The Ladies Auxiliary and the Function of Social Organizing in the Rural Working Class during the Post-World War II Period

Coreen Derifield, East Central College

The Ladies Auxiliary movement has held an important social function to various organizations throughout the twentieth century. Auxiliaries worked on charity efforts, catered meals to events, made sure there was coffee at every meeting, planned parties, and held information sessions to educate women on the role of the organization. Throughout the nation, auxiliaries could be found in churches, farm organizations, masonic lodges, and labor unions. This paper focuses on the Ladies Auxiliaries to organized labor and its role in helping unions form a working-class consciousness within a rural industrial workforce. The Ladies Auxiliary program labor provided a structured space to help both female workers and worker’s wives adjust to industrial work and its accompanying class status. The auxiliaries studied in this paper were located in eastern Iowa and developed during the 1950s and 1960s. What was distinctive about these Ladies Auxiliaries were how they used their previous experiences serving in other community organizations, such as women’s groups connected to farm organization and churches, to help them adapt into an industrial setting. They modeled their program and activities after their previous experiences, and performed functions they were familiar with, such as catering meals to the union, charity drives, and providing general domestic support to the union. Much of this work was conducted under the patriarchal assumption that men were the workers and women were the supporters and was grounded in their rural value system. The auxiliary provided the space women needed to adjust to a new economic and class structure of industrial work, and it eased their transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial one by allowing them to mirror and model previous organizations that promoted their rural and Midwestern values.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 102. The Boundaries of Class: Where Proletarians and Bourgeoisie Meet