The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

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Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

Founded in 1898 by Florence Kelley as a conglomerate organization uniting local consumer leagues from New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, the National Consumers' League worked to promote decent working conditions by encouraging the sale of items produced under a loose set of regulatory guidelines. Although the movement had originated in England, it quickly took root in the United States where the league implemented a system of inspecting goods and labeling them with white tags if approved. To accomplish this task, the league inspected production sites of all varieties including factories and apartment houses, and sought to educate consumers about the negative effects of subsidizing sweatshop labor. Many responded by refusing to purchase any product that did not carry the white label, providing an economic incentive for producers to reform their employment practices. Eventually, much of the league's legislative agenda – including a minimum wage and the abolition of child labor – were enacted, forcing producers to reform anyway.

Eleanor Roosevelt became a lifelong supporter of the National Consumers' League. She joined the organization in 1903 and threw herself into working for the White Label campaign, an undertaking that exposed her to the extreme poverty and unsafe working conditions of the cities' impoverished working class. Moved by their plight, ER deepened her involvement with the organization and learned firsthand how to cultivate grassroots support for reform initiatives. The league recognized her talents and elected her vice-president, a position she held before and after her years as first lady. In May 14, 1959, ER presented the league's testimony in support of increasing the minimum wage before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor and Public Welfare.
 


Sources:

Beasley, Maurine H., Holly C. Shulman and Henry R. Beasley, eds. The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001, 363-365.

Lash, Joseph. Eleanor and Franklin. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1971, 99-100.

Woloch, Nancy. Women and the American Experience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, 301.