What happened to the women and girls who worked for Thomas Edison?
February 19, 2014 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Are there any journals in existence that were kept by women or girls who worked for Thomas Edison in the 1880s/1890s? More inside.

I'm looking for first-person accounts written by women and girls who worked for Edison. He employed hundreds of women, especially to make his talking dolls. But the NJ Historical Society doesn't seem to yield much in this regard, nor does Rutgers. Or am I looking in the wrong place? Where might I find some Victorian-era women's, or girls', journals from New Jersey? Surely at least ONE woman would have recounted her experience working for him, or voicing recordings for him.

Any leads appreciated.
posted by Miss T.Horn to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Most of the families who lived in the neighborhoods surrounding Edison's factory were employed there. And a great many of the families still live there - those are old family neighborhoods that have been well-established for generations, where multiple generations of all those families know each other. Working at Edison's factory is something that is still in living memory for many of those families, as the elderly people remember their parents worked there. I'd start there, in those neighborhoods. Start talking to the local historical societies there; if you are local, visit some of the churches and senior organizations. You'll find dozens of people with stories; I think you should definitely be able to find diaries that way.
posted by cairdeas at 3:51 PM on February 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, Edison's home near the factory is, or recently was, a museum in its own right. You might get some good leads for the administrators there.
posted by cairdeas at 3:52 PM on February 19, 2014

I just checked about the museum. Apparently the factory itself is also a museum, and from the website:
The sheer size of the holdings is daunting: the history collection is currently estimated to number over 300,000 items, while the archives contain approximately five million documents.
Just in case you haven't tried the museum's own archives yet...
posted by cairdeas at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2014

Great museum in its own right, too.
posted by spbmp at 7:29 PM on February 19, 2014

Henry Ford duplicated-slash-absconded-with the Menlo Park complex for his museum, so maybe they'd have some leads too.
posted by XMLicious at 8:23 PM on February 19, 2014

I actually grew up in West Orange in one of the neighborhoods that cairdeas is talking about and I live there as an adult. I live on top of what was originally Edison's dump. There is a lot of verbal history in the area about Edison and the factory employees and while I have never gone looking for any written history I would be happy to tell you the stories I heard as a kid.
posted by crankylex at 6:14 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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