The idea that “what happened to me” is important

I Am a Woman WorkerIntroduction to I Am A Woman Worker (1936)

The stories told here form an important item in the raw material of workers’ education. Economists tell us that they are not economics: they contain for the most part neither statistics nor generalizations from the statistics. In the ideas of old fashioned English teachers, some of the accounts are perhaps not English—at least as it is taught in old fashioned schools—though to a prejudiced view the English in these stories is infinitely preferable.

These stories have been basically inspired by economics teachers as a part of the workers’ education way of learning economics. Whatever English teachers have done to help to inspire them has been effected chiefly by playing ball with the workers’ education process. The stories tell from the point of view of the workers themselves “what happened to me.” The writing created and vivified for them usually for the first time in their lives the idea that “what happened to me” is important. It is interesting to others; it is a part of history.

It has been my privilege, as one of the English teachers associated with one of the economists in this program, to have had a part in helping to fan this flame of enthusiasm and to increase the confidence of some of the authors of these stories in the significance of their experiences and the worth whileness of telling them. These are accounts that teachers, literati, comfortable white collar people, can never tell. To me they are well told here. Moreover, the telling of them did most significantly fulfill an important educational function. The groups of fine, experienced women, in which the stories were told and shared, learned how to use the exciting “wake each other up” technique.

After all, it is this “wake each other up” experience, and the vital learning that follows it, that is the high point in the lives of all those teachers and students who love education.

William Mann Fincke
Director, The Manumit School

Andria Taylor Hourwich and Gladys L. Palmer, eds., I Am A Woman Worker: A Scrapbook of Autobiographies (New York: Affiliated Schools for Workers, Inc., 1936), p. 1.

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