The Atlanta Washerwomen Strike (1881)
Less than 20 years after the Civil War ended, thousands of black laundresses in Atlanta went on strike in the summer of 1881 to lobby state officials for higher wages and better working conditions, including greater control on how their work was organized.
The strike began with 20 black laundresses who formed the Washing Society, a trade union seeking “higher pay, respect and autonomy over their work, and established a uniform rate at $1 per dozen pounds of wash,” the AFL-CIO notes.
Over three weeks of striking, the Washing Society expanded to include 3,000 strikers, including white laundresses (at the time, white women made up less than 2 percent of washerwomen in Atlanta).
The Washing Society not only succeeded in raising wages but also inspired other domestic workers throughout the city to employ similar methods to advocate for their rights. (Article)