• Identification00064461
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Agnes Nestor papers, ca. 1880-1948, bulk 1896-1954
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationNestor, Agnes American Federation of Labor Cooperative Glove Association of Chicago International Glove Workers Union of America National Women's Trade Union League of America Women's Trade Union League of Chicago
  • Date
    • 1880-1954
    • 1896-1954
  • Physical Description4 linear ft. (8 boxes), and 1 oversize folder
  • Location
    • MSS Lot N
    • MSS Oversize N
    • MSS Micro N

All rights owned by the donor, including copyright, were deeded to Chicago History Museum. Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Gift of the estate of Mary Nestor (accession #: M1958.0123).

Agnes Nestor papers (Chicago History Museum) plus detailed a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder/call number of a specific item.

Correspondence, reports, pamphlets, clippings, passports, etc., arranged chronologically, and manuscript autobiography of Agnes Nestor, primarily relating to her career as a labor union leader in Chicago and official of the International Glove Workers Union of America, plus some items on her personal life. Topics include the status of women in the labor market, ca. 1900-1940; the eight-hour workday movement in Illinois; women's suffrage movement in Illinois; Nestor's participation in labor organizations on the national, state, and local levels and in federal, state, and local governmental commissions and agencies concerned with employment of women, employment services, and problems of unemployment, ca. 1906-1943; travels to Europe on missions sponsored by organized labor during World War I, particularly the American Labor Mission to Europe, 1918; her campaign for state senator in 1928 (includes lists of registered Democratic voters); her support for the 1923 mayoral campaign of William E. Dever, the 1939 mayoral reelection campaign of Edward J. Kelly, and the 1932 Presidential campaign of Franklin Roosevelt; and service on the board of trustees of the Century of Progress International Exposition.

Agnes Nestor was a leader in the labor movement for women in the early 20th century. She was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the daughter of Thomas and Anna McEwen Nestor. She had one sister, Mary, and two brothers, Owen and Arthur. In 1897 the family moved to Chicago, where Agnes began her career as a labor leader.

Throughout her life Agnes Nestor was a leader in efforts to improve working conditions for women. To this end she took part in numerous federal, state, and local labor organizations. She began as a laborer herself, taking a job (at age 17) in the Eisendrath Glove Co. In 1902 she joined the Glove Workers Union and became active in organization work. From 1906-1913 she served as secretary-treasurer of the International Glove Workers Union and in 1913 was made general president of this union. She resigned the latter position in 1915 in order to devote all her time to the war effort during World War I, but she retained the title of vice-president and in the 1930s and 1940s was very active in her union as Director of Research and Education.

Agnes Nestor was involved in many activities aimed at winning passage of laws to improve the circumstances of working women. In 1909 she supported legislation known as the Women's Ten Hour Law and in 1911 was instrumental in amending this law to include all occupations. She was a member of the National Women's Trade Union League and in 1913 was elected president of the Women's Trade Union League of Chicago. From 1917 she worked to secure the Eight Hour Law in Illinois, going to Springfield (Ill.) repeatedly for that purpose, until the bill was passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1937. In 1928 she became a Democratic candidate for state representative from the 6th state senatorial district in order to further labor legislation. However, she was defeated at the primary election in April of that year.

During World War I, Agnes Nestor served on several committees under the Council of National Defense in connection with work concerning the safeguarding of standards for working women--including membership on the Woman's Committee of this council, and chairmanship of the Department of Women in Industry Division. In 1918 she was appointed to represent women on the Advisory Council to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, organized to develop the war emergency labor program. Also in 1918 she was named by Samuel Gompers (president of the American Federation of Labor) to be a member of the labor mission to Great Britain and France to study labor conditions there. By appointment of Governor Lowden of Illinois, Miss Nestor served on the Illinois Industrial Survey Commission (1918) to study the effects of long working hours on the health of working women.

For many years Nestor served without compensation on the advisory board of the Illinois Free Employment Service. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, she was active in relief work, becoming a member of the Illinois Governor's Commission on Unemployment and Relief, the Joint Emergency Relief Fund of Cook County, and other relief committees growing out of the Governor's Commission. She served also on the Federal Council to the U.S. Employment Service (appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor), the State Advisory Council to the Employment Service, and the Local Advisory Committee of the Division of Unemployment Compensation and Employment Service for the Chicago Metropolitan Area. During World War II she was a member of the Post-war Planning Commission of the A. F. of L. and the War Finance Committee of Illinois.

In Chicago she served as a member of the Chicago Housing Commission, Recreation Commission, and the Advisory Committee of the Planning Commission. She served also as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933-1934.

In the field of vocational education, Agnes Nestor was a member of the commission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson (1914) to consider federal aid for vocational education. The work of this commission resulted in the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. In 1922-23 she acted as assistant director of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers. She was also a member of the executive board of the American Association for Adult Education.

The complete microfilm set named: "Papers of the Women's Trade Union League and its principal leaders" is available to researchers at the Research Center, Chicago History Museum. It includes most of the Nestor papers and other manuscript collections and publications of the National Women's Trade Union League. The Chicago History Museum, Research Center, also holds 3 folders of WTUL records in the Victor Olander papers, which were not microfilmed for the WTUL publication.

