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Contested LoyaltyDebates over Patriotism in the Civil War North$
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Robert M. Sandow

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823279753

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823279753.001.0001

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“American Matrons and Daughters”

“American Matrons and Daughters”

Sewing Women and Loyalty in Civil War Philadelphia

Chapter:
(p.198) “American Matrons and Daughters”
Source:
Contested Loyalty
Author(s):

Judith Giesberg

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823279753.003.0008

Judith Giesberg explores the intersection of national loyalty debates and the labor activism of Philadelphia seamstresses in war industries. Women workers understood the vital service they performed sewing military uniforms and equipment but were largely exploited and vulnerable in a system of federal contracting reliant on middle-men and “outwork.” Giesberg argues that the exploitation of women workers, and the denigration of their labor activism, rested on an idealized depiction of female patriotism in supporting roles, as soldiers’ wives and family. Working class women turned the rhetorical tables by laying claim to their own service and patriotism, legitimizing their protests in a republican language of rights and tyranny. In examining seamstresses’ protests at the Schuylkill Arsenal, Giesberg uncovers a forgotten chapter in American labor history, connecting antebellum activism with Gilded Age strife. The author depicts a brief window of opportunity where women challenged the formative stage of the sweatshop system drawing in part on professions of their own loyalty.

Keywords:   Labor activism, Loyalty, Pennsylvania, War work, Women

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