The American Federation of Women's Auxiliaries of Labor was a national group consisting of women's auxiliaries for all national and international unions. The records were preserved primarily in the records of the Union Label Trades Department and the Organization and Field Services Department. Comprised of charters, proceedings, reports, correspondence, and printed materials, the collection provides a view of the work and activities of trade union women during the long period when it was difficult for women to assume active leaderhsip positions in the hierarchies of local and national unions.
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28.50 Linear Feet
This collection contains the surviving records of the American Federation of Women's Auxiliaries of Labor which were preserved primarily in the records of the Union Label Trades Department and the Organization and Field Services Department. Comprised of charters, proceedings, reports, correspondence and printed materials, the collection provides a view of the work and activities of trade union women during a long period when it was difficult for women to assume active leadership positions in the hierarchies of local and national unions. Materials are available here to trace the affiliation and disaffiliation of auxiliaries by state and by association with specific unions.
In the fall of 1935 the convention of the Union Label Trades Department (ULTD) of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) called for a meeting of all the women's auxiliaries of national and international unions to consider forming a national federation of auxiliaries. Over the next two years discussions were held and in April 1937 the American Federation of Women's Auxiliaries of Labor (AFWAL) was formed. The stated purposes of the new federation included disseminating union principles; influencing the legislative process at the local, state and national levels; ensuring that labor topics were covered in primary and secondary schools; and using their collective power to encourage the purchasing of union made products.
For a number of years auxiliary conventions were held in conjunction with Union Label Industrial Exhibitions. AFWAL coordinated its activities closely with the Union Label Trades Department, particularly during its earliest years, but the officers also worked in conjunction with the Organizing Department. After the merger of the AFL and CIO, the merged federations of women's auxiliaries also worked with the Committee on Political Education (COPE).
In 1957 a new organization, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations Auxiliaries (National Auxiliaries), was formed by the merger of AFWAL with the National CIO Auxiliaries. The stated purposes of the new federation included encouraging participation in community drives, assisting the local and state committees on political education, supporting labor legislation, assisting in the settlement of strikes, supporting the Civil Ground Observer Corps and the Union Label campaign.
Like other women's organizations, the National Auxiliaries began to lose members in the 1960s and early 1970s as women increasingly asked to be included in mainline labor organizations and were less inclined to join single-sex groups. In 1975 the AFL-CIO, recognizing that this arm of the federation needed to adapt to changing conditions, made the auxiliaries part of the Organization and Field Services Department with a staff representative serving as coordinator. A Conference of AFL-CIO Auxiliaries was established as a means to continue coordinated activity among union auxiliaries.
Mrs. Herman Lowe was President 1937-1951, and Mrs. Anna P. Kelsey was President 1951-1959.
This collection is organized into eight series:
The Union Label and Service Trades Department transferred records to the George Meany Memorial Archives (GMMA) in 1982 and the Organization and Field Services Department transferred additional records to the GMMA in 1985. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.
This collection was processed at the box level. Folder titles were recorded as created, and well established series were reconstructed when necessary. Other materials that arrived at the archives in some disarray were grouped roughly. Archivists, however, have not examined the records in great detail, and researchers may miss some typical access points such as date spans and detailed description of record series.
Lee Sayrs initially processed these records at the George Meany Memorial Archives with the assistance of Janet O'Connor, Mark Welkins, Kate Snodgrass, and William Hartley in 1997. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2018, at which point Rebecca Thayer updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.