“A trade unionist — of course I am. First, last, and all the time. How else to strike at the roots of the evils undermining the moral and physical health of women? How else grapple with the complex problems of employment, overemployment, and underemployment alike, resulting in discouraged, undernourished bodies, too tired to resist the onslaughts of disease and crime?”
MAUD YOUNGER (1870 – 1936)
was born January 10, 1870 into a wealthy San Francisco family. She was educated in private schools and enjoyed trips abroad as a child. Her life changed dramatically though in 1901, at the age of 31, when she made a trip to New York to observe the poverty and slums of the New York College Settlement House for a week (The settlement movement was a reformist social movement taking place from about 1880 to 1920, in which “settlement houses” were established in poor urban areas; volunteer middle class “settlement workers” would live there and shared their knowledge and culture with the impoverished residents; the “settlement houses” would provide services such as day care, health care and education). The week Younger planned to stay at the settlement turned into a 5 year stay, and she became an advocate for women’s suffrage, protective legislation for women, and trade unions.
Younger became particularly interested in the plight of the working women and took several waitressing jobs to learn about the working conditions in restaurants and joined the New York Waitresses Union (and this was a woman whose two sisters were married to Austrian barons!).
After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake Younger returned to San Francisco but continued her efforts on behalf of women workers. She again got jobs as a waitress in order to qualify for union membership, and formed the Waitresses’ Union. She became president of her union and was its delegate to the San Francisco Central Labor Council. Younger also helped form the San Francisco Wage Earners Suffrage League (WESL) in 1908 to ensure that working women’s interests were recognized in the suffrage movement ‘s pursuit of the vote. California women won the right to vote in 1911. After that success Younger and the WESL campaigned for the eight-hour workday for women.
In 1913, Younger traveled to New York to support the striking garment workers. She continued her work for women’s suffrage in Nevada and the South. She joined the Congressional Union (later named the National Woman’s Party) which was the more militant suffrage organization headed by Alice Paul. Younger participated in picketing with the National Woman’s Party at the White House and also served as chair of its lobbying committee.
In late 1920 Younger drove across country alone, except for her dog. She was one of the first women to do this. The trip from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. took her 38 days.
Once the right to vote had been secured for women Younger turned her attention towards trying to advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment. She was instrumental in seeing that it was presented to Congress in 1923. She continued working toward that endeavor until her death from cancer at age 66 in 1936.
OTHER JANUARY 10 BIRTHDAYS
- January 10, 1898 (1979) – Katharine Blodgett was a physicist and inventor and the first woman research scientist for General Electric’s Schenectady, NY laboratory (1920). Blodgett was the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge (1926). She acquired 8 U.S. patents, her most famous being for inventing low-reflectance “invisible” glass, now called “Langmuir-Blodgett film” (a technique to produce ultra-thin organic film that has practical applications in many fields).
–Nancy Campbell Mead