Abstract

The Women's Service Section (WSS) investigated federally controlled railroad stations and yards at the end of World War I. Few women worked in car cleaning before the war, and railroad management preferred to block women workers, especially African Americans, from gaining any kind of foothold in railroad work. African American women were the single largest group of railroad car cleaners during this period but they were routinely denied adequate facilities, including toilets, locker rooms, and dining facilities throughout the railroad system. By raising the issues of facilities, workers' rights, and public health, these women shaped federal policy and widened the agenda of the WSS to include a direct attack on segregated workplaces. This article argues that African American women car cleaners launched an industrial campaign that wove together concerns about racism, sexism, and health issues, and successfully removed barriers to women working in a predominately male industry.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 87-111
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-09
Open Access
No
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