Colby, Josephine

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Josephine Colby was born at Colby's Landing, California in 1878 and was educated at the University of California, Berkeley (B.A., 1899) and at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She was married briefly (1921-1924) to Louis Kramer and lived at Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York and in Nantucket. She was a high school teacher in Oakland and Fresno, California (1915-1919) and an instructor at Chicago Labor College (1921), specializing in English language skills before joining the Brookwood faculty in 1922. Throughout the 1920's Brookwood, led by A. J. Muste, offered a two year social science course to "educate workers to work in the workers' movement," becoming by 1928 the leading center in the United States for labor education among forty such programs. Colby, nicknamed "Polly" by Brookwood colleagues, directed the Brookwood players and wrote a "Grammar for Workers," which exists as an unfinished manuscript. Her career as a labor educator included teaching appointments for the New York Central Trades and Labor Council College, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Summer Schools for Women Workers at Bryn Mawr and Barnard. Colby was a pioneer founder of the American Federation of Teachers and was both a national leader and a local officer (in California and Chicago). She was a founding member and officer of Workers' Education AFT Local 189 (the Brookwood faculty local).

Josephine Colby was also a member of the Women's Trade Union League, the Public Ownership League, the Proportional Representation League, the Federated Press League, and the American Association of Teachers of Journalism. In 1934 Colby went to the Soviet Union and taught English to technicians at the Moscow Institute of Languages. She never returned to the United States; her death date is presumed to be 1938.

From the description of Papers, 1912-1933, 1922-1933 (bulk). (New York University). WorldCat record id: 478371764

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith AFL-CIO. corporateBody
associatedWith American Federation of Teachers. corporateBody
associatedWith Barnard Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. corporateBody
associatedWith Brookwood Labor College (Katonah, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr Summer School. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Muste, Abraham John, 1885-1967. person
associatedWith New York Labor College. corporateBody
associatedWith Southern Summer School for Workers in Industry (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Starr, Helen. person
associatedWith Starr, Mark, 1894- person
associatedWith Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, corporateBody
associatedWith Westchester County Construction Laborers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Trade Union League. corporateBody
associatedWith Workers Education Local 189 (U.S.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Working class--Education
Teachers' unions
Working class in literature
Labor movement--Songs and music


Active 1912

Active 1933

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Ark ID: w6hq548v

SNAC ID: 52315905