Abstract

In the years immediately following World War II, cities and townships across the United States implemented public safety programs to oversee road crossing for children outside schools. The crossing guards assigned to coordinate safe passage at busy intersections were primarily women and, as part‐time workers, were a distinct sector of an expanding public sector workforce. This article highlights the origins of these public safety initiatives and how crossing guards formed associations in the 1950s and 1960s to secure economic improvements. These independent organizations articulated an important variant of labor feminism in the early postwar era, and attention to the agendas put forward by these women opens new insight into this aspect of working‐class activism. Into the 1970s, many guard associations merged with AFL‐CIO unions, especially the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), becoming a catalyst for a range of programs that prioritized the needs of working women in collective bargaining agreements. The article concludes with an overview of the issues crossing guards and their organizations face in an age of increasing austerity in the new century.

Soon after daybreak on a morning in November 1965, Muriel Augustine, a crossing guard in Chicago's Near North Side neighborhood, walked to the intersection of Orchard and Diversey to await the arrival of several hundred schoolchildren. A forty-nine-year-old grandmother who had been on the patrol for three years, Augustine was one of the 1,396 women who monitored school crossings around the city, a municipal program under the direction of the Chicago Police Department. “I know my children and there certainly are gobs of them,” she noted. “Sometimes, they seem to crawl out of the cracks of the sidewalk.”1 From the early 1950s, when the first wave of Baby Boomer children entered primary grades, crossing supervision programs were implemented in cities across the United States; the women at these corners lauded by parents, civic groups, and school administrators for having saved countless lives.

By the early 1960s, school crossing guards like Muriel Augustine were urban icons, featured in newspaper and magazine articles that highlighted their daily routines, the challenges they faced, and reasons for taking the job. Accounts of these “patrol mothers” were celebratory, lauding their presence on the corners as a commonsense response to a growing child safety problem. Replacing the police officers who had previously supervised the curbs, these part-time women saved taxpayers millions of dollars while allowing male officers to attend to other responsibilities. For many, the successes of the initiatives were rooted in the fact that by hiring women, city administrators acknowledged gender roles in the public service, as women's maternal instincts made them ideal for these posts. While crossing guards from the immediate postwar period often embraced this gendered ideology, they did so on their own terms, pushing back against the implications of this categorization by demanding that they be taken seriously as workers performing vital city services. To press for these concerns, women guards in cities and townships across the nation formed associations that called on police administrators, politicians, and the citizens they served to provide better wages and conditions.

The organizations formed by women crossing guards beginning in the 1950s are an important, though forgotten aspect of American feminism in the last half of the twentieth century. As Kathleen M. Barry has written, union women “fought for women's rights throughout the supposed doldrums of the post-war years, laying the too often unacknowledged groundwork for the women's movement that emerged in the mid-1960s.”2 Women crossing guards were among the most visible agents of labor feminism in the immediate postwar era, their organizations putting forward collective responses that placed the needs of working mothers at their core. Versatile and pragmatic, organized crossing guards achieved many of the goals they set out to accomplish. Beginning in the 1960s, increasing numbers of guard associations merged into existing public sector unions, especially the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Attention to this aspect of the history over several decades allows for an enhanced periodization of how and when traditions of labor feminism were infused into these national unions, with roots a generation earlier than usually assumed.3 Finally, accounting for crossing guards’ organizational and strategic choices into the early twenty-first century reveals the rich ways these women maintained independent identities within municipal work systems, while also affiliating with broader sections of the unionized public sector. As crossing guards’ whistles continue to guide at countless intersections, for those interested in understanding the contours of labor feminism in the late twentieth century and after, the history of guard associations calls us to pay attention in crucial ways.

