The story of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union and its role in shaping women’s activism is explored through garments, objects, documents, and photographs in this special installation, on view in the Jean Dubinsky Appleton Women and Labor Exhibition Case at our Center for Women's History. For nearly 200 years, women from across the globe have labored in New York’s garment industry. The unions they organized—particularly the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU)—are some of the most important organizations of women in U.S. history.
The ILGWU fought for recognition and protection for women workers on the job and reimagined how a union could serve workers and their communities beyond the factories. Women organizers in the ILGWU pioneered modern worker benefits and inspired social welfare programs in education, health, recreation, and legal aid. Through their work, the ILGWU and its women organizers also shaped women’s movements across the 20th century, from the suffrage movement of the 1910s to the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.
This exhibition was inspired by the generosity and memory of Jean Dubinsky Appleton, whose commitment to women’s labor history helps sustain our Center for Women’s History. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.