In October of 1919, nearly 200 women from nineteen nations converged in Washington, D.C. to attend the International Congress of Working Women (ICWW). The organization represented a feminist response to women’s marginalization within the newly established International Labor Organization (ILO). Women who participated in the ICWW, however, were far from united in deciding the proper basis for membership, or the best strategies for achieving workplace equality. At this formative moment, when women challenged the male bias of international labor policy, they wrestled with their own questions about race, who counted as a worker, and whether female workers should seek the same treatment as men or claim special protection due to their roles as mothers and caregivers. This article draws on the conference proceedings, contemporary news accounts, and memoirs of participants to analyze how the “working woman” took shape as a contested social category at this formative moment of transnational labor feminism.


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pp. 160-184
Launched on MUSE
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