Mothers to the Streets: Gender and the Origins of Crossing Guard Programs in the United States

Introduction of female-staffed crossing guard services after 1945 was a unique policy development in accident prevention initiatives at midcentury.4 With the advent of motorized transport in the years just before World War I, municipal officials confronted an unprecedented problem of pedestrian accidents and fatalities that resulted from unregulated traffic congestion. Children were particularly vulnerable in these dangerous new urban environments, and a range of interests, led by local mothers’ groups and the American Automobile Association (AAA), organized educational campaigns for both motorists and children to promote safety awareness. Parents and caretakers—again led by mothers—pressured municipal authorities to implement safety initiatives at dangerous intersections, calling for adults to help children cross the road (see fig. 1). In 1925, the first municipally run adult school crossing guard program was initiated in Cleveland, Ohio, which, despite its success, spread only slowly to other cities in the following two decades.5 Where formal adult crossing efforts were initiated, volunteers and police were often assisted by brigades of older schoolchildren, stationed at the most dangerous corners. Through the interwar period, more often than not, police officers took up this task in big cities and towns across the nation.6

Police supervision of school crossing into the postwar era reinforced social assumptions about the gendered meaning of urban space. Besides the regular police officers who reported to these assignments, early crossing guard volunteers were typically male—retired police officers or legionnaires—their authority at the intersections directly related to masculine identities. A small number were among an initial wave of civilian guards hired in the years just after World War II. In 1948, the Washington Post published a popular interest story on eighty-one-year-old crossing guard Gus Holzer, stressing his prior military service and the fact that he claimed to have never been sick a day in his life as positive components for directing traffic. He “rules the corner with iron hand,” the story hyped.7 The prospect of women guards on street corners jostled middle-class norms of unaccompanied women in public space—a social position that, while weakening, was still widely held. Cultural assumptions about the gender of motor vehicle operators also factored into such perceptions. Although thousands of women across the United States were licensed automobile drivers, their abilities behind the wheel were often disparaged. In automotive club literature, women were rarely targeted as potential members and, if they appeared in brochures at all, were represented as passive, smiling passengers. Negative rejoinders that dismissed the possibility of women guards stressed their inability to gain the respect of most male drivers.8

By the end of the 1940s, such assumptions were under review. Federal initiatives for national traffic standards followed President Harry S. Truman's 1946 Highway Safety conference and subsequent annual meetings, which called for state-level mandates to establish uniform driving standards, more rigorous tests for licenses, and increased training for traffic safety officers. Such measures were backed up with funds for public information campaigns and high school driver education courses.9 Attention to traffic law enforcement further bolstered assignment of police staff around street safety. An unprecedented number of road vehicles in use, coupled with the several million children entering the primary grades after 1950—the majority attending schools within walking distance of their homes—were the primary factors behind the introduction of female staffed school crossing guard programs. Despite initial pushback from police organizations, pilot programs in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Philadelphia were positive, encouraging similar initiatives around the nation. A 1953 survey noted that out of 234 cities with populations over fifty thousand, at least 122 had a female-staffed crossing guard corps, a number that would expand over the coming decade.10

In most municipalities, women crossing patrols were separate civilian units supervised by local police departments. Such initiatives were part of a broader transformation in police personnel policies after World War II, in which more women took positions as civilian police staff—and even as badge-wearing officers. Although initially justified as temporary wartime measures, women's entry into police services marked a turn toward permanent positions: an estimated one thousand female police officers were employed in some 141 cities in 1948.11 As historians Megan Adams and Andrew Darian have noted, this shift drew resistance from police organizations, which defended patrol work as exclusively male. Rather than confront such terms, women crossing guard patrols tended to reinforce these conventional assumptions.12 Advocates of the safety programs emphasized that rather than breaching the traditional gender line in police service, the assignment of all female part-time staff would ultimately maintain these customs. Women were better suited to coordinate road crossing, since their maternal instincts made them alert and sensitive to the needs of the children they would interact with. Indeed, entry to these civilian classifications must not be construed as the first rung up the promotional ladder in police bureaus but must instead be understood as a reinforcement of a compartmentalized gendered sector under male supervision.

In communities across the United States, the average crossing guard was a married mother, often with children enrolled in the school close to the intersections to which they were assigned—a fact that, it was argued, ensured hawkeyed vigilance. Reports from this era emphasized how women guards embodied what were considered essential maternal qualities, deploying an emotional style that set them apart from males (see fig. 2). A 1957 police journal described a popular guard who “called every youngster who crosses at her corner by the first name and some of the small children would run to give her a kiss when they arrived at the crossing.”13 As mothers, women guards were understood as adept at putting children's needs and safety before their own. Such selfless qualities were a critical factor for work that was often dangerous. In 1954, a Los Angeles guard “dashed across the street with outstretched arms” and swept half a dozen children out of the path of an oncoming car, the fender brushing her skirt as she did so. When a reporter was sent to cover the incident, the guard pleaded with him not to use her name, since “any member of the School Guard would have done what I did. It was the normal thing for any mother to do.”14 Similar actions by women guards around the country gained them acknowledgment and certificates of merit from local Kiwanis Clubs, legionnaires groups, and government officials.

