The Many-Threaded Hydra: A Patchwork Labor History of the American Womenswear Industry, 1924-1941


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




Many excellent American labor histories have examined the cotton plantation, the textile mill, and the garment factory respectively. This project is a trans-local labor history of the women’s ready-to-wear industry in the interwar period that places all three worksites in the same frame of analysis. Using interdisciplinary methods to trace the manufacturing process from fiber to fabric to finished garment, this project weaves the distinct but connected histories of agricultural and industrial workers together into a cohesive “patchwork” narrative that considers their particular experiences in relation to one another and explores their collective contribution to the labor struggles of the 1920s and 1930s. This supply chain framework is presented as an alternative to single setting labor studies, toward a more capacious working class history of the United States, and a greater historical understanding of American capitalism.