Striking Beauties
Women Apparel Workers in the U.S. South, 1930–2000

Michelle Haberland

A careful examination of the apparel industry’s impact on gender transformation and southern economic development in the twentieth century

Reviews

"Haberland touches on a number of interesting events and personalities concerned with working conditions, wage distributions, racial and gender inequities, consumerism, unionization, and labor disputes; thereby, the author entices readers to contemplate the interconnections between cultural and economic factors—not only as they pertain to the lives of women and their families, but also to the path and pace of regional development."
—T. E. Sullivan, Choice

"Striking Beauties works well as an overview of the southern garment industry, as it traces the industry from expansion in the southern United States to its move to the global South. It also serves as a jumping-off point for scholars who want to delve more deeply into the labor policies, work and gender cultures, and business models of the apparel industry."
—Jessica Wilkerson, Labor: Studies In Working Class History of the Americas


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Description

Apparel manufacturing in the American South, by virtue of its size, its reliance upon female labor, and its broad geographic scope, is an important but often overlooked industry that connects the disparate concerns of women’s history, southern cultural history, and labor history. In Striking Beauties, Michelle Haberland examines its essential features and the varied experiences of its workers during the industry’s great expansion from the late 1930s through the demise of its southern branch at the end of the twentieth century. 

The popular conception of the early twentieth-century South as largely agrarian informs many histories of industry and labor in the United States. But as Haberland demonstrates, the apparel industry became a key part of the southern economy after the Great Depression and a major driver of southern industrialization. The gender and racial composition of the workforce, the growth of trade unions, technology, and capital investment were all powerful forces in apparel’s migration south. Yet those same forces also revealed the tensions caused by racial and gender inequities not only in the region but in the nation at large. Striking Beauties places the struggles of working women for racial and economic justice in the larger context of southern history. The role of women as the primary consumers of the family placed them in a critical position to influence the success or failure of boycotts, union label programs and ultimately solidarity.

Page count: 248
12 b&w photos, 10 charts, 2 tables
Trim size: 6 x 9

 



Hardcover
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978-0-8203-2584-2
3/01/2015

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Michelle Haberland is associate professor of history and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Georgia Southern University.