Even as pilot programs gained the praise of elected officials and citizens across the country, skeptics remained. Some posited that the sight of women on corners might heighten traffic danger by distracting male drivers. Police administrators dismissed such notions, but all agreed that women's authority at intersections would be bolstered through the wearing of uniforms, an appropriate measure as civilian staff of police departments. Depending on region and time of year, guards usually wore a skirt and matching blazer, transitioning in colder months to a long military-style coat. Most women also donned a service cap. While guards wore these emblemed uniforms with pride, they still asserted individual personalities and insisted on maintaining feminine styles, despite the official garb. This spirit was depicted in artist Richard Sargent's illustration on the cover of the December 3, 1960, Saturday Evening Post, which showed a crossing guard at her post just before the children's arrival, wearing a yellow rain slicker and applying lipstick in a compact mirror she has placed in a police call box.15 Newspaper coverage sometimes highlighted the sex appeal of working guards. In a 1953 Washington Post article titled “Crossing Guard Ends First Day on Traffic Duty without Much Heckling,” a boy from the safety patrol had this to say about the woman he was assigned to assist: “She's got something on the men cops. She's pretty.”16

These gendered depictions were reinforced by claims that curbside jobs facilitated the maintenance of existing family roles. Even before joining the crossing corps, many women volunteered in their children's schools. Both informally or through groups such as the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA), which sponsored musical and dramatic performances, sporting events, and fundraising activities such as annual bazaars and bake sales, guards continued to play an active role in school communities. Florence Dillon, a guard from Cedar Grove, New Jersey, was not unusual. A mother of five and wife to a township police officer, she was busy as a Boy Scout “cub mother,” a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, an adviser for the Catholic Youth Organization, and a member of her parish Rosary Altar Society.17 In some areas, assignment as a crossing guard was dependent on positive recommendations from school officials who vouched for the woman's prior services.18 In Pasadena, Texas, connection to the local PTA and a recommendation from a church pastor attesting to the applicant's “high standard in their neighborhoods” were standard requirements.19 Chicago crossing guard Dorothy Hairsten, a thirty-three-year-old mother of three, was a PTA president and active in several other Hyde Park community groups before taking on her post. Work as a crossing supervisor at the elementary school where her children were enrolled facilitated continued involvement in ways that few other jobs could. “It's worked out real well for me. I can take care of my business at the school after I've finished working on the street,” she noted.20

Emphasis on school voluntarism also underscored social fantasies that women crossing guards could continue maternal household roles. In December 1952, the Philadelphia Bulletin featured an article on new crossing guard, Annabelle V. McLaughlin, a thirty-one-year-old married mother of a nine-year-old daughter. Previously employed as a stenographer with a branch office of the US Air Force, she quit “because her daughter wanted to see more of her.” Yet with unrelenting budget needs, she joined the crossing guard unit, balancing this part-time labor with her tasks in a prioritized domestic sphere. “It's a madhouse in our home in the morning,” she explained. Making breakfast for both her daughter and husband, arranging her daughter's attire, suiting up in her own uniform, and getting to her assigned intersection on time posed challenges. “There's always a zipper stuck at the last minute when I'm trying to find my whistle. And one of us is usually trying to let the dog or cat in.”21 In the end, she services the schoolchildren and is there for her daughter at home—and her husband, who returns from work two hours after she has changed out of her uniform and, presumably, prepared the family's dinner. In such a scenario, it was implied, patrol mothers’ husbands wouldn't even know that their wives had left the house to work at all.

