Building careers in skilled trades and gaining leadership positions in labor unions involved many obstacles for women. After breaking into the male-dominated printing trade and becoming a leader in the Chicago Typographical union, Mollie West used her personal success to pave the way for more women to become leaders in labor unions and beyond.

Click on an image to see a story in this chapter.


Print shop 1
Women in Trades


Men and labor unions often set barriers to keep women out of skilled labor, but women like Mollie found ways to learn skills and open doors for other women.





ITU 118th Convention 1976 002
Women in Union Leadership



Once admitted into labor unions, women needed perseverance to show their ability to be leaders. Mollie broke tradition and proved women should participate at all levels of the union.




West-CLUW photo
The Coalition of Labor Union Women


In the 1970s, Mollie joined other charter members in creating an organization that bridged the labor movement and the women’s movement.







Mollie West Graduation 1978
Nontraditional Education



Late in life, Mollie took advantage of new opportunities in higher education available to working women and men.






Retirement party 1987 cropped
Retirement and Age Discrimination


After dedicating so many years to her career, Mollie struggled when she was forced to retire because of her age.








Mollie West women's hall of fame 1990
Labor History and Community Involvement


Along with serving her community and supporting the rights of women, Mollie spent her retirement sharing the history of the labor movement.





Header image: Mollie West making a speech