ABSTRACT

As part of the larger consumer culture that increasingly shaped work and leisure, commercial beauty culture has played a vital role in fostering sociability among working women. Historians have explored the role consumerism played in defining the work culture of a wide range of women, from department store sales clerks and factory workers, to waitresses and telephone operators. In the early twentieth century, participation in consumer culture did not necessarily preclude radicalism. In many cases, a shared interest in fashion, cosmetics, and hairstyles and in new commercial leisure activities led working-class women to form bonds that helped them to survive the often difficult and tedious conditions of their jobs, to unionize, and to strike. In the first decade of the century, striking shirtwaist workers used clothing to fashion oppositional political identities.