Special Collections and University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries

J. William Belanger Papers, 1932-1986

3 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 117

A leader in organized labor, William Belanger began as an organizer for the AFL’s United Textile Workers in 1932, eventually becoming the New England Regional Director and International Vice President of the TWUA and in 1958, the first President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

The Belanger Papers provide insight into the long career in labor activism, and include correspondence, writings, subject files, and printed materials. Of particular interest is a series of four oversized scrapbooks that cover Belanger’s career from 1934 through his final position as Director of the Massachusetts Department of Employment Security. These are especially enlightening on labor’s political activities, the CIO’s success in thwarting anti-labor referenda in 1948, and the efforts to expel Communists from the labor movement.

Biographical Note

J. William Belanger was born in Newmarket, New Hampshire, in 1907 and began working in textile mills at the age of fourteen. By the time he was nineteen, he had worked in organized mills in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the early 1930’s, had returned to New England to work as an organizer for the United Textile Workers of America. In 1934, he lead a 17-day general strike, acting as Assistant Director for New England.

In 1936 when the textile unions joined the CIO, Belanger served as Connecticut State Director of the Textile Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC-CIO), and later in Boston as the Assistant New England Regional Director of TWOC-CIO. In 1941, he was elected to the Executive Board of the Massachusetts State CIO, and made Secretary the following year. When the offices of Secretary and Treasurer were combined in 1946, Belanger was elected to the post. That same year he was chosen an International Vice President of the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), and in 1948, became President of the Massachusetts State CIO Council.

Belanger worked with leaders in the Massachusetts State Federation of Labor (the state branch of the American Federation of Labor) to defeat the three anti-union referenda on the 1948 state ballot. The cooperation between the two state organizations led to their eventual merger in 1958. At the merger convention held in December of that year, Belanger was elected the first President of the Massachusetts State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He held this post until 1964, when he was appointed Director of the Massachusetts Division of Employment Security.

In addition to his union activities, Belanger served on a number of governmental agencies, civic agencies and commissions. He died in Naples, Florida, in 1986.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, biographical material, writings, scrapbooks, subject files, newsclippings; pamphlets, manuals, and other printed materials; and memorabilia related to Belanger’s union and election activities, and his work with various government agencies and commissions. Scrapbooks comprise the bulk of the collection and include correspondence, news clippings, photographs, postcards, and various memorabilia. Correspondents include: the U.S. Conciliation Service of the U.S. Department of Labor; the National War Labor Board; the War Manpower Commission of the Office for Emergency Management; the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts; the Council for Constitutional Reform in Massachusetts, Inc.; and The White House.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: J. William Belanger Papers (MS 117). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from J. William Belanger, 1986

Processing Information

Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, December 1987.

Additional Information

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Contents List
Series 1. Biography
Biographical material
Box 1:1
Box 1:2

Series 2. Subject Files
AFL Organizer’s Commission
Box 1:3
Election Activities
Box 1:4
Election Activities
Box 1:5
Election Activities
Box 1:6
General Correspondence
Box 1:7
Box 1:8
New England Textile Study
Box 1:9
Box 1:10
United Textile Workers Organizing
Box 1:11
University of Massachusetts
Box 1:12

Series 3. Printed Materials
Box 1:13
Congress of Industrial Organizations
Box 1:14
Connecticut State Labor Council
Box 1:15
Industrial Union Dept., AFL-CIO
Box 1:16
Northern Textile Association
Box 1:17
Textile Workers Union of America
1943, n.d.
Box 1:18
Union Manuals
Box 1:19
United Labor Committee of Massachusetts
Box 1:20

Series 4. Scrapbooks (oversize)
Vol. 1
Box 1
Vol. 2
Box 1
Vol. 3
Box 1
Vol. 4
Box 1

Series 5. Plaques and Memorabilia
Box 2
Box 3


  • Elections--Massachusetts--History--20th century
  • Labor leaders--New England--Biography
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
  • New England--Economic conditions--20th century
  • Textile Workers Organizing Committee
  • Textile Workers Union of America
  • Textile industry--Massachusetts
  • Textile workers--Labor unions--New England


  • Belanger, J. William, 1907-1986

Types of material

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

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