Household Workers Unite! A Conversation between Scholars and Activists

Photo by Bernie Noble. Courtesy of Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State UniversityPhoto by Bernie Noble. Courtesy of Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University

This panel brings together scholars and activists to discuss the historical and contemporary significance of domestic worker organizing.

Historian Premilla Nadasen, the author of Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement (Beacon, 2015), will be joined by leaders of three of the organizations whose work led to the passage of the pioneering Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2014: Monique Nguyen of MataHari; Lydia Edwards of the Massachusetts Coalition of Domestic Workers; and Natalicia Tracy of the Brazilian Worker Center.  The discussion will be moderated by Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana.

The panelists will consider transformations in the occupation of household labor including the shift from a largely African American to immigrant workforce, the different historical contexts for domestic worker organizing, as well as lessons that current organizers and advocates can learn from earlier periods of activism.


Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College and Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Harvard Business School


Lydia Edwards, Massachusetts Coalition of Domestic Workers

Premilla Nadasen, Department of History, Barnard College

Monique Nguyen, MataHari

Natalicia Tracy, Brazilian Worker Center 

Historian Premilla Nadasen used collections at the Schlesinger Library for her book, and in an essay for Radcliffe Magazine, she writes

My goal with this book was to present the perspective of women, especially poor and working-class women of color, who are often invisible in public discourse. I was eager to piece together not just the stories told about domestic workers but also the stories that domestic workers told—and to analyze what those stories reveal about how these relatively disempowered women understood their labor and history.

The full article is online.