- Editor’s Introduction
Sometimes less is more. In revising our subtitle from Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas to the simpler Studies in Working-Class History, we are not so much changing focus as expanding it to accommodate what we might best call a selective globalism. Our continuing engagement with the recent transnational turn in historical studies (as well as abiding interest in labor internationalism) convinces us that a wider geopolitical scope is desirable if we and our readers are to keep up with some of the most stimulating intellectual currents in our field. New historical interest in labor systems beyond “free” wage labor, research in comparative labor and welfare policy, and the widespread if varied impact of globalization on the lives of contemporary working people all push for a broader literacy. Although our core readership and coverage will likely remain based in the Americas (and for practical purposes, US centered), henceforth we will adopt a global reach, so long as the international, transnational, comparative, and/or “exceptionally national” significance of the proposed contribution is made clear. Admittedly, we are imposing a higher test (to be determined by our editors) of comparative relevance for non-American subjects than for American ones. We look forward to further experimentation in the years to come, and we welcome your reactions and suggestions as we do so. [End Page 1]
To help chart these new intellectual horizons, we are pleased to welcome a few new associate editors: for South Asia, Ravi Ahuja, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Goettingen, Germany; for Africa, Eric Allina, University of Ottawa; for Australasia, Marilyn Lake, University of Melbourne; and for Europe, Stefan Berger, Institute for Social Movements, Bochum, Germany. Another transition will necessarily interest all those who interact with Labor. Our stellar editorial coordinator, Adam Mertz, is moving on to complete an important dissertation on teacher unionism in Wisconsin. All who have enjoyed his devoted, patient, and unfailingly good-humored attentions to the journal will miss him even as we wish him well. Fortunately, we are blessed with a most able successor to Adam in Jeff Schuhrke, who is sure to leave an equally positive imprint on our pages.
And now to the contents of volume 14.1. Fittingly, two articles suggest the rewards of the transnational/comparative turn in labor history. In the first, Steven Parfitt reviews the historiography on the US Knights of Labor before launching into an ambitious, if necessarily still introductory, inquiry into the organization’s impact abroad: beginning with a window-glass makers’ assembly in Cardiff, Wales, thousands of Knights organized across four continents, with particular strength, it seems, in Belgium and New Zealand. The similarity of the Knights’ message and even ritual to those of its Owenite forerunner, the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union, raises, for Parfitt, the fascinating hypothesis of an Anglo labor world wherein workers in the various British white settler states grappled with similar problems and solutions. Still, the differences in national expression and outcome are as intriguing as the similarities: why, for example, American Knights made so much [End Page 2] more of women’s equality than all their distant counterparts is but one of many themes that Parfitt’s discoveries open to further inquiry.
The complex management and manipulation of women in the workplace is precisely the subject of Joan Sangster and Julia Smith’s reconstruction of a telling chapter in Canadian business and social history. Seeking to expand its market share by an appeal to male business travelers in 1970, Canadian Pacific Air Lines largely convinced its stewardesses (including their union) to go along with a PR stunt that literally stripped flight attendants of unpopular midi skirts in favor of ogler-friendly minis. Sangster and Smith place this incident not only in the social-political context of its time but also in relation to a rich historiography on the sexualization of work, the international airlines and advertising industries, and women’s own ambivalent reaction to contemporary beauty culture.
The issue’s Bookmark selection features a lively discussion of Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf’s recent award-winning book Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South. Following a helpful précis...