue-collar women to pursue a vocation in the trades without risking humiliation, beatings or social isolation.

True, not all of Sisters is unfamiliar territory. Some was explored in the 2005 film North Country (working title "Class Action"). It starred Charlize Theron in the fictionalized story of Lois Jenson who battled against sexual harassment and union indifference in the mines of Minnesota.
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Format: Hardcover
Rosie's Daughters

Nowadays, to find a woman CEO leading a Fortune 500 company is no longer a novelty. The most recent list has a dozen, including the bosses of Pepsi, ADM, Kraft, Xerox and Wellpoint. A couple of years ago, a woman was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. And perhaps, if she'd she taken her underdog rival more seriously, a woman would now be the Democratic Party's nominee for the Presidency.

But some barriers - seemingly a lot lower and less elite -- remain formidable. Anyone who reads Jane LaTour's revelatory Sisters in the Brotherhoods, will come to understand why it's not unlikely that Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country, will have another woman president before a woman is ever elected president of a national blue collar construction union in the U.S.A.

LaTour, a former Teamster herself, as well as a union democracy activist and award winning labor journalist, has produced the most illuminating history yet written of America's most embattled and undeservedly obscure civil rights movement.

Beginning in the late 70's, there began a dramatic, sometimes violent battle by ordinary women to vault over the parapets of blue-collar male privilege. But why are most of us just learning of these battles? Even on the Left, the claims of far smaller groups - think of the transsexual and the transgendered -- are more often invoked than the rights of blue-collar women to pursue a vocation in the trades without risking humiliation, beatings or social isolation.

True, not all of Sisters is unfamiliar territory. Some was explored in the 2005 film North Country (working title "Class Action").
Read more ›
Comment 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
It's not a woman's slight body that keeps her out of physically demanding trades. My father-in-law weighed barely more than 100 pounds. Yet he faced no barriers to becoming a plumber, a job he did for 45 years. He could do the physical labor. "Work smart," he said. "Don't work hard."

But he had one advantage that women don't have. He was a man in a man's field. In the 1970s, the assumption that no woman belonged in the trades began to change--a little. Encouraged by anti-discrimination laws and a growing awareness that it was prejudice, not lack of brawn, that kept them from some high-paying blue-collar jobs, some women shouldered their way into male-only professions. Some training programs specifically for women opened doors.

In Sisters in the Brotherhoods, labor writer Jane LaTour traces the personal and political history of New York City's pioneer firefighters, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics. Some of the women were feminists who wanted to break down barriers to high-paying jobs. Others were women from blue-collar families who saw the trades as a way to make a better living than they could as cleaners or clerks or waitresses.

Yvone Maitin, who grew up in the projects, supported herself at a clerical job for the Board of Education for 11 years making $11,000 (in the early `80s). After training in a special program for women in building maintenance and repairs, she landed a job in a previously all-male profession starting at $16,000.

Who wouldn't do that? Well, most women, because the stamina and fortitude it took to withstand harassment and ridicule. Many of the women in their oral histories describe years of physical and mental torment.
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