Western Massachusetts was an early and important center of both industrialization and the development of organized labor, and in recent years, it has experienced many of traumatic effects of de-industrialization and economic transformation. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives seeks to document the history of organized labor, the experience of work, and business and industry in New England.
At the heart of the SCUA holdings is a suite of collections documenting the organized labor movement in New England. The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, a large and important collection, is joined by records for trades ranging from clothing and textile workers to carpenters, electrical workers, and granite cutters.
Of particular note is the John W. Bennett Labor History Collection, a large assemblage of labor-related realia and ephemera, including hundreds of badges, pins, watch fobs, lighters, and other artifacts distributed to union members at annual conventions and other union events. The collection is a unique resource for study of the iconography of organized labor and includes items from representative unions and locals ranging from the Knights of Labor in the 1870s to the present. While centered on New England, the Bennett Collection extends nationally.
View our brochure on documenting labor, work, and industry (pdf).
- Organized Labor
- From the records of the Massachusetts State AFL-CIO to the papers of union locals and labor leaders.
- See all Business and industry
- The industrial heritage of New England is represented in collections ranging from the records of the Clement Co., Lamson and Goodnow, and the Northampton Cutlery Company (manufacturers of cutlery), the American Writing Paper Company, the Rodney Hunt Co. (a manufacturer of textile machinery and waterwheels), and Smith and Wesson. The most recent collection is the papers of Sidney Topol, CEO of Scientific-Atlanta, a corporation at the forefront of the growth of cable television in the United States.
- Merchants and mercantile exchange
- Account books and other business records for a number of New England merchants dating back to the eighteenth century, ranging from small scale traders to keepers of rural general stores to shipping merchants trading in the Atlantic economy.
League of Women Voters of Amherst Records, 1939-2001.
Call no.: MS 296
Non-partisan political organization based in Amherst, Massachusetts that influences public policy through education and advocacy by registering voters, organizing candidate forums, publishing voting guides, and disseminating general information on the legislative process and the functioning of government on the local, state, and federal levels.
Includes minutes, annual reports, financial records, publications, extensive files on specific programs, photographs, video- and audio-tapes, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. Also contains information on two league members who rose to national prominence: Lucy Wilson Benson (Under Secretary of State in the federal government in 1977) and Jane F. Garvey (Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1997).
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Benson, Lucy Wilson
- Garvey, Jane F
- League of Women Voters of Amherst (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
- Oral histories
Sandy Lillydahl Venceremos Brigade Photograph Collection, 1970-2005 (Bulk: 1970).
Call no.: PH 056
A 1969 graduate of Smith College and member of Students for a Democratic Society, Sandy Lillydahl took part in the second contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. Between February and April 1970, Lillydahl and traveled to Cuba as an expression of solidarity with the Cuban people and to assist in the sugarcane harvest.
The 35 color snapshots that comprise the Lillydahl collection document the New England contingent of the second Venceremos Brigade as they worked the sugarcane fields in Aguacate, Cuba, and toured the country. Each image is accompanied by a caption supplied by Lillydahl in 2005, describing the scene and reflecting on her experiences; and the collection also includes copies of the file kept by the FBI on Lillydahl, obtained by her through the Freedom of Information Act in 1975.
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)--Photographs
- Venceremos Brigade--Photographs
Types of material
Eric Mann and Lian Hurst Mann Papers, 1967-2007.
