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Pauline M. Newman (October 18, 1887 – April 8, 1986) was an American labor activist. She is best remembered as the first female general organizer of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and for six decades of work as the education director of the ILGWU Health Center.
In 1917, the Women’s Trade Union League dispatched Newman to Philadelphia, to build a new branch of the league. There she met a young Bryn Mawr economics instructor named Frieda S. Miller.
Miller, who was chafing at the constraints of academic life, gladly left academia to help Newman with her organizing. Within the year, the two were living together. It was the beginning of a turbulent but mutually satisfying relationship that would last until Miller’s death in 1974. In 1923, the two women moved to New York’s Greenwich Village, where they raised Miller’s daughter together. Though lesbian families were not openly discussed in the 1920s, their family seems to have been accepted by government and union friends and colleagues.
Pauline Newman died on April 8, 1986 at the New York City home of her adopted daughter, Elisabeth Burger. She was 98 years old at the time of her death. Newman’s death aroused grief and sadness among the ILGWU and women trade unionists. She had created a space for herself as a negotiator- standing with one foot in the male-dominated labor movement and one foot in the cross-class world of women reformers. She influenced many people during her time. Her contributions as an organizer, a legislative expert, a writer, and a mentor to younger women activists were significant and wide-ranging.
Newman left an unpublished autobiography, the manuscript of which resides at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
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