On this day in Labor History the year was 1854.
That was the day that Mary McDowell, known as the Angel of the Chicago stockyards was born.
Mary’s father brought the family to Chicago from Cincinnati after the Civil War.
Her family was friends with US President Rutherford B Hayes, and as a young woman she spent a month in the White House as a guest.
Mary received her college degree and worked as a teacher for a wealthy family in New York.
But living and working among the wealthy was not be the course of her life.
She returned to Chicago and became a kindergarten teacher at the famed Hull House.
Then she became the head of the University of Chicago Settlement House in the back of the yards.
The settlement house served the diverse neighborhoods around the Chicago Stockyards.
The community center included a library, play lots, gymnasiums and classrooms.
Mary and her settlement house supported the rights of workers to form unions and to have safe working conditions.
In 1903, Mary became the head of Illinois chapter of the National Women’s Trade Union League.
The Pittsburgh Press reported on an incident that captured the spirit of Mary McDowell.
The city of Chicago had a practice of using garbage to fill holes in the streets surrounding the stockyards.
Mary showed up at the Mayor’s office with a group of women from the neighborhood and demanded, “All right, we want the rest of it dumped on Lake Shore drive.
It it’s good enough for the stockyards it’s good for the drive, too.”
The city stopped using garbage for street repairs.