Mason, Lucy Randolph

views updated


Lucy Randolph Mason (July 26, 1882–May 6, 1959) was a southern reformer and labor rights activist. As general secretary for the National Consumers' League (NCL) from 1932 to 1937, Mason linked the women's reform work of the Progressive years to the broader labor and civil rights activism of the New Deal era. She saw the New Deal as an opportunity to secure protective and minimum wage laws for workers. When the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) launched its drive to organize southern textile workers, Mason became the publicity and public relations representative for the CIO in the South. She belonged to the group of progressive southerners who believed interracial unionism, along with New Deal reforms, could transform the region's politics and race relations.

Born in Alexandria, Virginia, Mason was the daughter of an Episcopal minister and was a descendant of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the Bill of Rights. Mason, however, emphasized that she had not been "born with a silver spoon" in her mouth. Her parents instilled in her strong religious convictions and a sense of social responsibility. As a young woman, Mason participated in women's suffrage activities and became interested in improving conditions for workers. Mason served as industrial secretary for the Richmond Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) from 1914 to 1918, and as general secretary of the Richmond YWCA from 1923 to 1932.

By 1937, Mason desired to leave the NCL and return to the South to work directly with workers and interracial groups. As CIO public relations director, Mason traveled throughout the region, speaking to union members, investigating civil rights violations, and educating local community leaders about the labor movement. Mason also served on the Southern Policy Committee that wrote the Report on the Economic Conditions in the South, and she helped to organize the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in 1938.



Mason, Lucy Randolph. To Win These Rights: A Personal Story of the CIO in the South. 1952.

Salmond, John. Miss Lucy of the CIO: The Life and Times of Lucy Randolph Mason, 1882–1959. 1988.

Storrs, Landon R. Y. Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era. 2000.

Sullivan, Patricia A. Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era. 1996.

Larissa M. Smith