Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Rosner

Committee Members

Irwin Yellowitz

David Nasaw

Alan Brinkley

Subject Categories

Labor History | United States History


working class, Connecticut, Bridgeport, labor unions


Recent social history stresses the autonomy of workers, especially the ways that immigrant families made "lives of their own." However, little attention is focused on the particular experiences of the second generation and the ways they forged their own group identity. This study, by locating the emergence of this generation, highlights an important demographic change within the working class.

Familiar developments of the 1930s take on new meaning. For example, the pivotal role of the second generation in the rise of the CIO helps to recast the early history of industrial unionism. The resurgence of the labor movement parallels the emergence of this new group as adult workers and inside the unions both skilled and nonskilled young workers shared leadership positions.

A second-generation perspective also offers a new window on the culture of the thirties. This working-class group moved in a variety of cultural worlds, but it is well to reconsider the notion that they experienced severe culture conflict. Moreover, their understanding of an American Way of Life in many respects was shaped by their daily experience of cultural heterogeneity. In Bridgeport and New Britain, this cultural heterogeneity is explored in public schools and trade schools, on sports teams, in chain stores, at the movies, inside the CIO and in working-class neighborhoods that often resembled a cooperative "League of Nations," rather than an insular ethnic enclave. A new view of pluralism is advanced, recognizing pluralism among workers as an aid to class mobilization, not as an ideology in opposition to class awareness.

But second-generation autonomy was double-edged from the perspective of working-class development. A generational crevasse underlay the new worker unity.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.