Call no.: MS 657
Revolutionary organizers, writers, and theorists, Eric Mann and Lian Hurst Mann have been active in the struggle for civil rights for decades. The son of Jewish Socialist and labor organizer from New York, Mann came of age during the early phases of the Civil Rights movement and after graduating from Cornell (1964), he became field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality. Increasingly radicalized through exposure to Black revolutionary nationalists, Mann took part in the Newark Community Union Project and became a leader in anti-imperialist opposition to the war in Vietnam as a New England regional coordinator for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later with the Revolutionary Youth Movement I — the Weatherman above-ground tendency of SDS. Following a militant demonstration at the Harvard Center for International Affairs late in 1969, Mann was convicted of assault on the basis of perjured testimony and sentenced to two years in prison. An organizer of his fellow prisoners even behind bars, he was “shipped out” often in the middle of the night, from prison to prison, spending the last year at Concord State Prison. After being released early in July 1971, he continued his prison activism through the Red Prison Movement. At the same time, as a writer, he earned a national audience for his book Comrade George: an account of the life, politics, and assassination of Soledad Brother George Jackson. Feeling himself at a low point in his radical career, Mann met Lian Hurst while vacationing in Mexico during the summer 1974. Hurst, a leader in the Berkeley Oakland Women’s Union, architect, and a strong Socialist Feminist, soon became his partner in life and politics, and Mann left Massachusetts to join with her in Berkeley. Hurst lead a group of women from BOWU who formed a “Thursday night group” and left the organization with the polemic, “socialist feminism is bourgeois feminism” all of whom moved towards integrating women’s liberation and Marxism-Leninism. At her urging, the two took part in Marxist Leninist party building, becoming union organizers with the United Auto Workers, and eventually moving to Los Angeles. Hurst was elected shop steward by her fellow workers as a known revolutionary. There, Mann led a campaign to keep the Van Nuys assembly plant open (1982-1992) — captured in his book, Taking on General Motors. They joined the August 29th Movement and its successor, the League of Revolutionary Struggle. They left LRS in 1984. In 1989, Mann and veterans of the GM Van Nuys Campaign formed the Labor/Community Strategy Center, which has been a primary focal points for their work ever since, helping to build consciousness, leadership, and organization within communities of color. Hurst became editor of AhoraNow, an innovative bilingual left publication that featured articles by Black and Latino working class leaders and helped initiate the center’s National School for Strategic Organizing. In 2003 Hurst wrote, “Socialist Feminism: Thoughts After 30 Years” for AhoraNow, a critical re-engagement of those important debates from an historical perspective after a 30 year reunion of BOWU’s key leaders. Mann’s latest book is Playbook For Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer. Hurst and Mann continue to write and agitate in the cause of revolutionary change, particularly for oppressed communities of color.
The Mann-Hurst collection contains the records of two lives intertwined with one another with the cause of liberation of Black and Latino communities, women, and an internationalist pro-socialist anti-imperialism. Containing a nearly complete set of publications, the collection also contains early materials on Lian Hurst’s work with BOWU and the both Eric and Lian’s time as organizers for the UAW and their participation in the August 29th Movement and League of Revolutionary Struggle. Of particular interest are a series of letters home written by Eric during his imprisonment. The collection contains comparatively little on Hurst and Manns’ more recent work with the Labor/Strategy Strategy Center or Bus Riders Union
- August 29th Movement
- Berkeley Oakland Women's Union
- International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
- Labor unions--California
- League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L)
- Red Prison Movements
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Mann, Lian Hurst
Madge McQueen Papers, ca.1935-2015 (Bulk: 1975-2015).
