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Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:50 PM

Labor: Women Who Fought For The Flint, Mich. Sit-Down Autoworker Strikes, 1936-37

- A Women's Brigade picketer breaks a window after police tear gassed the occupied Chevrolet Plant 9 during the Flint, Michigan sit-down strikes, 1936-37.


- 'The Women Who Fought Tooth & Nail for the Flint Sit-Down Strikes,'- History News Network, Edward McClelland, George Washington University, March 14, 2021. - Ed.

In downtown Flint, Mich., stands a pantheon of statues dedicated to automotive pioneers. David Buick and Louis Chevrolet, the namesakes of 2 of General Motors’ classic brands, are both world famous. Some Flintstones would like to add a statue of a lesser-known figure: Genora Johnson, leader of the Women’s Emergency Brigade during the 1936-37 Flint Sit Down Strike. The strike began on Dec. 30, 1936, when autoworkers occupied GM’s Fisher One plant, demanding better wages, more job security, and an end to the hated assembly line “speed up,” which so exhausted the workers that they could barely pick up a fork to eat at the end of the shift.

That night, the “cut and sew” women in the upholstery department were ordered to leave the plant, to deter rumors of sexual mingling among strikers.

When Genora Johnson first offered to volunteer at strike headquarters, in Flint’s Pengelly Building, she was assigned to the kitchen, like all the other members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Johnson, a striker’s wife long devoted to socialist causes, thought women belonged on the front lines of the strike, beside their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. First, she organized a picket line outside Fisher One. Her 2-yr-old son held a placard reading “My Daddy Strikes for Us Little Tykes.” On Feb. 11, 1937, the Flint police attacked Fisher Two, in what became known as the Battle of the Running Bulls. The strikers repelled the police by pelting them with door hinges and spraying them with fire hoses. During their retreat, the police opened fire, wounding 14 unionists.

- Flint Womens Brigade, from 'With Babies and Banners'

After the shooting stopped, Johnson urged a group of women to break through the police lines, and protect the men inside the plant from further violence. “I ask all the women here tonight to come down and stand with your husbands and brothers,” she declared through a loudspeaker mounted on a sound car. “If the police are cowards enough to shoot down defenseless men, they’re cowards enough to shoot down women. Women of the city of Flint, break through these police lines, and come down here and stand with your husbands and your brothers, your sons and your sweethearts.” The Battle of the Running Bulls transformed the Ladies’ Auxiliary from a homemakers’ sodality to a quasi-military force. After the women formed a human shield outside Fisher Two, they realized they were just as courageous as the men, and just as capable of standing up to the police—maybe more so, because the “flatfeet,” as they call the cops, wouldn’t attack women.

“We have got to organize the women,” Johnson declared that night. “We have got to have a military formation of the women. If the cops start firing into the men, the women can take the front line ranks. Let them dare to shoot women!” The next day, 50 mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters gathered at the Pengelly Building, in answer to Johnson’s call for women willing to place their bodies between police and strikers. “It can’t be somebody who’s weak of heart!” she announced. “You can’t get hysterical if your sister beside you drops down on a pool of blood. We can’t be bothered with having to take care of 2 people, if one is injured and another is going to go hysterical. Do not sign up for the Women’s Brigade, take your role in the strike kitchen, take your role in the first aid station in the Ladies’ Auxiliary.” The first to stand was a woman in her 70s. “This is going to be difficult for you,” Johnson cautioned. “You can’t keep me out,” the old woman insisted. “My sons work in that factory. My husband worked in that factory before he died, and I have grandsons there.”

Of the 1000 women who belonged to the Ladies’ Auxiliary, 400 joined the Women’s Emergency Brigade. Every member was issued a red beret and red armband with the white letters “E. B.” Johnson appointed herself captain...

More, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/179552

- Genora Johnson Dollinger, wearing the red beret of the Women's Emergency Brigade addresses the UAW in 1977, using the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Flint strikes to demand the union include issues like child care in contract negotiations. (From 'With Babies and Banners').

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Reply Labor: Women Who Fought For The Flint, Mich. Sit-Down Autoworker Strikes, 1936-37 (Original post)
appalachiablue Apr 4 OP
pandr32 Apr 4 #1
appalachiablue Apr 4 #2
pandr32 Apr 4 #3

Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:57 PM

1. Thank you for posting this!

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Response to pandr32 (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 01:08 PM

2. Absolutely, people need to know about

the courage of these women and men during opposition. We were never taught US labor history in public school, by design and it's a shame.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 04:04 PM

3. Agreed

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