In Celebration of International Women's Day, March 8th (by Brigid O'Farrell)
Eleanor Roosevelt and Walter Reuther, 20th Anniversary UAW Freedom Awards, 1957
In 1957, UAW President Walter Reuther introduced Eleanor Roosevelt to delegates at the union’s convention as the “First Lady of the World.”International Women’s Day is a fitting occasion to celebrate the proud international history of Reuther, Roosevelt, and the UAW; then recommit ourselves to working women’s international solidarity.
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most admired and controversial women of the twentieth century. She was also a life long advocate for working women and their unions. Practicing what she preached, as a newspaper columnist she was a member of The Newspaper Guild, AFL-CIO, for over twenty-five years. Reuther told the delegates she “carries a union card in her purse”.She spoke that day about foreign affairs and the important role of unions in educating the public. She often challenged union members to take a “world view,” giving people everywhere “hope for better economic conditions”.
Walter Reuther and Eleanor Roosevelt were close friends and allies. Together they argued for a program of full employment at home and economic aid rather than military aid abroad. They exchanged strategies and travel plans to other countries including India, Russia, and Sweden. With a shared vision of unions as critical participants in the fight for social justice they championed not only auto workers, but all workers including immigrants, migrants, and domestic laborers around the world.
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