Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Michael Keene

Committee Members

Kirsten Benson, Lisa King, Ernest Freeberg


This dissertation examines how the rhetorical postures of coalition within the meeting minutes, officers’ reports, and Annual Reports of the New York Women’s Trade Union League between 1906 and 1919 contributed to the League’s ability to overcome the many economic, cultural, ideological, and gender differences that acted as barriers to their unified action to improve the lives and working conditions of women wage earners. Within the Literature Review and Methodology section, I first explore the scholarly roots of my project in recent rhetorical and women’s historiographic endeavors as well as in the work of labor and feminist historians, and then turn my attention to the methods and methodology I employed as I approached the archives of the New York League. In the Historical Context section, I discuss, well, the historical context surrounding the emergence of the League and the reform traditions that inspired it, as well as looking at several of the major events within their early history that played out in the documents I am examining. The next three chapters, Cooperation, Solidarity, and Sisterhood, are structured as Findings chapters in the sense of a qualitative research project. As such, they contain, essentially, a guided tour through the records of the League highlighting the places where the League attempted to conjure feelings of cooperation, solidarity, and sisterhood in their members through their calculated presentation of events, an act I am referring to as rhetorical posturing. Finally, in the Discussion section, I consider several important landmarks along that guided tour within the larger context of other scholarly work on the League, both in terms of the historical and theoretical grounding of the League’s words and our interpretations of them with a nod toward potential future research.

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