International Ladies' Garment Worker's Union. Southwestern Region. Educational Dept. | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
The International Ladies' Garment Workers Union was formed in 1900 with a mainly Jewish immigrant membership. The ILGWU was able, with effective strikes in New York in 1909 to secure higher wages and shorter hours. Under the leadership of David Dubinsky (president 1932 - 66), the union grew from 45,000 members to almost half a million. In 1934, Dubinsky sent Meyer Perlstein to organize the Southwestern Region with headquarters in St. Louis. By 1939 there were about nine locals in this region, from Minneapolis to San Antonio.
The Educational Department of the Southwest Region was organized in November 1935 under the direction of Doris Preisler (later, Wheeler). In addition to newcomer classes and classes in labor history, the Educational Department arranged classes in music, dance, drama and literature. In 1936, the department initiated the production of a pageant, "Surging Forward," a celebration of the labor movement that was performed at the St. Louis Municipal Auditorium and the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium and involved over 200 ILGWU members. The department would stage other productions through the years. It also published newsletters, provided recreational opportunities for members, and regularly hosted visits by foreign labor leaders. In the post-World War II years, the Educational Department was involved in organizing housing cooperatives in St. Louis and Dallas. Beginning in 1948, the department began organizing one-day institutes, educational opportunities for members held at colleges and universities throughout the region. The first such institute was held at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.