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Look for the union label: Maida Springer-Kemp

Happy Labor Day! Maida Springer-Kemp’s papers, held at the Amistad Research Center, are chock-full of documentation of her career as a labor activist. Springer-Kemp, a labor and trade union activist in the U.S. and in Africa, traveled widely, lending her assistance to emerging trade unions through her work with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Maida Springer-Kemp, back row, third from right.

She began her labor union career by joining the Dressmaker’s Union, Local 22 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU). By 1938 she served on the ILGWU executive board, and was chair of the education committee in 1940.

In 1945 Springer-Kemp was a delegate for a trip to Great Britain to observe wartime conditions for workers there. After World War II, she began helping African countries establish trade unions, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda. Springer-Kemp served as the international representative for Africa for the AFL-CIO’s Department of International Affairs from 1959 to 1965, and continued labor union organizing at ILGWU between 1966 and 1969.

Reprint from June 1, 1963 issue of Justice Official Publications, ILGWU.

Springer-Kemp continued her labor union activism in later years, working with the A. Philip Randolph Institute and an AFL-CIO affiliate, the African American Labor Center (AALC) during the early to mid-1970s. She also consulted with the Asian-American Free Labor Institute about women’s labor in Turkey and Indonesia until 1981, when she retired from international labor union work and focused on the American women’s labor movement. Springer-Kemp died in 2005, having lived a full life dedicated to labor activism. You can read more about her life here.

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