Call no.: MS 825
I was born in Washington, D.C., in an unwed mother’s home. I spent my earliest months living with my maternal grandmother and two teenage aunts–one of whom was abusive. My mother married my step-father in 1960; I was eleven years old when I discovered he was not my biological father. My mother suffered from psychotic schizophrenia; my step-father was frequently violent in our home; my younger, half-brother struggled with a severe learning disability, early drug addiction, and later untreated paranoid schizophrenia. After years of physical and sexual abuse, I escaped my destructive, troubled family when I was fourteen–having previously run away twice. I became a ward of the state of Maryland (my family had moved into Prince George’s County when I was much younger). I lived with three foster families until I was nineteen. I was determined to use education as a way out of poverty and violence. I attended Prince George’s Community College, then the University of Maryland in College Park where I earned a BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences in 1982. I worked at the radical Maryland Food Collective from 1981 to 1984 which profoundly impacted my life: politically, socially, and sexually. In 1985, I moved to Plainfield, Vermont, where I attended graduate school at Goddard College, receiving an MFA in Writing and Women’s Literature in 1987. After teaching for five years in Boston, at Fayerweather Street School and at the Jamaica Plain Community Centers–Adult Learning Program, I went to Massachusetts College of Art, earning a BFA in Three Dimensional Fibers in 1997. I lived for a year in Germany, 1980-1981, and in Honduras, 1997-1998, where I taught cognitively disabled adults and 8th graders, respectively. In 2002, after living in Boston for four more years, I moved to Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia. During my long membership, I left twice for extended periods. In 2006-2007, I traveled for eight months in the U.S. and in New Zealand. In 2014, I spent seven months in Amherst and in Boston working on my papers, followed by four months of travel across country and back visiting loved ones as I wrote my autobiography. In the beginning of 2015, I again made Twin Oaks my home.
My collection consists of nearly 300 journals (which include copies of my letters sent), all correspondence received since 1972, many of my artist books, as well as some of my other art work. My bequest is also comprised of my educational documents, my personal health records, my photographs, some family papers, Twin Oaks ephemera, a family tree, a friendship web, a few favorite books, two interviews, etc. What I have written and saved since I was twelve years old fills 84 linear feet: it is my life’s work. I have given, and will continue to give, my papers to UMass Amherst for safekeeping and so that my life–as an incest and battering survivor, as someone raised working class, as a daughter of a mentally-ill mother, as a radical feminist, as a diarist, as an avid letter writer, as an artist, as a bisexual, as a woman who chose neither to be a wife nor a mother, as an attentive niece, as a communitarian, as a traveler, and as a devoted friend–will not be erased.
- Adult children abuse victims
- Communal living--Virginia
- Family violence
- Twin Oaks (Louisa, Va.)
- Women artists
Types of material
- Artists' books (Books)
- Journals (Accounts)
- Textile art (Visual works)
Kevin McVeigh Papers, 1974-2010.
Call no.: MS 668
A lifelong activist for social and environmental justice, Kevin McVeigh was among the founders of two prominent antinuclear and environmental organizations in Northern California, the Pelican Alliance (1978) and Interhelp (1981). After relocating to Massachusetts, he continued in environmental activism, founding the Green River Center in Greenfield in 1987, but in response to the intense public health crisis, he gradually shifted his focus to become an advocate for persons with HIV/AIDS. As a founder of the AIDS Community Group of Franklin County (Mass.), he has coordinated AIDS services for Tapestry Health, a not-for-profit organization providing affordable health care to in Western Massachusetts.
The McVeigh Papers document a career as a committed antinuclear activist and advocate for persons with HIV/AIDS. The collection includes organizational materials from each of the groups McVeigh helped found: The Pelican Alliance, Interhelp, the Green River Center, the AIDS Community Group of Franklin County, and Tapestry Health, as well as correspondence, newspaper clippings, journals and magazines related to the issues concerning, notes from HIV/AIDS caregivers’ conferences, materials relating to men’s support groups, and other material related to environmental protection and anti-war activism. Finally, the collection includes audio files of an oral history (approximately two hours) conducted with McVeigh in July 2010, and a small collection of antinuclear books from small publishing houses.
- AIDS (Disease)
- AIDS Community Group of Franklin County
- AIDS activists--Massachusetts
- Antinuclear movement--California
- Green River Center (Greenfield, Mass.)
- Pelican Alliance
- Public health--Massachusetts
- Tapestry Health
- McVeigh, Kevin
Types of material
- Oral histories
George Millman Papers, 1944-1945.
