Friday, March 10, 2017

Annelise Orleck,"Social Justice Pedagogy and Economic Inequality"

Dear colleagues and friends. 

I’ve very happy to announce that distinguished feminist historian Annelise Orleck will be visiting campus March 13-15. She will speak about her current research, "Poverty Wages, Not Lovin' It: The Rise of a New Global Labor Movement," based on interviews with worker-activists in Florida, Rhode Island, California, New York, Phnom Penh, Manila, and Bangladesh as well as documentary and visual research. That talk is Tuesday March 14, 4:15, Peeler Auditorium, more details below.   For those concerned with how such issues can hit (and enrich) our classrooms, she will also lead a lunch discussion of "Social Justice Pedagogy and Economic Inequality"(Monday March 13, Darnell Room in Hoover Hall, 11:30, lunch provided, RSVP helpful but not needed). Both events are open to everyone, and we’d be very grateful for your help in spreading the word.

We’re grateful also for the support of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, the Hartman House, and the Wright Fund for Peace and Conflict Studies, which made this visit possible. Please get in touch ( if you have questions, or if you or your students would like to meet Professor Orleck during the time she’ll be here. (Some class visits have already been set up, but there is still space in the schedule.)

Many of us affiliated with WGSS know and teach Professor Orleck’s acclaimed and accessible works of women’s history and labor history: Common Sense And A Little Fire: Women and Working Class Politics in the United States (1995), which paints a picture of labor and suffrage activism in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire era, through a group biography of four Jewish immigrant women who made a difference; Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty (2005), which does something similar for the 1970s welfare rights movement, centered in Las Vegas; and Rethinking American Women's Activism (2014), a brilliantly intersectional and readable overview of American feminist history, showing how fully women of color and working class women have always been part of that complex story. She’s also been a faculty leader at Dartmouth and a voice for inclusion in the academy, with particular attention to first-generation college students.

Here’s how Professor Orleck describes her current project, and the topic of her Tuesday talk.

“The past five years have seen the rise of a global low-wage workers' movement, bringing millions of fast food, hotel, home health care, farm and garment workers into the streets for a series of flash strikes that have forever changed the conversation about the right of workers to a living wage. Three weeks after the 2016 election, workers staged A Day of Disruption at the nation’s largest airports and in 340 cities across the country and around the world. A majority of these activists, and of low-wage workers, are women - especially women of color. And they have had a great deal of success rather quickly. 29 states have passed minimum wage laws that are higher than that of the federal government. The country's largest labor markets New York and California have passed a $15 living wage. Though the election of Donald Trump puts these recent gains at risk, and the current Congress has introduced legislation that threatens the survival of American unions, low-wage workers remain optimistic that they will continue to make gains. Support for raising wages has bipartisan support. On the same night that American voters elected Trump, they raised the minimum wage in five states.

“The movement is still building. This talk traces its past and reflects on the possibilities for its future. As always, I try to foreground the voices of grass-roots activists. Given the increasing invisibility that shrouds work in the age of fragmented global supply chains, and given the invisibility that always obscures the labor of service workers, it is my hope that introducing the actual people who make our clothes, clean our hotel rooms, serve our food, harvest our food, will transform the way people think about the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the hotels and restaurants we patronize. And change our understanding of what living wage really means.”

Professor Orleck’s other books include The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980, with Lisa Gayle Hazirjian (2011); The Soviet Jewish Americans (1999); and The Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Left to Right, co-edited with Alexis Jetter and Diana Taylor (1997); she’s also much in demand as a public speaker on a wide range of topics. For more information, please see
And please do feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
Meryl Altman 

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