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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Miriam Bonner Camp, April 15, 1976. Interview G-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Loyalty to Class Over Gender in the Labor Movement

In this excerpt, Camp talks about the role of class and gender in the effort to organize women workers through education at the Southern Summer School, Vineyard Shore School, and Bryn Mawr Summer School. According to Camp, although there was a general sense of women as a collective group across class lines, but she argues that it was not articulated in terms of "women's consciousness" the way it would be in later years. Instead, Camp believes that women workers would have been more likely to align themselves along class lines with men in unions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Miriam Bonner Camp, April 15, 1976. Interview G-0013. 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:
Did you get any feeling about a tension, sort of, between these women with being exposed to an organization like the Vineyard Shore School or the Bryn Mawr Summer School or the Women's Trade Union League groups that were run primarily by middle class women, and then going from that-or in the case of the Women's Trade Union League, I guess, really being asked to have allegiance to that group over time (I mean, the Women's Trade Union League had organizers and stuff like unions)-a tension between dealing with a group run by middle class women and a union which was run by working class?
MIRIAM BONNER CAMP:
I think so, I think there was some of that. I think there were others that appreciated any interest and any help, no matter where it came from. But I think some of the others felt that it was better handled by those who actually were in the industry, and that we were probably more theoretical than practical [laughter]-which is what's probably true.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[laughter] Would you now think of it in terms of playing off a working class organization integrated between men and women, run primarily by men, and a middle class organization which was made up of women, of both working class women and middle class women? I mean, did it ever come to class versus feminism [laughter]?
MIRIAM BONNER CAMP:
No, no, not at that time. The feminist movement was strong in England, of course, and we had had our suffrage movement. But the consciousness of women that we have now I don't think existed then.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Even in a way that was, perhaps, not discussed but nevertheless there?
MIRIAM BONNER CAMP:
To a large extent it was there, but not to the intensity or the clarity that it is now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
OK. So if someone was struggling between those two things, allegiance to a group of women, middle class and working class, or allegiance to a working class organization, it was a struggle that wasn't . . . articulated.
MIRIAM BONNER CAMP:
I think actually, though, the basic loyalty would be to their union.