WOMEN’S TYPOGRAPHICAL

UNION NO. 1 

HOW SUSAN B ANTHONY PARTNERED WITH AN AMBITIOUS TYPESETTER TO CHANGE HISTORY

Women's Typographical Union Float 1909
Women’s Auxiliary Typogrpahical Union Labor Day Parade 1909 LOC

This past August, Americans celebrated the centennial of Universal Women Suffrage. The fight for that right blossomed at the infamous 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention was led by Women’s Rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Lesser known is their involvement in forming the first Women’s Typographical Union in New York and as publishers of a women’s rights newspaper called “The Revolution.” Last March, we published a series of articles on Women in Printing, including the fascinating story of Mrs. Agnes B. Peterson and the forming of the Women’s Co-operative Printing Union (WCPU) in 1869 San Francisco. On the opposite coast, in New York City, women were also fighting back against male typesetting trade unions.

The mid-nineteenth century was the epoch of the typesetting trade. Printing technology was moving at an industrial pace and demand for material had never been higher. The mechanization of typesetting, however, lagged behind in comparison. This gave rise to the giants of typesetting, the age of whole compositing rooms and a large staff of typesetters for big city newspapers or book publishers. According to Print Historian Walker Rumble in his book about nineteenth century typesetting, The Swifts, “The advent of women on the printing shop floor threatened to lower wages, ‘feminize’ male workplace culture, and present a competitive challenge to job performance.”

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