Maida Springer, Pioneer Latina Labor Leader

Maida Springer was an early Latina labor leader but few recognize her as such. Born in Panama, she rose in prominence as a New York–based activist. She undertook many of her causes at the behest of her union, the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

A friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, ILGWU president David Dubinsky, and Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters president A. Philip Randolph, she unsuccessfully ran for the state assembly in New York on the ticket of the American Labor Party (ALP). After the ILGWU left the ALP, Stringer was active in the Liberal Party.

Springer is generally known as an African American leader and as an early leader in the National Council of Negro Women. She recalled a more circumscribed environment growing up: “The American colored community was a separate entity from foreign-born blacks. In my mother’s life, our enclave was generally the people who were culturally like us—blacks from the Caribbean and Central America.”

Yvette Richards produced two books on this dynamic woman, Maida Springer: Pan Africanist and International Labor Leader (2000) and Conversations with Maida Springer: A Personal History of Labor, Race, and International Relations (2004). For more on the world Springer operated in, see Bridget O’Farrell’s She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker (2010).

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