In the Arabic-speaking mahjar (diaspora), the plight of the working poor was the focus of women’s philanthropy. Scholarship on welfare relief in the interwar Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian diaspora currently situates it within a gendered politics of benevolence. This article reconsiders that frame and argues for a class-centered reassessment of “ladies aid” politics exploring the intersections of women’s relief with proletarian mutual aid strategies. Founded in 1917, the Syrian Ladies Aid Society (SLAS) of Boston provided food, shelter, education, and employment to Syrian workers. SLAS volunteers understood their efforts as mitigating the precarities imposed on Syrian workers by the global capitalist labor system. Theirs was both a women’s organization and a proletarian movement led by Syrian women. Drawing from SLAS records and the Syrian American press, the article centers Syrian American women within processes of working-class formation and concludes that labor history of the interwar mahjar requires focus on spaces of social reproduction beyond the factory floor.

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