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MC 324; M-44

Newman, Pauline. Papers, 1900-1980: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


This collection was processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-0051-79-1260).
Radcliffe College
July 1981

© 1981 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 324; M-44
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: PAULINE NEWMAN, 1888-1986
Title: Papers, 1900-1980
Quantity: 4.17 linear ft. (10 file boxes, 5 photograph folders, 1 folio+ item)
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, photographs, etc., of labor organizer Pauline Newman.

Processing Information:

Processed: July 1981
By: Donna Webber

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 77-M169, 78-M34, 78-M106, 78-M153, 78-M232, 79-M61, 79-M162, 79-M292, 80-M141, 80-M153, 80-M179, 80-M218, 80-M221
The papers of Pauline Newman were given to the Schlesinger Library by PN between 1977 and 1980.


Pauline Newman, labor organizer, Director of Health Education at the Union Health Center of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), and member of the National and New York Women's Trade Union League (N/NYWTUL), was born in Popelan, Kuvna, Lithuania, in about 1890, the youngest of Meyer and Theresa Newman's two sons and four daughters. Meyer Newman sold fruit and taught Talmud to the well-to-do sons of the village. Following his death, Theresa Newman and her three youngest daughters, including PN, left Lithuania and immigrated to the United States to join two of the older Newman children. They arrived at Ellis Island in May 1901 and went to live with members of the family on the Lower East Side of New York City.
PN received her earliest education as a member of her father's Talmud class. In New York she was unable to attend public school because of the family's poverty, but she educated herself through extensive reading on her own and as a member of the Socialist Literary Society.
At the turn of the century the great majority of people on the Lower East Side were Russian Jewish immigrants living in crowded, poorly built tenements. Most of them worked in the garment trade for very low wages, with long hours, and in unpleasant and unhealthful surroundings. Many of the Jewish garment workers were veterans of the labor movement and Socialist parties in Russia and, by the time PN arrived in New York, they were taking the first steps toward organizing the workers and demanding better treatment and wages from the factory owners.
PN worked in a brush and then a cigarette factory before finding employment at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in September 1901. Exposed to the wretched conditions of the garment industry, she sought ways to improve the workers' situation and in time became involved with the Socialist Party and with two new labor groups: the ILGWU and the NYWTUL. In November 1909 PN left the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That month the first great garment strike in New York City, the "Uprising of the Twenty Thousand," took place. The ILGWU sent PN upstate during the strike to address labor and women's groups and raise funds to help support the workers, who lacked the benefits of a strike fund.
PN became the first woman organizer for the ILGWU and spent the years 1911-1918 traveling and organizing for the Union, particularly in the Midwest. In Cleveland in 1911 she helped to organize the Cloakmakers' strike and was jailed briefly. In 1912 in Kalamazoo she helped direct the Corsetmakers' strike, which resulted in the shutdown of factories unwilling to cooperate with the Union. Although most of her work during this period was for the ILGWU, she was also occasionally on loan to the Socialist Party. In 1914 she was appointed a factory inspector for the Joint Board of Sanitary Control and helped to establish a sanitary code for the women's garment factories in New York.
PN became active in the NYWTUL in 1905; there she met other major figures in the labor movement, including Rose Schneiderman, Mary Dreier and Leonora O'Reilly. In 1918 the ILGWU loaned PN to the Philadelphia WTUL, which she served as president and organizer until 1923; here she met Frieda Miller (FSM), who was then secretary of the Philadelphia WTUL and who became her lifelong friend. PN remained actively involved with the WTUL until it was dissolved in 1950, serving as vice-president of the New York League and as a member of the Executive Board of the National WTUL.
In 1924 PN returned to New York City and joined the staff of the ILGWU Union Health Center (UHC) as Education Director. During the following decades she represented both the ILGWU and the WTUL on numerous committees and at state, national and international meetings. For many years she served on five Minimum Wage Boards for New York State. She was a member of the Advisory Committees of the Research Division of the New York State Department of Labor and of the New York State Equal Pay Law. On the national level, PN was a member of the Trade Union Advisory Committee of the U.S. Women's Bureau and of the Children's Bureau, a member of the Women's Committee on Defense Manpower, delegate to the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth (1950), consultant to the U.S. Public Health Service in the field of industrial hygiene, and a visiting expert for the U.S. Army in Germany, where she investigated the conditions of working women (1949). In 1919 PN represented the WTUL at the Canadian Labor Congress and in 1923 at the International Congress of Working Women in Vienna. In 1951 she was a delegate to the International Labor Organization Conference on the Problems of Domestic Workers, and in 1962 a delegate to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
PN joined the Socialist Party as a young woman and by 1908 began speaking publicly on behalf of the Party and its platforms. She was twice a Socialist candidate: in 1908 for Secretary of State, and in 1918 to represent her district in Congress. Later she supported Franklin Roosevelt and the reforms of the New Deal.
Throughout her life PN was an outspoken and articulate defender of the rights of working people in general, and of working women in particular. Her support of protective legislation, equal pay, improved working conditions and the minimum wage, and her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1930s are well-documented in her numerous articles, some published in ILGWU and WTUL publications, others in more widely circulated newspapers: the New York Call, New Leader, Labor Review, and Labor Woman. PN also wrote a regular column in Justice, an ILGWU publication (115v, 116v), mostly on issues related to the UHC.
After 1924 PN lived in NYC and often shared a home with Frieda Miller until the latter's death in 1973. PN helped to raise FSM's adopted daughter, Elisabeth, and developed close ties to the latter's first husband, David Owen, who was Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and their sons Hugh and Michael. In 1981 PN remains Education Director of the UHC and resides in NYC.



