Lillian Herstein came to labor activism by an unusual route for a woman of her time—not through factory work but through her career as a teacher. When Herstein’s father died, her siblings were sent to work and only she remained in school. With their help, she graduated from Northwestern in 1907 and began teaching in small, rural schools. In 1912 she began teaching in a Chicago high school and joined the Federation of Women High School Teachers, representing that union (which became the Chicago Teachers Union in 1937) to the Chicago Federation of Labor and serving as the only woman on its executive board for twenty-five years. She worked on joint education projects between CFL and the Women’s Trade Union League, organizing workers, teaching classes at the Chicago Labor College, and advocating for worker education. She taught summer courses at Bryn Mawr and various junior colleges, and successfully lobbied to maintain free junior colleges throughout the Depression. In 1937 she served as the advisor on child labor legislation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva. After her retirement from teaching in 1952, she worked with the Jewish Labor Committee on race relations, helping integrate labor unions.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian Herstein." (Viewed on February 6, 2016) <http://jwa.org/people/herstein-lillian>.