Table of Contents
About the Photos
About the Author
Mobilizing Woman Power
From Chapter 5 of Rosie's Mom

[Mary Van Kleeck, a Smith College-educated sociologist, and Mary Anderson, a former boot maker and a labor leader, were recruited to help run the new women's section at the Department of Labor.]

Congress authorized a budget of forty thousand dollars for the Woman in Industry Service, and the two Marys, along with two secretaries, set up shop in a one-room office in the Labor Department. A couple of wooden desks, a typewriter, a telephone--from here they were to oversee the working conditions of ten million working women.

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At best, Washington in summer is hot; at worst, it is a steamy subtropical swamp. In their office at the Department of Labor, electric fans blew papers around as Mary Anderson and Mary Van Kleeck worked through the day and late into the evening almost every day, perfecting the language of their labor standards for women and collecting data to support their most important positions. If they were not in the office, it was because they were on the road. Crisscrossing the country, they slept in Pullman cars at night and spent their days visiting factories, talking to local officials, and making recommendations to employers.

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Making fuses at Gray and Davis in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy of the National Archives at College Park (RG 86G Box 8, Signal Corps photo 31635).