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Women’s Auxiliary and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Who were the women who helped the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters organize for social and political change?
Ladies Auxiliary, Toronto Pullman Division, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1940.
Ladies Auxiliary, Toronto Pullman Division, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1940.

The Women’s Auxiliary was primarily made up of the wives and significant others of the porters. These women were the backbone to the porters’ activism across Canada. Among their jobs was to maintain the administrative books, set the agendas for meetings of the porters, and to cater to out-of-town officials in the union movement.

The Women’s Auxiliary was indispensable to the work of the sleeping car porters. They were the main organizers when porters were working away from their communities. They helped run the recruitment drives and organized the business meetings for the local chapter of the BSCP. They planned the annual picnics and community dances and hosted visiting BSCP officials who could not find lodging in segregated hotels in their homes. 

The Women’s Auxiliary participated fully at the BSCP conventions for delegates from across North America and helped to establish the priorities for the union. Joining with their counterparts in the United States, the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary lobbied governments for child labour laws, an eight-hour work day, equal pay for women, worker’s compensation and improved social housing.

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