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Clare J. Washington

health care professional and union official, was one of five children. Her family lived in a very large tenement building, in what was an often seedy, rough neighborhood on the south Side of Chicago. She attended Chicago public schools, and then she managed to get a scholarship to the University of Illinois. After only six months, she had to return home and find a job. Her brother had been drafted into the U.S. Army, and there was no longer a source of income for the family.

During World War II, nurse's aide positions shifted from being the domain of upper-class women volunteers to poor (often black) women. As shortages and turnover became more prevalent in the hospitals, the conditions of work for these women worsened. In 1946 Roberts became the first African American nurse s aide hired at the University of Chicago Lying In Hospital She felt isolated ...

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Susan M. Reverby

After a lifetime of labor militancy and commitment, Lillian Davis Roberts at seventy-two was not meant for retirement, volunteer work, and trips to Atlantic City with her friends. Roberts was called when her New York union, District Council (DC) 37 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was coming out of receivership after corruption and vote fraud had rocked the union’s highest levels. In 2000, she became a consultant to the union. On 26 February 2002 she was elected the union’s executive director.

Such leadership was not new for Roberts. More than twenty years earlier, on 9 January 1981, New York governor Hugh Carey had proclaimed Lillian Roberts Day in tribute to the labor leader s importance to the political and economic struggles of working people Then DC 37 s associate director Roberts had been at the forefront of labor battles for decades ...