  • Subject
    • Clothing trade--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Clothing workers--Labor unions--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Eight-hour movement--Illinois--20th century
    • Labor bureaus--Illinois--20th century
    • Labor unions--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Unemployed--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Women clothing workers--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Women--Suffrage--Illinois-20thy century
    • Women--Political activity--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Women in politics--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • Women labor leaders--Illinois--20th century
    • Working class--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • World War, 1914-1918--Women
    • Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-1934: Chicago, Ill.)
  • Names
    • Nestor, Agnes, 1880-1948--Archives
    • Addams, Jane--1860-1935
    • Dever, William E. (William Emmett)--1862-1929
    • Dewey, John--1859-1952--(1932 Sept 29)
    • Douglas, Paul Howard--1892-1952
    • Emmerson, Louis L. (Louis Lincoln)--1863-1941--(1929 Aug 9)
    • Ford, Henry--(telegram 1915 Nov 26, 1915 Nov 27)
    • Gompers, Samuel--1850-1924
    • Horner, Henry--1878-1940--(1932 Nov 16, 1938 Jan 15)
    • Ickes, Harold L. (Harold LeClair)--1874-1952
    • Kelly, Edward J. (Edward Joseph)--1876-1950
    • McDowell, Mary E.--1854-1936
    • Perkins, Frances--1880-1965
    • Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano)--1882-1945--(1932 Oct 29, Dec 2)
    • Stelle, John H.--1891-1962--(1940 Dec. 19)
    • Wilson, Woodrow--1856-1924
    • Young, Ella Flagg--1845-1918
    • American Labor Mission to Europe, 1918
    • American Federation of Labor
    • Cooperative Glove Association of Chicago
    • Democratic Party (Chicago, Ill.)
    • International Glove Workers Union of America
    • National Women's Trade Union League of America
    • Women's Trade Union League of Chicago
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Economic conditions--20th century
    • Chicago (ill.)--Social conditions--20th century

The collection is arranged in three series.

Series 1: Correspondence and Notes, 1900-1949 (box 1-5)

Keepsakes in this series are labelled “Correspondence, notes, etc.” They involve correspondence of contract changes between Eisendrath Glove Co. and the uinion, as well as correspondence, reports, and documentation of Nestor’s involvement with the Women’s Committee, Council of Nation Defense and her labor mission to England.

Correspondents include Jane Addams, Paul H. Douglas, Samuel Gompers, Harold L. Ickes, Mary E. McDowell, and Frances L. Perkins; officials of the WTUL, the glove workers union, the Cooperative Glove Association of Chicago, Chicago Federation of Labor, and American Federation of Labor. Other notable correspondents include Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Ford, John Dewey, Martin P. Durkin (Director of Labor), Louis L. Emmerson (Gov. of Ill.), Samuel Gompers (Pres. A.F. of L.), Will. H. Green (Pres. A.F. of L), Henry Horner (Gov. of Ill.), Harold L. Ickes (Secretary of Interior), John Stelle (Gov. of Ill.), and Ella Flagg Young (Supt. Chicago Public Schools).

List of letters from prominent people in the series:

Box 1: Jane Addams, Mary E. McDowell, Woodrow Wilson, and Ella Flagg Young (Supt.., Chicago Pub. Schools).

Box 2: Henry Ford and Samuel Gompers (Pres. of A.F. of L.).

Box 3: Jane Addams, John Dewey, Paul H. Douglas, Martin P. Durkin (Dir. of Labor), Louis L. Emmerson, William H. Green (Pres. of A. F. of L.), Henry Horner (Gov. of Ill.), Harold L. Ickes (Secretary of Interior), Mary E. McDowell, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Box 4: William H. Green (Pres. of A. F. of L.), Henry Horner (Gov. of Ill.), Frances L. Perkins (Secretary of Labor), and John Stelle (Gov. of Ill.).

Box 5: William H. Green (Pres. of A. F. of L.) and Frances L. Perkins (Secretary of Labor).

Series 2: Grassroots & Politics, 1921-1947 (box 5-7)

Collection also includes printed reports of conferences, conventions, meetings of labor organizations, etc. that Nestor attended, often with her annotations. This section ultimately demonstrates Nestor’s involvement in grassroots organizations and politics. Records from the Cooperative Glove Association and elections data are in this series.

Series 3: Biographical & Family Materials, 1918-1954 (box 7-8, one oversize folder)

Nestor’s manuscript autobiography is centered on her career as a labor union leader throughout Chicago. This series also contains sympathy messages sent to Nestor’s family regarding Nestor’s death, and membership cards, passports, letters regarding the publication of her autobiography, and other miscellaneous family mementos. There is also an original certificate from the Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson appointing Agnes Nestor a member of the Advisory Council to the Secretary of Labor on Conciliation from January 16, 1918 that is stored in the oversized collections separate from the rest of Agnes Nestor’s main collection.