Senator Farley Highlights March 8th As International Women’s Day By Saluting Amsterdam Labor Organizer Leonora Barry

Hugh T. Farley

March 26, 2009

State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C - Schenectady) reminds constituents that not only is March known as Women's History Month, but March 8th is International Women's Day.

"International Women's Day is designed to be a day to celebrate 'ordinary women as makers of history, and Leonora Barry (1849-1930) certainly fits that bill," said Senator Farley. She was a widowed mother living in Amsterdam who went to work in a factory to support her family. Not only did she succeed as a mother, she was instrumental in the Knights of Labor union and helped lay the foundation of support and equal rights for women."

According to the St. Lawrence County branch of the American Association of University Women, Ms. Barry was the first female labor organizer in American history. After the death of her husband in 1880, she found herself with three children to support. She began working for an Amsterdam clothing factory. In 1884, Ms. Barry joined the Knights of Labor, a national organization which welcomed women, blacks, employers and industrial workers alike. The union's goals were to abolish child and convict labor, require equal pay for equal work, and establish an eight-hour work day. During her involvement with the Knights of Labor, Ms. Barry worked to improve the working conditions and wages of women and children. She traveled across the country to educate female workers and inspire them to form and join labor unions.

A historical marker is located near the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam and it highlights Ms. Barry's work. "My Amsterdam District Office is located in the Riverfront Center and I encourage those who visit that office to take a few minutes to view this marker located outside of the building," Senator Farley said. "I also have a booklet that highlights the accomplishments of women in New York State history, including our Leonora Barry."

To obtain free copies of Senator Farley's historical Women of Distinction booklet, call his offices at 455-2181 (Albany), 843-2188 (Amsterdam), 762-3733 (Johnstown) or toll-free at (800)224-5201. This information can also be viewed online at Click on the link "Great Women of New York State."