Union Maids (1976)

(48min.) B/W, 16mm, Sound
Directors: Jim Klein, Julia Reichert, Miles Mogulescu
Editors: Jim Klein, Julia Reichert
Camera: Sherry Novick, Tony Heriza
Archival Research: Julia Reichert with Barbara Tuss
Music: Pete Seeger and The Almanac Singers

Sitdowns, scabs, goon squads, unemployment, hunger marches, red baiting and finally the energetic birth of the CIO:  the 1930s were a landmark period for the American labor movement. Union Maids is the story of three women who lived that history and make it come alive today. It was the first film of its kind–an oral history, using a wealth of footage from the National Archives to chronicle the fight to form industrial unions as seen through the eyes of rank and file women. The film was widely distributed in 16mm, including theatrical dates in about 20 cities.

UNION MAIDS is an oral history film made (possibly the first) from the first-person stories of three older women activists who were veterans of the struggle to form industrial unions and fight the Great Depression in the 1930’s and early 40’s.

The three women, Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki and Sylvia Woods, all came to Chicago as young people, each getting involved in radical activities of the time. They are all natural storytellers; each story is unique but all convey their desire to fight for the rights of working class people.

It is part of the movement for “history from the bottom up,” which came out of progressive academics such as Studs Terkel, Alice & Staunton Lynd, and Howard Zinn in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Union Maids was nominated for an Academy Award. It is distributed through New Day Films and was awarded a Women’s Film Preservation Fund grant in 2014.