The Kalamazoo Corset Strike

I might be including the Kalamazoo Corset Company Strike of 1912 in my next novel. You’ve heard of it? Kalamzoo, Michigan was churning out corsets at a great rate: 800 women produced 1.5 million per year when the U.S. population was 69 million. No whalebone stays. How old-fashioned. These advanced Kalamazoo models used  . . .  turkey feathers. Amazing the things one learns in novel-writing. Including that the company sponsored popular songs about their products, particularly the American Beauty line. Not what one imagines of 1912. Here is the cover for one of these songs. Sadly, I was unable to find the lyrics. They would be intriguing.

But happy corset songs didn’t relieve poor working conditions: long hours, unsanitary conditions and poor “moral conditions” endured by the women at the hands (literally) of the male foremen. With wide general support, conditions improved after the strike, although in a few years, demand for the product declined, much to the relief of many turkeys, and the company diversified.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Posted in WWWS

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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