Local author details union battle of Michigan seamstresses

Phyllis Michael Wong’s “We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” has recently been released through Michigan State University Press. Ella Wong and her husband, Les, recently moved to the Worcester area.

The Gossard Girls were women who sewed women’s undergarments at Michigan factories from the early 1920s into the 1970s for the HW Gossard factory. As area mines folded, the women became the breadwinners for their families; they sought to unionize with a successful four-month strike in the ’40s.

“We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula”

Through interviews with women from those families, Wong paints a portraits of the first- and second-generation immigrants who built a life in that area.

In a review, Framroze M. Virjee, president of California State University, Fullerton, wrote: “Relentlessly researched, beautifully written and chock-full of intimate life stories from some of America’s most impactful glass ceiling breakers.”

Wong has worked as a historian, educator and a three-decade-long member of the university academic world. She was the first lady at Northern Michigan University and San Francisco State University for several years, retiring in this area about two years ago and completing the book during COVID.

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