UAW Women’s History Month Spotlight: Caroline Davis

March is Women’s History Month. From the sit-down strikes of 1936-37 through the war years of Rosie the Riveter, from the postwar fight for jobs to today’s campaigns for pay equity and safe workplaces, women have played a key role in UAW history. Side by side, women and men are building a stronger union every day. We salute UAW women everywhere. Here’s the story of one noteworthy UAW woman:

Caroline Davis

Circa 1950s from the Reuther Photo Archives at Wayne State

Caroline Davis was president of Local 764 in Indiana, and the second director of the Women’s Department from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

The Women’s Department was formally established at the UAW’s 15th Constitutional Convention in 1955. The Women’s Department addressed the specific problems that women faced in the workplace: equal pay, ending discrimination in hiring, promotion and training of women, as well as equal seniority protection. Through conferences, legislation, education, women’s auxiliaries and committees, the UAW Women’s Department sought to improve working conditions for women.

As head of the Women’s Department, Caroline Davis testified before Congress in favor of the Equal Pay Act. In her testimony, she called unequal pay “immoral” and rebutted EPA’s critics who claimed that women were more expensive to employ than men. President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, marking the entrance of the federal government into the field of safeguarding the right of women to hold employment on the same basis as men. She also sought to eliminate the separate male and female seniority lists, which led to either men getting all the highest-paying jobs or women losing their jobs to men who had less seniority.

Read more about the women who helped build a strong UAW in the March-April edition of Solidarity Magazine.