This dissertation examines a the work of an Education Department developed by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) of New York City in 1915. This program provided educational opportunities to mostly immigrant garment workers, including courses in English, public speaking, psychology, American government, history and labor policy. Following Graff (1987), Brereton (1995), Brandt (2001), Prendergrast (2008) and Enoch (2008), this dissertation examines archival materials to analyze how the organization framed literacy and taught the English language to its worker-students. Much of the analysis examines how, what Brandt calls, "sponsors of literacy," framed literacy in the program. This dissertation pays close attention to how particular rhetorical exigencies to the Union influenced the instructional outcomes of the literacy program. This research examines how sponsors of literacy influenced the literacy curriculum, how literacy became defined by wider rhetorical concerns of labor and social movements of the early 20th century, and how student literacy needs were instantiated in the program. I find that the rhetorical interests of the sponsors of literacy are manifest through the emphasis of the program on public speaking and service to the Union, which marginalized everyday literacy resources and writing skillsets. Finally, this study establishes a framework for examining the rhetorical functions of other educational programs, and argues that teaching literacy, as broadly or narrowly defined as the term may be, is also a rhetorical act as it trains learners to respond to particular rhetorical exigencies.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.
May 2013. Major: Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Thomas J. Reynolds. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 242 pages.
Bartolotta, Joseph Patrick.
Laboring literacy: rhetoric, language, and sponsors of literacy in workers' education in the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, 1914-1939.
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