Conboy, Sara McLaughlin (1870–1928)

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Conboy, Sara McLaughlin (1870–1928)

American labor leader. Born Sara Agnes McLaughlin on April 3, 1870, in Boston, Massachusetts; died on January 7, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York; married Joseph P. Conboy (a Boston letter carrier).

Known as Aunt Sara to thousands of workers, Sara Conboy was one of the first women to rise to prominence in the upper echelons of organized labor. She was born in Boston in 1870 and by age 11 was working in a candy factory. The next several years brought employment in a button factory and in various carpet mills, as Conboy became a skilled weaver. Her marriage to a Boston letter carrier ended with his death only two years into their marriage.

While working in a Roxbury mill, Conboy successfully led the employees in a strike for increased wages and union recognition; this success brought her to prominence in labor circles, and she became an organizer for the United Textile Workers of America, of which she also served as secretary-treasurer (beginning in October 1915). Conboy was an effective lobbyist for protective legislation for women and children in factories, and achieved strong results as a fund raiser. When Woodrow Wilson called a conference on labor in 1918, Conboy was the only woman in attendance. In Portsmouth, England, she represented the American Federation of Labor in 1920 at the conference of the British Trades Union Congress. Conboy was among four women who participated in a conference on employment, called by President Warren G. Harding, in September 1921. The National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor and the New York State Housing Commission were among the organizations of which Conboy was an active member. A leader in the labor movement, Sara Conboy died in Brooklyn, New York, on January 7, 1928.

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