University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Domestic Workers Building Dignity and Power, Past and Present

Domestic workers are organizing on a massive scale to build economies that respect the labor of women of color. This panel of organizers and historians will discuss the goals and challenges facing the domestic workers’ movement. Panelists will explore how the rich history of domestic worker organizing can inform present-day struggles for dignity and respect, and inform the creation of alternative feminist economies that respect the labor of women of color.


Thursday, November 1, 2018 -
5:30pm to 7:00pm
Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall
Free and open to the public

Linda Burnham, Senior Advisor at the National Domestic Workers Alliance has worked for decades as an activist, writer and strategist, focused on women’s rights and racial justice. She co-founded the Women of Color Resource Center, where she served as Executive Director for 18 years. Burnham has published numerous articles on African-American women, African-American politics, and feminist theory in a wide range of periodicals and anthologies. She edited and contributed to the anthology, Changing the Race: Racial Politics and the Election of Barack Obama. Her article, “No Plans to Abandon Our Freedom Dreams” was widely circulated online in the wake of the 2016 election. Her recently completed research, Living in the Shadows: Latina Domestic Workers in the Texas-Mexico Border Region, coauthored with Lisa Moore, was published in 2018 and she is currently working on a book about domestic worker organizing. Burnham’s writing and organizing are part of a lifelong inquiry into the dynamic, often perilous intersections of race, class and gender.

Jennifer Guglielmo is an associate professor of history at Smith College who has published on a range of topics, including working-class feminisms, anarchism, whiteness and the Italian diaspora. Her book, Living the Revolution: Italian Women's Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) received several national awards, including the Saloutos Award for best book in U.S. immigration history and the Marraro Book Prize from the American Historical Association and Society for Italian Historical Studies. For the last three years, she and Prof. Michelle Joffroy (Smith College) have worked closely with the Matahari Women Workers’ Center in Boston to assist their use of history as an organizing tool. In 2017, they secured a grant of over $1 million to expand this work into a two-year popular education initiative with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Monique Tú Nguyen, Executive Director of the Matahari Women Workers’ Center.

Diana Sierra Becerra (moderator) is a historian, popular educator, and organizer. Her book manuscript, tentatively titled Insurgent Butterflies: Gender and Revolution in El Salvador, documents the feminist praxis that working-class and peasant women developed within labor and armed movements during the late 20th century. As a postdoctoral fellow, she is developing the project Putting History in Domestic Workers’ Hands, a popular education initiative to empower and mobilize domestic workers on a massive scale. The project is a collaboration between Smith College academics and organizers from the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Sierra Becerra is also an organizer at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, an organization that builds the collective power of immigrants and workers.