Kalamazoo Corset Co. Strike! poster
by Just Seeds
In 1911, the Kalamazoo Corset Company was the largest manufacturer of women’s corsets in the world. In spring of 1912, the Kalamazoo Corset Workers’ Union, Local 82 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union went on strike, citing poor wages, long hours, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and sexual harassment as grievances.In a company whose products bore names like Madame Grace and American Beauty, it was common practice for foremen to give the most desirable jobs to women who allowed their sexual advances.
Women workers were forced to pay out of pocket for thread purchased from the same foremen, who in turn often chose to withhold the thread and the women’s means of livelihood in exchange for sexual favors.
In the end, despite the workers’ best efforts, the strike was unsuccessful. However, due to the efforts of Pauline Newman and representatives from Local 82 who traveled throughout the Midwest advocating a company boycott to women consumers, the Kalamazoo Corset Company went bankrupt in 1914.
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