Chinese Women Garment Workers

Review: Roberts on Bao

Xiaolan Bao. Holding Up More than Half the Sky: Chinese Women GarmentWorkers in New York City, 1948-92. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001. xvi + 330 pp. Tables, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $44.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-252-02631-4; $22.00 (paper),ISBN 0-252-07350-9.

Reviewed for H-Business by Evan Roberts, Department of History andMinnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota

Not Just Another History of the New York ILGWU

The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union lacks little for the attention of historians. The early history of Italian and Jewish women in the New York City needle trades has been well told by many historians, from multiple angles, in the past twenty years. A measure of the popularity of the topic is its inclusion in textbook histories of the United States. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 has become perhaps the early twentieth century's best-known, or at least most taught, industrial accident. Much of this literature is self-consciously situated under the heading of labor or immigration history. Xiaolan Bao's book, a revision of her 1991 New York University dissertation, continues that tradition with a twist: she examines the history of Chinese women in the New York garment industry, the background to a significant strike in the Chinese garment industry in 1982, and the effects of the strike on the firms and workers in the following decade. Despite situating itself in the literature of labor and immigration history, one of the strengths of this work is its narrative of the changing fortunes of different firms and industry segments in New York's garment industry. While not required reading for business historians, it will be of interest to some.


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