In the 19th and 20th centuries the collar industry of Troy NY provided the chief blue collar employment for women.
These industries were dominated by female employees. The collar industry workers, at least 85 percent female, assembled, stitched, finished, washed, starched, laundered, and ironed millions of collars during the nearly century-long history of the industry.
Most of the employees in the collar industry were Irish and often passed jobs down from mother to daughter so that whole families were employed either at the same time or for overlapping periods of time.
These collar laundry women had created the first strong women's labor union in the United States in 1864. With over 600 members at its peak, the union consisted largely of Irish women and was begun by ironers, who held the highest status job in the laundry trade. Since most of these laundresses worked at least some time during their lives, or intermittently, and were part of a complex network of community, family, and ethnic relationships, they were aware of the need to make a decent living wage. Because they had skills which could not be easily replaced and worked in an area where there was little competition with men, they could strike and withhold their labor successfully for wage increases.
The union was successful throughout the Civil War era until 1869 when the collar laundry owners and collar manufacturers worked together against a major strike. The owners offered a wage increase if the women left the union. So many quit that the union was dissolved in September, 1869. The laundry workers and collar workers formed other organizations before the end of the century and carried on successful strikes for increased benefits. The textile industry in Cohoes was made up predominantly of unskilled female workers and they worked for a paternalistic company, the Harmony Mills, which controlled much of their personal and working lives. These women workers were largely unskilled, Irish, unmarried and young; most quit full-time work after they married. By the eighties, French-Canadian women had come to dominate the trade as that immigrant group came to Cohoes by the thousands.
Why did the men wear such uncomfortable apparel.
So why did I buy collars and cuffs…… I need them for a quilt.. Of course.