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Younger, Maud (1870–1936)

Younger, Maud (1870–1936)

American labor reformer and suffragist. Born January 10, 1870, in San Francisco, California; died of cancer on June 25, 1936, in Los Gatos, California; one of five children of William John Younger and Annie Maria (Lane) Younger; privately educated; never married; no children.

Served as resident, College Settlement House, New York City (1901–06); was an organizer, San Francisco waitress union (1908); was a delegate, San Francisco Central Trades and Labor Council (1908–11); was an organizer, Wage Earners' Equal Suffrage League (1911); was an organizer, the Congressional Union, after 1916, the National Woman's Party (1913–20); was active in the efforts to secure an Equal Rights Amendment (1923 on).

Maud Younger, known as the "millionaire waitress," organized her co-workers on two coasts and wrote a series of articles exposing the harsh conditions under which women waited table in the early years of the 20th century. Born in privilege, Younger came to her career in labor and social reform after the age of 30. Until then, she led the life she was born to in 1870 as a daughter of a wealthy and socially prominent San Francisco family. She attended private schools and traveled to Europe on a regular basis. On her way to Europe in 1901, she decided to stop in New York City and visit the College Settlement House of which she had heard so much. She later remembered: "I went to see it on Monday, and Tuesday went to stay. I went for a week but stayed five years."

As a resident of this Lower East Side settlement, Younger came to see the need for trade unionism and protective labor legislation, especially for women workers. She joined the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) in 1904. In 1907, she became a member of the Waitresses Union when she took a restaurant job, writing an article for McClure's Magazine about her experience. A year later, Younger returned to San Francisco, organized waitresses there and served as a delegate to the city's Central Trades and Labor Council. She was one of the leaders in the establishment of an eight-hour day for women workers in California and joined the fight for suffrage in that state. In 1912, Younger went back East, participated in the White Goods Strike in New York and then went on Washington, D.C., as the WTUL lobbyist.

After 1913, Younger concentrated her efforts on the woman's suffrage campaign. In that year, she joined the Congressional Union organized by Alice Paul . The Union represented the more radical wing of the suffrage movement, drawing attention to the need for women's voting rights through massive demonstrations and, on more than one occasion, hunger strikes. As in her labor activities, Younger was an effective speaker and tireless organizer for the Union, which was renamed the National Woman's Party in 1916. After the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was passed in 1920,

Younger turned her attention once again to the WTUL and the National Consumers' League. However, in 1923, she ended her affiliation with those organizations as she joined the fight to secure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Many trade union women feared that such an amendment would erase the hard-fought gains that protective labor legislation had secured for working women. Younger felt otherwise, seeing in the amendment the only chance for women to gain true equality in relation to men. To that end, she devoted the rest of her life until she died of cancer at the age of 66.

sources:

Cott, Nancy F. The Grounding of Modern Feminism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Kathleen Banks Nutter , Manuscripts Processor at the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

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