Woman at Work

The Autobiography of Mary Anderson as told to Mary N. Winslow


Mary Anderson

Woman at Work was first published in 1951. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

This is the story of a remarkable woman whose life has been devoted to the betterment of working conditions for women. Mary Anderson was director of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor for twenty-five years, from shortly after its inception until her retirement in 1944. Her autobiography encompasses almost every movement in this country, and international efforts as well, for the benefit of women workers.

In her own simple diction, as told to Mary Winslow, who was associated in many of the same movements, Miss Anderson reveals an almost incredible life story. She recounts her arrival in America as a Swedish immigrant of sixteen and her early years as domestic worker, exploited factory hand, and trade union organizer. She describes her bitter struggles for unionization of the garment, shoe, and other industries in Chicago, and the activities of the Chicago and National Women’s Trade Union leagues in helping factory and mine workers gain a start toward living wages, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. She tells, finally, of a quarter-century of federal service – setting standards for women’s employment during two world wars, and serving the cause of labor effectively under five presidents. As the first U.S. government representative to the International Labor Organization, Miss Anderson championed principles of equality for women that were subsequently embodied in the United Nations Charter.

Through the story there are sidelights and appraisals of such notables as Frances Perkins, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John L. Lewis, and many others. It is an absorbing book, and one that documents an important aspect of our country’s social development.

Mary Anderson was director of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Mary Winslow, a prominent member of the Women’s Bureau, was also a close colleague of Anderson’s.

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