The Rising of the Women

The Rising of the Women:Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880-1917

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How working-class socialist women changed the course of American history.

In this landmark study of American labor history, Meredith Tax charts the actions of women in working-class, feminist, and socialist movements between 1880 and 1917 in the USA. Caught between the hostility of male trade unionists, the chauvinism of male socialist organizers, and the assumptions of middle-class feminists, women workers forged their own demands for economic and political justice in the industrializing landscape of North America. In doing so, Tax argues, a unique form of socialist-feminist class consciousness was created, whose remarkable history is chronicled in this work.

With a focus on the histories of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Tax shows how working-class socialist women navigated the terrain between the seemingly oppositional demands for suffrage and labour rights. The Rising of the Women also contains detailed case studies of two germinal moments in American labour history: the uprising of shirtwaist workers in New York City in 1909 - 1910, the real beginning of the International Ladies' Garment Worker Union; and the 1912 IWW strike of immigrant textile workers in Lawrence, Mass., making it an essential text for students of American labor history as well as readers interested in twentieth-century feminism.

First published in 1980, the book is reissued by Verso as part of the highly successful Feminist Classics series, where it takes its place alongside texts by Sheila Rowbotham, Kathi Weeks, Stella Dadzie, Lynne Segal and more. The result of years of archival research, Tax blends original source material from the participants of the movements with her own sharp analysis into a rich narrative of women workers' struggle. The Rising of the Women is a classic of feminist labor history whose time has come to find the wide audience it deserves.


  • Tax provides an encyclopedic denouement that deconstructs the political and social factors that caused this backlash and explores the rifts that developed between workers as the attacks unfolded. To wit, she highlights the redbaiting that was stoked by male unionists who refused to recognize the invaluable strike support provided by women in the Socialist Party…exciting and moving.

    The Indypendent
  • The Rising of the Women is both a nuanced historical account and a useful guide for organizers. Its comparative approach, which explores case studies from a range of times and places, documents a suggestive pattern in American labor history: The past successes that Tax examines all relied on the active role of a women’s movement, which deepened the strength of the political coalition and ensured that the interests of women and other marginalized workers were fully included. Tax's work offers evidence - from history, not theory - that an autonomous women’s movement is not only compatible with class struggle but critical to its success.

    Avi SteinbergJewish Currents
  • Life in 2022 remains a sometimes overwhelmingly bleak struggle, and so we read books like The Rising of the Women to propel our activist journey-shoulder to shoulder, hearts open, fists high!

    Blanche Wiesen CookLIBER