Atlanta Laundry Workers Strike 1881

Imagine that you collect all sheets, shirts, diapers and a lack of other family every day every day. You go from home to house doing this until you look forward to dirty laundry that will join you with a huge bundle and type on your head.

Then, you're walking a mile, probably 2, other black women who have similar loads have succeeded in the way. Eventually, you come to a backyard that has a surface. You make the lye soap manually. You take the water to fill the ports and build fires to heat the water. Then you spend a few hours wearing the clothes in the elegant hot water with a large wooden paddle. But your work started as a laundress or "laite woman". Drying, ironing, wrapping and delivery has yet to be done.

How much would you expect to pay for the tasks?

Often there were less than $ 1 a day or as little as $ 8 per month for each of the hundreds of women with laundresses or "laite women" in Atlanta in 1881.

So, in July of that year, the city prepared to host the International Cotton Exhibition to represent the "willingness" workforce – as a New South broadcaster and the Atlanta Constitution editor Henry Grady put down on city workers – decided to strike strike women.

The Atlanta History Center on the Laundry Workers Strike 1881 shows, when more than 3,000 African American laundress stopped for a week, claiming fair pay.
Atlanta History Center

The strike was the post-war example of the Civil War of the black women operated when they acted together, despite discrimination. To pay evenly for hard, dangerous work, telling them that their white employers laundresses to dirty their own clothes.

Many of these black women were living on the south side of Atlanta, having come from the countryside and former plantations during the Reconstruction looking for work. However, most of the former female women were in employment limited to homework, common works or laundress.

In some respects, there were benefits to being a washing worker, Tera W. Hunter, professor of Princeton history and author of "Joy My Freedom", told Atlanta's strike and the efforts of the newly-deployed black women. Many household workers were often living with the white families who worked and, as a result, were cut off. Women had more independence and worked in collective sites with more privacy and strength in the number of people.

"The laundry workers who were in charge of the organization were often because they did not work long hours under the supervision of a white woman," said Hunter.

Hunter, who started as a group of 24 laundresses, who received "The Launching Association" on their own, said "to more than 3,000. Some of these people asked the" Amazing Nine "for them. Less than $ 1 per pound of washing by women. Their amount was greatly increased.

Articles of the two Atlanta Constitution during the Washer Women's Strike in 1881: The article reports to the left, from July 21, on the initial days of the strike. The passage on the right includes, from August 3, a letter written by the women to Mayor Jim English.
(Atlanta Constitution on ProQuest)

"Even if they agreed to pay their employers, if they did not get that wage when they delivered the laundry, they did not have any entry," said Calindra Lee, vice president at the Atlanta History Center, to organize a permanent exhibition at the center that tells the story of the strike. "Employer could say," I'm not paying you this week, "or the woman to offer clothes or household goods rather than money his work, Lee said.

Most people in the city put out their clothes to scourge them because the work was so hard and using the time, Lee said. The strike drove home. Laundry piled up. And the city's laundresses showed the crucial role they played.

RELATED: Greensboro starts: movement starts

RELATED: SNCC: Student actors march towards civil rights

RELATED: Fannie Lou Hamer: A political force was loose and tired & # 39;

The weather came to the city as long as the organizers were arrested and the City Council took part in breaking the strike. The council considered legislation that would impose business tax of $ 25 per annum to the people of the women. In a letter to the Editor of the Constitution, the women were back.

"We, the members of our society, are sure that our commitment will be stable and additional charges for washing, and we agree, and are willing to pay $ 25 or $ 50 for licenses for protection, so that we can control our Washing for the city. We will … it will do it before we get lost, and then we will have full control of the city washing at our prices. We mean this week's business or no washing. "

But the threat of the license violated their movement, as the catches did. And landlords and other people told business against the strikers, said Hunter. The laundry workers did not get secure pay as they claimed, but they showed the power of low-wage workers, African-American, the status quo is affected. With regard to the New South claims that his workforce was tough and willing, Lee said, "These women were otherwise."

MORE MORE Celebrate the Black History Month in Atlanta

Black History Month

Throughout February, we will start a different African American leader in the daily living section Monday to Thursday and Saturday, and the Metro section on Fridays and Sundays. Go to for more subscribing exclusions on people, places and organizations that change the world, and to see videos on the American-American pioneering every day.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.