We Kept Our Towns Going
The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
196 Pages, 0.00 x 0.00
- ISBN: 9781628954524
- Published: March 2022
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its natural beauty and severe winters, as well as the mines and forests where men labored to feed industrial factories elsewhere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But there were factories in the Upper Peninsula, too, and women who worked in them. Phyllis Michael Wong tells the stories of the Gossard Girls, women who sewed corsets and bras at factories in Ishpeming and Gwinn from the early twentieth century to the 1970s. As the Upper Peninsula’s mines became increasingly exhausted and its stands of timber further depleted, the Gossard Girls’ income sustained both their families and the local economy. During this time the workers showed their political and economic strength, including a successful four-month strike in the 1940s that capped an eight-year struggle to unionize. Drawing on dozens of interviews with the surviving workers and their families, this book highlights the daily challenges and joys of these mostly first- and second-generation immigrant women. It also illuminates the way the Gossard Girls navigated shifting ideas of what single and married women could and should do as workers and citizens. From cutting cloth and distributing materials to getting paid and having fun, Wong gives us a rare ground-level view of piecework in a clothing factory from the women on the sewing room floor.