Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Labor unions influenced elite and working-class women differently

Anderson discusses how labor unions experienced rifts between wealthy labor members and working-class women. Even though Anderson supported the labor movement, the class tensions led to her reluctance to participate in unions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was your connection with labor? Did you have connection with the unions?
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Oh, not until years and years later. We had a very, very strong union at the Y and a very controversial union.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
A strong union within the Y?
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
National Y. Oh yes. Of course the labor union by then courted the YW. And in a lot of places the YW were in the labor movement, see, outright in the trade union. They are now, but I don't know what union.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Now these were people who worked for the YW?
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Right. Absolutely.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Like secretaries and-
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Everybody was in an industrial union and some of our best people were maintenance, you know. It was a straight industrial union. But that's a much later-
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you a member of it?
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Oh yes. It was no joke to be in the labor movement then, in the rank and file. We had the same struggle in our trade unions. They would put a woman, a rich woman, to be with us. And then we would have these snips from the labor movement. They would come up and be down right rude to these women. Well, everybody knows you don't do that. These women were our employers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who would come. . .
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
We had some good ones. I mean some that understood. But mostly we'd have a typical, hard boiled trade union guy. And they'd be different ones. They'd come into a meeting. They wouldn't know what we were talking about, what the issues were. Don't ask me when that was. I couldn't tell you. Many of the good people in the national Y were ardent trade unionists. But it nearly killed us all to be in the labor movement. Be for the labor movement, but not to be in it. I think that would be true now. I would hate to be in a union myself. Though of course I believe in it.