Cobble, Dorothy Sue 1949–

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COBBLE, Dorothy Sue 1949–

PERSONAL: Born June 28, 1949, in Atlanta, GA; married, 1997; children: three. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. (with honors), 1972; San Francisco State University, M.A., 1976; Stanford University, Ph.D., 1986.

ADDRESSES: Office—School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, NJ 08903. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Women's History Collection, Mills College, Oakland, CA, archivist, 1976–77; San José City College and City College of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, instructor in labor studies, 1977–80, instructor in labor studies and chairman of department at City College, 1980–86; Stanford University, Stanford, CA, instructor in history, 1979; Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, New Brunswick, NJ, assistant professor of labor studies, history, and women's studies, 1986–92, founder and director of Center for Women and Work, 1992–96, associate professor of labor studies, 1992–2000, professor of labor studies and employee relations, 2000–, director of Institute for Research on Women, 2001–04. Lecturer at numerous symposia and conferences on labor issues. Member of Gender Equity Task Force, New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission, 1993–94; member of executive board, Industrial Relations Research Association, 1997–2000; member of board of trustees, National Labor College/George Meany Center, 1998–2001. Consultant to films and videos, including The Tillie Olsen Film Project, The Women's Revolution: A Documentary, and Transforming America: U.S. History since 1877.

MEMBER: American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Association of University Professors.

AWARDS, HONORS: Herbert A. Gutman Book Prize, 1992, for Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century; research grants from numerous foundations, including New Jersey Historical Commission, 1987–88, Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, 1989–90, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1989–90, American Historical Association, 1989–90, American Council of Learned Societies, 1989–90, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, 1993, George Meany Center for Labor Studies, 1994, Fund for Labor Relations Studies, 1995, and Social Science Research Council, 2003–04; Woodrow Wilson fellowship, 1999–2000.


Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1991.

(Editor) Women and Unions: Forging a Partnership, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1993.

The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2004.

The Sex of Class: Women and America's New Labor Movements, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), in press.

Contributor of chapters to books, including Ronald Filippelli, editor, Labor History in the United States, Garland Press (New York, NY), 1990; Ava Baron, editor, Work Engendered: Toward a New History of American Labor, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1991; Joanne Meyerowitz, editor, Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1994; Claire Moses and Heidi Hartmann, editors, U.S. Women in Struggle: A Feminist Studies Anthology, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1995; Cameron Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni, editors, Working in the Service Society, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1996; Mary Hartman, editor, Talking about Leadership: Conversations with Powerful Women, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1999; Lowell Turner and others, editors, Rekindling the Movement: Labor's Quest for Relevance in the Twenty-first Century, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2001; F. Colgan and Sue Ledwith, editors, Gender, Diversity, and Trade Unions: International Perspectives, Routledge Press (London, England), 2002; Eileen Boris and Nelson Lichtenstein, editors, Major Problems in the History of American Workers, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.

Member of editorial boards, including Labor: Studies in Working-Class History in the Americas, International Labor and Working-Class History, and Feminist Studies. Contributor of scholarly papers to numerous periodicals, including New Labor Forum, Labor History, National Education Association Higher Education Journal, Labor Law Journal, Industrial Relations, Dissent, and Journal of American History.

WORK IN PROGRESS: (With Michael Merrill) Samuel Gompers: An Intellectual Biography; Esther Peterson and Trans-Atlantic Feminism.

SIDELIGHTS: Dorothy Sue Cobble is an historian who focuses on the study of women's labor movements in the United States during the twentieth century. Her work covers aspects of women's studies, labor history, and the intersection between the feminist movement of the late twentieth century and the attempts by women to alter their working environments through unions. To quote Julie Greene in Labor History, Cobble's works have "influenced profoundly the way we understand U.S. labor history, and particularly the nature of craft unionism and its relationship to politics and the state." Eileen Boris, writing in the Women's Review of Books, stated that Cobble "has recovered, in the politics and thought of … trade unionists, a feminist legacy that in its embrace of female difference refused to conform to 'men's ways.' She provides a usable past for those of us who wish to revalue women's labors."

Cobble's Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century studies the changing patterns of unionization among female restaurant workers from the beginning of the twentieth century through into the 1970s. According to Barbara M. Posadas in the Journal of Urban History, the book contributes "substantially to acknowledging the diversity of the white, female, paid labor force in early twentieth-century America" while also raising "tantalizing questions concerning the relationship between the working and middle classes in the early twentieth century." Labor Studies Journal contributor Colin J. Davis felt that the book "successfully provides the reader with a critical insight into female working-class life and action."

Women and Unions: Forging a Partnership, edited by Cobble, collects a wide variety of essays and interviews on the topics of women's issues in the workplace, the reinvigorization of the labor movement, and successes and failures in union activity among women. The book seeks to define gender-related concerns for collective bargaining, including family leave, the "glass ceiling," and the changing nature of paid employment. "Women and Unions is an informative, well-written, and masterfully edited collection of essays on women's workplace and union issues," wrote Francine Moccio in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review. "The volume's contributors address issues that are critical to women's workplace progress, and they advance the growing scholarship on women's contemporary relationship to work and unionism." In Economic Geography, Lee Lucas Berman concluded that Cobble "has succeeded in opening up a dialogue that crosses disciplines and professions, effectively bringing together activists of all kinds…. Women and Unions provides a wealth of information, as well as practical guidelines, about the successful implementation of certain labor strategies. As such, it is indispensable to researchers, feminist activists, and labor organizers."

In The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America Cobble examines contributions to the labor movement by women and shows how women's labor unions sometimes differ with the broader, white-collar goals of the feminist movement. Janice Dunham in Library Journal found the work a "solid argument for the value of 'the other women's movement.'" In her review of the book, Boris observed that "Cobble's stunning reinterpretation persuasively shows that we've been looking in the wrong place for a mass movement after suffrage and before women's liberation. She names this movement 'labor feminism.'"



Dollars & Sense, July-August, 1994, Rose Batt, review of Women and Unions: Forging a Partnership, p. 34.

Economic Geography, April, 1995, Lee Lucas Berman, review of Women and Unions, p. 208.

Industrial and Labor Relations Review, April, 1996, Francine Moccio, review of Women and Unions, p. 554.

Journal of Urban History, September, 1997, Barbara M. Posadas, review of Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century, p. 777.

Labor History, May, 1999, Julie Greene, "Response: Reassessing Gompers and the AFL," p. 201.

Labor Studies Journal, fall, 1993, Colin J. Davis, review of Dishing It Out, p. 73; fall, 1994, Peggy Kahn, review of Women and Unions, p. 72.

Library Journal, October 1, 2003, Janice Dunham, review of The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America, p. 102.

Reviews in American History, December, 2004, Annelise Orleck, "Feminism Rewritten: Reclaiming the Activism of Working-Class Women," p. 591.

Women's Review of Books, May, 2004, Eileen Boris, "Labor Feminist Foremothers," p. 18.