Call no.: MS 728
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1919, George Millman attended Massachusetts State College briefly, but was forced to drop out after his freshman year due to financial hardship. After attending a three-month intensive training course, Millman was employed by the War Department in 1941 as a civilian inspector in the munitions plant in New London, Connecticut. In the months that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt it was his patriotic duty to join the armed forces and enlisted on May 28, 1942. Called to active duty six months later, Millman was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps on April 29, 1943. Already dating his soon-to-be-bride Lillian, the couple decided to marry immediately before he could be sent overseas. Assigned to a class on the theoretical aspects of radar at Harvard University, Millman was ordered to report to the Army Air Force Technical School in Boca Raton in late 1943. On June 24, 1944, he received secret travel orders assigning him to the 5th Air Force Service Command in Brisbane, Australia. There he began training fighter pilots on the use and operation of the newly developed airborne radar, AN/APS-4. Throughout his tour in the Pacific, which ended in early 1946, Millman traveled throughout the region, including time in Australia, the Netherlands East Indies, the Netherlands New Guinea, and the Philippines.
Containing almost 400 letters written to his wife Lillian during World War II, Millman’s papers detail nearly every aspect of life in the service during wartime. From chronicling extreme environmental conditions to his feelings of frustration while awaiting assignment, Millman’s letters offer a personal perspective of the impact of war on an individual and his loved ones. While his letters carefully avoid any details about his work that could have been censored, they capture in extraordinary detail the day-to-day life of a serviceman in the Pacific theater during WWII. Millman published his letters to his wife in 2011 in a book entitled Letters to Lillian.
- World War, 1939-1945
- Millman, George H. (George Harold), 1919-
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
People for Economic Survival Records, 1974-1977.
Call no.: MS 535
Established in October 1974, People for Economic Survival (PES) was a Socialist group based in Northampton, Massachusetts, first organized with the short-term goal of pressuring local banks to sell food stamps. The group’s vision for the longer term, however, was to stimulate change that would result in the replacement of an economy based on corporate profit with one based on people’s needs. After two and half years of community activity, including working for lower utility rates and against cutbacks in welfare, human services, and unemployment benefits, PES disbanded.
The PES collection consists of flyers, meeting minutes, and a full run of Take It, the group’s newsletter.
- Food stamps--Massachusetts
- Northampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions
- Northampton (Mass.)--History
- Public welfare--Law and legislation--Massachusetts
- People for Economic Survival
Charley Richardson Papers, ca.1985-2012.
Call no.: MS 862
A shipfitter and union activist, Charley Richardson was a visonary labor educator. After working for a time in a machine shop and driving a school bus, Richardson hired on as a shipfitter at Sun Ship in Philadelphia in 1976, and grew active in the labor movement as a steward for the United Steelworkers. After relocating to the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy seven years later, he sustained a workplace injury that ended his career, but he remained active in the workers’ cause. Helping served as director of the Labor Extension Program at UMass Lowell and helped to create the Technology and Work Program where he and his wife Nancy Lessin developed educational programs to aid unions in countering harmful workplace changes and build strength and solidarity for the union. An advocate for social and economic justice, he became a vocal opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2002, and was co-founder of Military Families Speak Out. After a long battle with cancer, Richardson passed away in May 2013.
The Richardson papers document over thirty years of work as a labor educator and United Steelworkers activist. At the heart of the collection are materials relating to Richardson’s research and instruction at UMass Lowell, teaching “continuous bargaining” and other techniques for unions coping with economic and political change. The collection is informed throughout by Richardson’s concerns for workplace safety and health and the impact of technology, downsizing, deregulation, and globalization.
- Industrial safety
- Labor unions and education
- United Steelworkers of America
- University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Labor Education Prograss
- Lessin, Nancy
Laura M. Ross Papers, 1945-2003 (Bulk: 1967-1990).
Call no.: MS 515
Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.
The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.
- Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
- Communist Party of the United States of America
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- People’s Daily World
- United States--Politics and government--1981-1989
- Ross, Laura