Hillman, BessieVariant names
Bessie Abramowitz Hillman, labor leader, union organizer, and first woman executive, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA).
A pioneer in the early 20th century labor movement, Bessie Hillman (née Abramowitz) was born in Grodno, Russia, in 1889. She emigrated to the United States in 1905 and started working as a button sewer in a Chicago garment factory. There she began her long career as a labor organizer, forming a shop committee to protest working conditions, hours, and pay. In 1910, she led fellow workers in a walkout at Hart, Schaffner and Marx to protest a pay cut. The strike drew the support of Jane Addams and the Women's Trade Union League, which hired Bessie Abramowitz as an organizer. It was during the Hart, Schaffner and Marx strike, that she met her future husband, Sidney Hillman.
In 1914, garment workers in Chicago, New York, and other cities formed the Amalgamated Clothing workers of America; Bessie Abramowitz was elected to the new union's general executive board. She led a campaign to draft Sidney Hillman to be president of the new union. He accepted, and together the pair led an industry-wide strike to establish a union shop in 1915. A year later they were married.
Bessie Hillman's work for the union was interrupted by the birth of her two children, but she continued to volunteer for the Women's Trade Union League, and by 1924, she returned to active organizing for the ACWA. In the 1930s she became involved with union education and cultural programming while working with the Laundry Workers Joint Board, an ACWA affiliate. During this period, she took a strong interest in civil rights issues, an interest that continued for the rest of her life.
After Sidney Hillman's death in 1946, Bessie Hillman became vice president in charge of the ACWA's education programs. She was also a frequent speaker at union conferences, conventions, and education forums, and was active in politics. She was a member of various national organizations and committees, including the Civil Rights Committee of the CIO (and later the AFL-CIO), the National Consumers League, the American Labor Education Service, and the Child Welfare Committee of New York. She also served on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women. She remained involved in union, political and social affairs until her death in 1970.
From the description of Bessie Hillman correspondence, 1930-1970, 1945-1970 (bulk). (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 64755361
|New York (State)
|New York (State)
|New York (N.Y.)
|Labor laws and legislation
|Women clothing workers
|Women in labor unions
|Women labor leaders