Labor History

Flowers on the memorial for the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire during its dedication on October 11

New Memorial Honors Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

A total of 146 workers died in the 1911 disaster, which galvanized the fight for workers' rights

Firefighters, still dressed in their smoke- and soot-stained bunker gear, take a breather after a harrowing day of battling a particularly stubborn brush fire.

15 Scenes of Americans at Work

These highlights from the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest commemorate Labor Day

Lewis Wickes Hine's 1909 photograph of a young spinner in a Georgia cotton mill

The Photographer Who Forced the U.S. to Confront Its Child Labor Problem

Lewis Hine's early 20th-century "photo stories" sparked meaningful legislative reform

Mina’s goal was to keep the home—and women—central in modern society. Building on the home economists who came before her, she sought to define women’s work as work rather than a vague, idealized calling.

Mina Miller Edison Was Much More Than the Wife of the 'Wizard of Menlo Park'

The second wife of Thomas Edison, she viewed domestic labor as a science, calling herself a "home executive"

A poster, boldly declaring "Sí Se Puede. It Can Be Done" and held in the Smithsonian collections, offers a look back to how farm laborers won the right to join and form unions.

Why ‘Sí, Se Puede’ Was the Winning Motto for the United Farm Workers

Their nationwide boycott helped farmworkers win the right to join and form unions

J. Edgar Hoover (second from left) stands behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the president signs a bill in 1934.

How World War II Helped Forge the Modern FBI

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover consolidated immense power—and created the beginnings of the surveillance state

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The Father-Daughter Team Who Reformed America

Meet the duo who helped achieve the most important labor and civil rights victories of their age

Abigail Disney beside a poster for The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales earlier this month

Abigail Disney Criticizes Labor Practices at the Company Her Family Founded

Her new documentary, "The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales," shines a light on income inequality and workers' rights

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The Little-Known Story of the Women Who Stood Up to General Motors and Demanded Equal Pay

In the 1930s, Florence St. John and her co-workers at an automotive plant won a hard-fought victory for fairness

Seasonal influxes of fishermen fed roaring local economies and attracted herring girls—women who came from across Iceland to take jobs gutting, cleaning and salting barrels of freshly caught fish.

How Iceland's Herring Girls Helped Bring Equality to the Island Nation

Between the 1910s and 1960s, thousands of young women formed the backbone of the country's thriving fishing industry

Chinese railroad workers near the Secret Town Trestle in Placer County, California, around 1869

Artifacts Used by Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers Found in Utah

Researchers discovered the remains of a mid-19th century house, a centuries-old Chinese coin and other traces of the short-lived town of Terrace

Flight 93 fuselage and call button, now housed in the collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

These Free Online Resources Tell the Story of 9/11 and Its Aftermath

Browse 12 archives, databases and portals that help users deepen their understanding of the attacks

Three miners with federal soldier prepare to surrender weapons.

What Made the Battle of Blair Mountain the Largest Labor Uprising in American History

Its legacy lives on today in the struggles faced by modern miners seeking workers' rights

An installation view of "Automania" at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The red car in front is a Cisitalia 202 GT Car (1946) designed by Italian firm Pininfarina; the green car in the background is a German "Beetle," a.k.a. a Volkswagen Type 1 Sedan (1949).  The lithograph on the wall is Watch the Fords Go By (1937) by A. M. Cassandre.

How the Automobile Changed the World, for Better or Worse

New MoMA exhibition explores artists' responses to the beauty, brutality and environmental devastation of cars and car culture

The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, a 1931 mural by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, resides in an exhibition space in the San Francisco Art Institute. In a precarious financial position, the school has reportedly considered selling the mural for an estimated $50 million.

Why a California School's Potential Sale of Diego Rivera Mural Is So Controversial

Local officials are seeking landmark designation for the 1931 artwork, likely blocking the San Francisco Art Institute's plan

Johns Hopkins, founder of the Baltimore university that bears his name, enslaved at least four unnamed men in 1850. Pictured behind Hopkins is the 1850 "slave schedule" with his name (#33, circled in blue) and the enslaved individuals' ages.

Long Heralded as an Abolitionist, Johns Hopkins Enslaved People, Records Show

The Baltimore university that bears his name announced new research that "shattered" perceptions of the Quaker entrepreneur

Luisa Capetillo, left, was a labor organizer and one of Puerto Rico's foundational feminists. Right, women on Election Day in 1936, the first year all women on the island could vote.

In Puerto Rico, Women Won the Vote in a Bittersweet Game of Colonial Politics

Puertorriqueñas' fight for suffrage shaped by class, colonialism and racism—but even today, island residents cannot vote for president

The pandemic has been devastating for both child care workers and families that depend on them.

Covid-19's Impact on Working Women Is an Unprecedented Disaster

In September, 865,000 women left the workforce, with effects playing out differently for those of different races and classes

A letter that tipped off authorities to the illegal conditions of the garment factory begs rescuers to work quickly and not arouse suspicion. “Don’t forget to be careful,” it concludes.

20th-Century Slavery in a California Sweatshop Was Hiding in Plain Sight

The El Monte sweatshop case exposed a web of corruption—and the enslavement of more than 70 Los Angeles-area garment workers

Men and women lining up during the 1902 Coal Strike for their allotment of coal.

The Coal Strike That Defined Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

To put an end to the standoff, the future progressive champion sought the help of a titan of business: J.P. Morgan

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