March/April 2022 Issue
February 19, 2022

Women risked a lot for workers’ rights

Source: NYSUT United

Students are often intrigued by the mystery of secret agents.

Rosina Tucker was one, passing messages about labor actions in the formation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American trade union. Since men who supported the union were punished by their employer, it was women like Tucker who made clandestine home visits and carried literature to workers or their wives. Tucker formed the Women’s Economic Council, boycotting businesses that refused to hire Black employees and formed unions to support women working in several different industries.

The AFT’s free resource Share My Lesson has made available lesson plans about five female labor leaders — including Tucker — who provide a treasure trove of discovery for Women’s History Month:

  • Grace Abbott fought for the rights and livelihood of immigrants, along with the rights of children. Abbott is also heralded for her work drafting the 1935 Social Security Act.
  • High school students will find a hero their own age in Emma Tenayuca, who was first arrested at age 16. Tenayuca went on to lead the massive pecan-shellers strike in San Antonio, encompassing more than 12,000 workers.
  • Dolores Huerta has spent her life fighting for the rights of exploited, farm workers. Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers and in 2012 earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Rose Schneiderman was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. She started working in sixth grade after her father died, and experienced first-hand the horrible conditions of garment workers. She chartered the first women’s local of the United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers Union.

For more info on the women above, visit