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Alice Henry (1857–1943)

Alice Henry was a feminist journalist and union activist involved in the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL). Born in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, to Scottish immigrant parents, she attended Swedenborgian church, completed a high-school education, and taught briefly. In the mid-1880s, Henry became a feature reporter for the Melbourne Argus and its magazine, the Australian, where she worked for nearly 20 years. She also lectured on various reform topics such as women's rights, prohibition, and labor. In the 1890s, she became involved with Australian politics, and toward the end of the decade became an anti-imperialist in reaction to the Boer War. In 1905 she represented the Melbourne Charities Organization at a conference in Britain and used that opportunity to leave Australia. Unable to find work in England, she came to the United States, arriving in January 1906.

Henry soon fell in with a group of feminists and reformers and became the office secretary of the Chicago branch of the Women's Trade Union League. She was an active participant in the Progressive movement of the early 1900s, whose politics blended Marxism and Unitarian humanitarianism. She added a unique dimension to the Progressive labor movement by encouraging an understanding of the British and Australian reform movements.

In 1908, she began to edit the women's section of the Chicago Union Labor Advocate, and in January 1911 became the founding editor of the WTUL's monthly Life and Labor, where she remained as editor (working with Stella Miles Franklin, who later became one of Australia's leading novelists) until 1915. She served in a variety of ways and positions at WTUL including investigating the conditions of woman brewery workers (1910), author of The Trade Union Woman (1915), field organizer (1918–1920), and director of the education department (1920–1922), and published an update of the 1915 book Women and the Labor Movement in 1923.

She returned to Britain for a lecture and investigation tour in 1924 when she was 67, and retired to Santa Barbara, California, in 1928. She returned to Melbourne in 1933 and died there ten years later.

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Other Resources

  • Alice Henry, OCP Immigration to the US collection. Provides links to more of Alice Henry's publications.