United Tradeswomen Records
Language of Materials
United Tradeswomen was founded in 1979 as an outgrowth of activity surrounding the entrance of women into the construction trades in New York City. Overt resistance to the entrance of women, persistent discrimination in hiring, and the on-going need for support for those women in the trades, prompted several women to organize the group. These records include meeting minutes, organizational correspondence, informational leaflets and handouts, program announcements and posters, newsletters, and internal memos.
United Tradeswomen was founded by women working in the construction industry in New York City to promote the training and employment of women, and to combat discrimination in employment and in the workplace.
United Tradeswomen was founded in 1979 as an outgrowth of activity surrounding the entrance of women into the construction trades in New York City. Overt resistance to the entrance of women, persistent discrimination in hiring, and the on-going need for support for those women in the trades, prompted several women to organize the group. The initial function of UT was to lobby the electricians and carpenters unions to recruit women into their apprenticeship programs. The initiative for this action was taken by Mary Garvin, a carpenter who came to New York City from California with the express purpose of getting women into the trades. Garvin was instrumental in developing the Women in Apprenticeship Agency Project (WAP) and in securing public funding for its operation. WAP recruited women and then enrolled them in training programs to provide them with the skills necessary to secure employment in the building trades.
However, beyond training and recruitment, the need remained for attention to a broader and more diverse goal. Mary Garvin, Lois Ross, and Irene Soloway, as well as several other women, organized United Tradeswomen to fulfill this broader mission. Between 1979 and 1984, UT brought pressure to bear on regulatory agencies, employers, contractors, unions and apprentice programs. It worked with coalitions in the City to pursue equal employment for women and minorities, engaging in concerted activity with groups such as Harlem Fight Back and ALL-Craft. It provided a network of support for women, and conducted educational forums on issues such as sexual harassment, race discrimination, and trade union issues.
UT carried on correspondence and lobbying, mounted picket lines and held public "Speak Outs" in its campaign to achieve the maximum equality guaranteed by the law.
The structure of the organization was democratic and participatory, with a commitment to consensus decision-making. Division of labor was allocated to committees with responsibility for tasks such as outreach, publicity, fund raising and programming. Responsibility for setting priorities and maintaining momentum rested with the core group of leaders. Despite its commitment to broad-based decision making and shared leadership, personality clashes and diverging political opinions generated divisions within the organization. In addition, the stress and "burn out" attendant upon the lives of women in the trades, ultimately led to the demise of the organization. In spite of its disintegration, the trades women who pioneered the entrance of females into the construction industry in New York City almost unanimously acknowledge the contribution made to their efforts by United Tradeswomen. The confluence between the Women's Movement and the movement into new areas of employment for that generation of women produced a vitality and purposefulness that resulted in real economic gains for that small percentage of women who penetrated the male bastion of the construction trades.
Arranged by office of origin, alphabetically, and chronologically. Records were brought together from various group members and integrated into one box by Irene Soloway in the spring of 1986.
The files are grouped into 2 series:
- I, Administrative, Membership Activities and Publications
- II, Advocacy.
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains minutes and correspondence, newsletters, brochures, flyers and posters, program announcements and internal memos. The records document the work of the various Committees and the Borough Coordinators for the UT. As an aid to the advocacy work of the organization, the group collected informational brochures and materials from other organizations seeking to act as advocates for women in the trades. Various lobbying efforts on behalf of local and state legislative initiatives, such as Executive Order #50, New York City's Affirmative Action Policy, hiring campaigns aimed at certain high-profile employers, such as the Javits Center, as well as efforts to monitor and pressure the various local, state and federal regulatory agencies, are included in the Collection.
The Collection documents the women's struggle to gain entrance, skills, jobs, and fair treatment. The wit, humor, resourcefulness and tenacity that allowed them to succeed is well reflected in the program announcements and informational flyers designed by the activists of UT.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the United Tradeswomen was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Irene Soloway, 1994. The accession number associated with this gift is 1994.007.