Crossing Guard Associations and Labor Feminism

Although many women found crossing guard responsibilities appealing because they allowed proximity to their own children and involvement in the schools they attended, those who came to the corners did so primarily for economic reasons. In the first years of the crossing guard programs, these women formed associations to increase their take-home pay and to bring attention to their concerns as municipal employees. Articulating a range of shared problems, the new organizations they built gave them a say in how to resolve them, and a sense of shared power. Organized out of the homes of crossing guard leaders, these associations built on preexisting community networks, which at times secured alliances with parents, school administrators, and the broader taxpaying public in drives to improve conditions and gain respect. In these ways, crossing guard associations and the women that formed them articulated a form of labor feminism that placed the important role of working mothers at the fore of public consciousness on the eve of the 1960s.22

Crossing guard associations were but one section of a wave of working-class institutional responses taken up by women in the immediate postwar period. Although many of the “Rosies” who worked in the war plants after 1941 eventually returned to their previous roles as homemakers, higher percentages stayed on in the industrial and service-based workforce. Taking jobs in factories, in health care, education, and retail, women formed a growing section of labor union rank and file. Even the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—long a bastion of masculine truck drivers and warehousemen—had eighty thousand women dues payers among its 1.5 million members in 1960. By 1958, 3.1 million women were members of trade unions in the United States, 18.2 percent of the overall total. Women shaped these unions in important ways, demanding higher pay, access to new classifications, and, eventually, pay equity with their male counterparts. Crossing guards of the 1950s were part of this generation of labor feminist women who protected their status as workers and, by doing so, opened new paths toward gender equality.23

While guards worked from day to day in isolation at their assigned intersections, training exercises coordinated by police supervisors encouraged women to take a metropolitan perspective. Here women overcame neighborhood identities and associated as a specialized, citywide force, comparing notes on topics that ranged from rude drivers, the quality of various male police supervisors, and the children they interacted with. Occupying a distinct position as civilian employees in the police divisions, crossing guards shared a unique perspective on which they built an institutional consciousness. Composed of women from neighborhoods across the urban areas they served, guard associations were interracial in composition and leadership, as revealed in photos from the era. New friendships formed, and guards sought to facilitate such interactions by building an inclusive culture that welcomed new corps members and maintained connections across neighborhood lines. Such impetus was seen in Nashua, New Hampshire, where women guards organized an informal club shortly after the patrol was formed, meeting each Tuesday. “We thought it would be a good way to get acquainted, to meet new guards, and to send birthday and sympathy cards,” Mrs. Albert Caron, the group's president noted. Soon, spring and Christmas dances were organized, along with impromptu gatherings at one another's homes. According to a newspaper story, “So informal is the organization that it does not even have a name.”24

Many early crossing guard clubs formed to meet such needs but soon turned to address economic matters. Like most working-class women of the mid-twentieth century, this first wave of crossing guards had a range of previous employment backgrounds. Media accounts of individual guards note prior experience as secretaries, post office sorters, airline attendants, and waitresses and food service workers, and in health care, retail, and manufacturing. Many jobs in these sectors were unionized in the 1930s and 1940s, and women's memories of how these institutions functioned surely informed the associations they formed. Expansion of police unionization drives in this period also shaped their take of the benefits of mutuality, although in somewhat complicated ways. In the 1950s, police officers across the United States joined national groups like the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and other independent benevolent societies, boosting membership to unprecedented numbers, and into the next decade secured pay boosts and a range of other benefits. Police unions, as a rule, explicitly refused women entry, seeing their very presence in uniform as both a detriment to male economic goals and a threat to the public image of police officers as heroic, masculine protectors.25

Crossing guards occupied a peculiar status within the world of police work in the 1950s, a fact that shaped the kinds of organizations they formed. Like their male counterparts, women police officers—those who carried a badge and had power to arrest—also held crossing guards at arm's length and refused them entry into their organizations. Blocked from male-run professional police societies, women cops established independent associations, and the earliest of these was the International Association of Policewomen, formed in 1915 to gain members recognition and professional respect. In the early years of the Great Depression the organization collapsed, but it was revived in 1956 when women officers, under the leadership of Chicago policewoman Lois Lundell Higgins, formed the International Association for Women Police (IAWP). Like its predecessor, the IAWP advocated for women's entrance into the field; and by “paving the way for patrol,” it served as a clearinghouse for information and standards for police agencies. In its early years, over two hundred women from twenty-five states joined. As mentioned, the IAWP accepted only sworn officers into its ranks, thereby excluding a range of civilian women in police departments such as social workers, matrons, crossing guards, clerical staff, and traffic enforcement officers.26

