May Day: Labor History of the Brooklyn Navy Yard | Episode 272

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Waterfront workers were at the vanguard of the labor movement; the word “strike” has its origins in work stoppages on the London docks in 1768, when sailors “struck” the sails of ships to keep them in port. In New York, skilled shipworkers organized some of the earliest trade associations, and they agitated for steady wages and reduced working hours as far back as the 1820s. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, federal regulations and political patronage often stifled workers’ ability to strike, but by the time of World War II, the massive workforce of the Yard was heavily unionized, and the good-paying jobs would form the backbone of Brooklyn’s middle class. In this virtual program, we will examine the long history of labor organizing at the Yard, how workers fought for their rights in the absence of formal unions, and how the unions ultimately proved powerless against changing politics and economics of the shipbuilding industry in New York.

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How World War I Changed the Way New Yorkers Eat | Episode 206

PAST PROGRAM | Virtual Programs

April 6 marks the 104th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, but the impacts of this global conflict were already being felt in New York City. Starting in 1914, panicked markets, inefficient infrastructure, and marauding U-boats caused price shocks and shortages, and the war led directly to the creation of new modes of food distribution, leading to the creation of New York City’s wholesale and retail public market system that still exists today. In this program, we will examine reports from the time period by the city and state Departments and Markets about how new open-air markets were stood up, pushcart peddlers were mobilized to bring food to neighborhoods, and the public was educated to conserve scarce or strategically valuable ingredients.

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Special Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan, Mar 1

8-10 female workers lining up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to punch in wearing heavy smocks for welding.

Take a special World War II history tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard co-led by Jennifer Egan, author of the award-winning novel Manhattan Beach, and our own resident historian, Andrew Gustafson. As we explore the Yard, visiting many sites mentioned in the book, we will delve into the Jennifer’s research process, discuss the materials she used to bring the Yard of the 1940’s to life, and listen to selections of oral histories of real women war workers that inspired many of the characters and incidents in the book. Jennifer will also reach excerpts from her book and answer questions about her remarkable work. 

Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan

icon-calendar  SUN, Mar 1, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $39 per person
icon-truck  Bus and walking
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Lecture: “Wendy the Welder: Work in World War II,” Oct. 15

An African-American female wearing a welder's helmet flipped up. She is smiling and looks surprised.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard reached its peak in World War II, employing 70,000 civilian workers. Desperately short of labor, the Navy employed more than 10,000 women at the Yard, in jobs ranging from seamstress to draftswoman to welder. This lecture by Andrew Gustafson will look back at the history of the Yard, and how World War II represented a major change in the culture of work, but also continued traditions of female labor dating back more than a century, utilizing documents, artifacts, and oral histories form the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archive, including many than we’re used in creating the world of Jennifer Egan’s bestselling novel Manhattan Beach.

Monday, Oct. 15, 6:30pm | New Canaan Library | >> More Information <<