Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MA in Women's History


Women’s History Graduate Program


This thesis examines the process of forming strategic activist alliances, and the complications of maintaining them, by looking at the life of Leonora O’Reilly, a progressive era labor organizer and suffragist. It traces the development of O’Reilly’s understanding of the need for alliances, which began with her early years as a young factory worker coming of age in the midst of the New York City labor movement in late nineteenth-century. The thesis then follows O’Reilly into adulthood, as she turned her attention to the American woman suffrage movement and was met with the task of finding new allies while maintaining her commitment to bettering conditions for working women. It explores in depth her relationships to three individuals in particular: her mother Winifred O’Reilly, Harriot Stanton Blatch, and Rose Schneiderman. Analyzing these relationships highlights the various accomplishments and shortcomings that came with the decision to work across class lines with middle-class women. At the same time, this method also displays both the agency and challenges Leonora O’Reilly and her fellow working women experienced when they chose to instead work amongst themselves, in spite of varying generational and ethnic identities.