Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rules for Female Teachers and the Real Meaning of Unions

  This is a guest post by Pam Grundy,  a native of the American Heartland who leans left and talks straight.  Her work is found  in a variety of places online, including her personal blog Diary of An Alien Life Form.  She is a firm supporter of working people and is passionate about the importance of what is happening right now in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio

The Real Meaning of Unions

The following “Rules for Female Teachers” were posted by the school board of a small Massachusetts town around the year 1900, just before the first “Teachers League” (an early union) was formed to prevent the automatic firing of women who became pregnant:

Do not get married.

Do not leave town at any time without permission of the school board.

Do not keep company with men.

Be at home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM.

Do not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.

Do not smoke.

Do not get into a carriage with any man except your father or brother.

Do not dress in bright colors.

Do not dye your hair.

Do not wear any dress more than two inches above the ankle.

--Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, page 338.

OK, that was fun! (But not for the female teachers!) Now see if you can place a name and a date on the following quotation:

“Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street…There are thirty men in the United States whose aggregate wealth is over one and a half billion dollars. There are half a million looking for work. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the accursed foreclosure system wiped out…We will stand by our homes and stay by our firesides by force if necessary, and we will not pay out debts to the loan shark companies until our government pays its debts to us.”
Was that Bernie Sanders talking? Matt Taibbi? Michael Moore? Rachel Maddow?

Actually in was Mary Elizabeth Lease, keynote speaker at the first national convention of the People’s Party (which later became known as the Populist Party) in 1890—back before unions existed, back in the days of the great Robber Barons and children working 12-hour days, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

We can get rid of unions. And it will indeed save corporations a lot of money.

Just keep in mind that that moment will represent over one hundred years of hard won protections for working people, all flushed down the toilet in an instant.

If you think the loss of unions won’t be so bad, maybe it’s time to crack a history book—while it’s still legal.


Grace Howe said...

That was the most amazing blog I've read! When you forget history you're doomed to repeat it. Thanks for the history lesson, great info!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Grace-- glad you liked it.