Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Agnes Nestor and the WTUL
Agnes Nestor and the WTUL

Agnes Nestor and the WTUL

Agnes Nestor was a founder and officer of the International Glove Workers Union of America (IGWU) and president of the Chicago Women's Trade Union League (WTUL). Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nestor moved to Chicago in 1897 and worked as a glovemaker. She led women in a successful strike by Chicago glovemakers in 1901. This strike spurred the formation of the IGWU, which secured higher wages and better conditions for workers in Chicago and the nation. Nestor was president of the IGWU from 1913 to 1916 and vice president from 1916 to 1939.

Nestor also organized overworked and underpaid women workers in Illinois through the Chicago WTUL, which she headed from 1913 to 1948. Her most important achievement, however, was the 1909 state law limiting work for women to 10 hours per day. She led the successful lobbying effort against fierce opposition from Illinois businessmen. Nestor also believed that workers needed education to counteract their mind-numbing labor, and she developed programs of courses through the WTUL and the Chicago Federation of Labor. She served on many government advisory boards and helped to craft the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, which provided the first federal aid for vocational education.