Born 9 June 1865, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 3 June 1940, New York City
Daughter of Charles Henry and Hannah Griscom Marot
Helen Marot was raised in an old, established Quaker family and educated in Friend's schools in Philadelphia. She worked as a librarian from 1893 to 1899. In 1899, she served as an investigator for the U.S. Industrial Commission and was profoundly moved by the conditions of child and female labor, a concern that made her an activist. She became an investigator for various social-reform groups and also served as executive secretary of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) from 1906 to 1913. Marot organized working women into trade unions and was herself a member of the Bookkeepers, Stenographers, and Accountants Union of New York. Marot resigned from the WTUL in 1913, partly because she felt that working women were not adequately represented in the League's administration. For the next six years, she wrote and edited two books and several journals. She served on the editorial boards of the Masses (1916-17) and the Dial (1918-19). Marot retired in 1920 and spent the next years in either Greenwich Village or West Becket, Massachusetts, where she summered with her close friend and sister reformer Caroline Pratt.
Marot's first book, A Handbook of Labor Literature (1899), is an annotated bibliography. The 32 topics that Marot selected, dealing with cultural, political, and philosophical questions, provide a clue to her broadly based conceptualization of the labor movement.
The themes of feminism, socialism, and liberal reform that were foreshadowed in schematic form in Marot's first book are expounded fully in American Labor Unions (1914). Marot viewed the trade union as an expression of worker autonomy and independence even from well-intentioned reformers. "The reform movement," Marot asserted, "is not coextensive with democracy but with bureaucracy. The labor unions are group efforts in the direction of democracy." She dismissed the charge of discrimination against women by unions as "hypothetical." Women's problems in industry were rooted in society's casting of women in a primarily domestic role. Yet, Marot did admit that women were discouraged from seeking leadership positions within unions.
The Creative Impulse in Industry: A Proposition for Educators (1918) is dedicated to Marot's friend Caroline Pratt. It reflects Pratt's and John Dewey's views on educational reform as well as Marot's own program for industrial reform. She insisted that industry must be an extension of education. Thus, creative people will be attracted to it, and the motive for working will be this creative impulse rather than the possessive instinct. Marot condemned both state socialism and scientific management.
Marot's concerns in the articles she wrote for the Masses, the Dial, and other periodicals echoed the themes articulated in her books. Although expository in form and didactic in style, Marot's writings provide us with an excellent example of the crosscurrents of feminism, socialism, and liberal reform which enlivened the progressive era.
Boone, G., The Women's Trade Union League in Great Britain and the U.S.A. (1942). Hall, F. S., Forty Years, 1902-42: The Work of the New York Child Labor Commission (1943). Pratt, C., I Learn from Children (1948).
Dial (19 Sept. 1918).