The Pauline Newman papers have been divided into five series, each arranged chronologically except where noted. There are some papers from PN's early professional life, but most of the collection is from the period after 1930.
Series I. Personal Papers contains biographical information and personal correspondence. The two oral histories (#5,6) are rich sources of information about PN's life and almost the only sources in this collection of information about her childhood and family. The personal correspondence documents the warm relationship between PN and FSM and between PN and FSM's daughter Elisabeth, son-in-law David Owen, and grandchildren Hugh and Michael Owen. There is much biographical information in the memoir PN wrote for the Owen boys (#3).
Series II. National and New York Women's Trade Union League. is a diverse collection of reports, correspondence and other papers about WTUL positions and programs, spanning the years of the organization's existence, 1903-1950. It illuminates PN's role in the League and her close relationship with several of its major leaders: e.g., Leonora O'Reilly, Rose Schneiderman, Elisabeth Christman and Mary Dreier. Of special interest are the letters between PN and Rose Schneiderman. #77 contains letters written by PN to Schneiderman while the former was travelling through the Midwest, 1919-1913, helping unions to organize new locals and strikes; they are eloquent descriptions of early union activities and PN's part in them. These letters are copies of originals at Tamiment Library, New York University, as part of the Rose Schneiderman papers.
Series III. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union is a record of PN's long association with and devotion to the Union and the Union Health Center. Of special note are the articles by PN, #112, 114, in which she discusses her early involvement with the Union and provides descriptions of the strikes she helped to organize.
Series IV. Other Professional Papers contains information about PN's work for the New York State and federal governments and for other organizations. As PN often established personal friendships with people she worked with, there has been no attempt to distinguish personal and professional correspondence. The correspondence with individuals (#141-64) is arranged alphabetically. M-44 is a microfilm of clippings (originals discarded) by and about PN which provide a useful record of her early union activities and complements other types of records in the collection. A large number of the clippings are from Yiddish-language newspapers.
Series V. PHOTOGRAPHS. FILED IN PHOTOGRAPH DRAWER. There are no photographs of PN as a child or a young woman or of her family. #186 contains pictures of several women active in the labor movement.
There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see 83-M191--83-M198.


A card for each of the following appears in the card catalogue:
Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964
Bolton, Frances Payne, 1885-1977
Bondfield, Margaret
Borah, William Edgar, 1865-1940
Brownell, Herbert, 1904-
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947
Christman, Elisabeth, 1881-1975
Cook, Cara
Cook, Nancy, 1882-1941
Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-19???
Dreier, Mary Elisabeth, 1875-1963
Dubinsky, David, 1892-
Edwards, India
Gawthorpe, Mary
Green, William, 1870-1952
Harriman, William Averell, 1891-
Herrick, Elinor Morehouse, 1895-1964
Hillman, Bessie
Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933
Humphrey, Hubert Horatio, Jr., 1911-1979
Ives, Irving McNeill, 1896-1962
Jacobs, Sophia Yarnall, 1902-
Kenyon, Mildred Adams, 1894-
Keyserling, Mary Dublin, 1910-
Kirchwey, Freda, 1893-1976
LaGuardia, Fiorello H., 1882-1947
Lash, Joseph P, 1909-
Lehman, Herbert H, 1878-1963
Lenroot, Katharine Frederica, 1891-
Meany, George, 1894-1980
Miller, Frieda, 1889-1979
Nestor, Agnes, 1880-1948
O'Reilly, Leonora, 1870-1927
Owen, David
Paret, Bertha R
Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965
Pesotta, Rose, 1896-1965
Peterson, Esther Eggertsen, 1906-
Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-
Rankin, Jeannette, 1880-1973
Robins, Margaret Dreier, 1868-1945
Robins, Raymond, 1873-1954
Rooney, John J, 1903-
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., 1917-
Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972
Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-
Swartz, Maud
Swartz, Nelle, 1882?-1952
Switzer, Mary Elizabeth, 1900-1971
Thompson, Dorothy, 1894-
Tobin, Maurice Joseph, 1901-1953
Tone, Gertrude Franchot
Van Kleeck, Mary, 1883-1972
Wagner, Robert F., 1877-1953
Winslow, Mary Nelson, 1888-1952
Woodsmall, Ruth F., 1883-1963
American Federation of Labor
Boston Women's Trade Union League
Clothing workers
Election campaigns
Equal pay for equal work
Equal Rights Amendment
Germany--Economic conditions
Health education
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union--Health Center
Jews in Russia
Jews--Social life and customs
Labor and laboring classes
Labor inspection
Labor laws and legislation--New York
National Women's Trade Union League
New York Women's Trade Union League
Oral history
Philadelphia Women's Trade Union League
Protective legislation
Socialist Party
Strikes and lockouts
Textile workers
Trade unions
U.S. Department of Labor. Women's Bureau
U.S. Emigration and immigration--Personal narratives
Wages--Minimum wage
Women's networks