In a world celebrating female strength and equality right now, I have a wonderful example of this for you from 1937. Writing Song of Return took me from the department stores of Anniston, AL to Woolworth Department Store in Detroit, MI in the late 1940s. In my research, I discovered a remarkable story about a group of women workers, which I couldn’t fail to mention in the book.
On February 27, 1937, 108 women working at Woolworth Department Store sat down on the job to demand equality in their work force. They were paid less than men and worked long, hard hours without many of the standard benefits offered at the time. The women demanded union recognition, a ten-cent an hour raise, eight-hour work days, time and a half for work after 48 hours a week, 50-cent lunches for soda fountain workers, free uniforms, and seniority rights.
Their example spread to another Woolworth location, and after seven days, the women received everything they asked for to promote a fair workplace! The women in Hollywood are not the only women who can create change!
For more information about this story, visit U.S. Labor History at overflow.umwblogs.org.
“That store is where the female workers had their famous sit-down strike. All of them, they say 108, just quit working one afternoon, demanding higher wages, time and a half after 48 hours, free uniforms, and the such. Customers were just left standing there with their money in their hands unable to buy anything. After a few days of that, the store management had to give in. Those girls got everything they asked for.”
“That’s incredible!” Rosemary said, imagining the incident in her head. “When I worked at a department store in Anniston, I don’t think any of us ever thought of doing such a thing.”
Song of Return, Chapter 26