Thursday, January 10, 2013

Maud Younger

Born this day in 1870: Maud Younger (1870–1936), trade unionist, suffragist, and supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment

Maud Younger was born to a well-to-do family in San Francisco. She lived the life of a young socialite until about age 30. In 1901 she arranged to stay at a settlement house in New York City that had been established by a group of women college graduates. Younger intended only to stay a week to get a sense of slum life, but she remained five years. Giving up life in high society, she became a trade union organizer and advocate of suffrage. She took a job as a waitress to experience firsthand the life of a working class woman and joined the Waitresses’ Union. She described her experiences in a 1907 article for McClure’s.
Younger returned to San Francisco in 1908 and organized the waitresses there. The other waitresses called her the “millionaire waitress,” and elected her to head their local for several terms. Younger was an effective lobbyist and was instrumental in bringing about protective legislation for women in California, including the 8-hour work day. In her lobbying efforts she organized a variety of women workers, such as waitresses, laundry workers, and factory workers, to testify before the state legislature. She also drew working women into the suffrage movement, organizing the Wage Earners’ Equal Suffrage League. She was a good speaker and publicist for the cause, and in 1911 attracted attention for the cause in San Francisco’s Labor Day Parade (Labor Day was a very big deal in those days.)  She drove a Wage Earners’ Equal Suffrage League float pulled by six white horses. California passed state suffrage for women that same year.
She returned to New York the following year, continuing her labor activities. She then went to Washington, D.C., to team up with Alice Paul and the Congressional Union, later the National Women’s party—the more militant wing of the women’s movement. Younger traveled across the nation, giving speeches, maintaining focus on the activities of suffragists, and keeping up the pressure on public officials. Traveling with her dog in a convertible, the irrepressible activist garnered attention from the press wherever she went.
After passage of the 19th amendment Younger gave up all other reform efforts to focus exclusively on passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which she saw as key to women’s full equality.

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