Fannia M. Cohn led one of the largest trade unions in the US, but clashed with male leadership for years over her belief in the importance of creating independent institutions to educate workers. In 1909 Cohn was a founding member of a local chapter of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and in 1913 she served as a delegate to the ILGWU national convention. From 1916–1926 she served as the first female vice president of the ILGWU, initiating programs for workers’ education in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. She founded Brookwood Labor College, the first residential workers’ college in the US, and Manumit School, a school for workers’ children in Pauling, New York. She also served on the board of the Workers’ Education Bureau, an umbrella organization for workers’ education in the US. Cohn regularly fought with union leaders who wanted schools merely to indoctrinate and train union officers—Cohn wanted the schools to remain independent and offer classes on a broad range of topics. As they cut her funding, Cohn raised money from friends and family, undeterred. ILGWU leadership finally forced her to retire in 1962, months before her death.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Fannia M. Cohn." (Viewed on January 25, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/cohn-fannia>.