In the face of restrictions, crossing guards charted their own paths to achieve similar aims. By mid-decade, women in cities such as Chicago; New York City; Hartford, Syracuse, and Buffalo; Davenport, Iowa; Paterson, New Jersey; College Park, Maryland; California's San Fernando Valley; and a wide range of smaller townships and suburbs from coast to coast formed organizations.27 First established in early 1954, the Philadelphia Crossing Guards Association (PCGA) was one of the earliest and largest. Initial stirrings of the group can be noted in a series of letters to the editor of a city paper. After a February 1953 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that more than one hundred crossing guards had resigned because they could not find babysitters for their own children, an anonymous citizen wrote in, proclaiming that women should remain at home to attend to traditional duties. In the week that followed, crossing guards responded. “I am one of the crossing guards, and I have children in school and my housework is still attended to—all on schedule,” one woman insisted. Most guard women did so despite the low pay of just over fifteen dollars a week. “I would like to see our so-called stronger sex do the same job and accept the same wages,” the guard concluded.28

A range of daily challenges, usually unappreciated by the wider public, were outlined in these letters. Often working in harsh weather without the kinds of insurance policies provided to male police officers, women guards were dependable and worthy of better consideration. In another response published not long after the initial letter, a guard with six children of her own, who for overseeing a four-way intersection accessed by some 950 children made but a few dollars a day, stated, “From this I must pay my own medical bills and buy my clothes. We receive only our overseas hat and armband from the city. We receive no pay for any holidays and must be on post in all kinds of weather.” Even with these conditions, most guards intended to stay on the following year. “More power to our school crossing guards,” she concluded, signing the letter in the collective, “School Crossing Guards.”29

These letters indicate the shared economic and status issues that Philadelphia's Crossing Guard Association sought to address. By the end of the 1954 school year, the organization had formed across all police districts, and its president, Lois Townsend, had coordinated members behind a letter-writing campaign to Mayor Joseph S. Clark and city council members. Asking for support for a four-point program calling for paid holidays, compensation for snow and sick days, injury insurance, and an immediate two-dollar-a-day pay boost, guards also demanded that a range of other problems be taken seriously. Due to variations in the schedules of after-school programs, shifts of individual crossing guards at times lasted longer than the standard four hours, although no system for overtime payment existed. Maintenance of uniforms, including regular dry cleaning and eventual replacement, was an out-of-pocket expense that added up. This initial letter campaign got no response, and by the end of the school year the PCGA broadened its efforts, soliciting the support of parents and securing Democratic state senator Charles Weiner of Philadelphia as its legal adviser. Local ministers and clergy, some of whom made church basements and parish halls available for the association's meetings, also became key allies. The pastor of North Philadelphia's Emmanuel Institutional Baptist, Reverend William L. Bentley—an activist in the city's African American community, especially around the issue of juvenile delinquency—worked closely with PCGA. Lending his support, he led a committee to meet with police and city officials in an effort to air crossing guards’ issues.30

As conferences with police officials continued into 1955, the community-based alliances they fostered gained the PCGA more traction. When some guards threatened not to return the following year, some concessions were made. At the end of the school year, Police Commissioner Thomas J. Gibbons announced the extension of full medical treatment and benefits for women injured on duty, coverage identical to that received by the city's police officers. A modest pay boost of one dollar a day was also given. The push for better pay underscores the economic impetus behind the PCGA in its first years and shows that members rejected some popular perceptions that women crossing guards took these positions more for psychological reasons than for the financial advantages they secured. PCGA president Lois Townsend made the economic security of her members a priority, proposing an expansion of the safety program to include oversight of street crossing at the city's busy recreation centers and swimming pools during the summer. In taking this collective approach to basic improvements, the PCGA embodied the spirit of labor feminism in practice, achieving tangible benefits for female members under female leadership.31

Even though the gains made by the PSCA in 1955 were modest, the campaign's success convinced members of their organization's importance. While maintaining a connection to existing voluntary responsibilities at their children's schools was an important consideration for many, the monetary boost a part-time municipal job entailed was the primary reason women took to the corners. No existing data provide a demographic breakdown of crossing guards’ age or marital status, although most media coverage of the sector strongly implies that a majority held the job as part of family household strategies, with women's pay supplementing wages of a working husband. Daisy Schaub, who joined Philadelphia's Crossing Guard Patrol in 1957, was typical of such women. Since 1946, she had worked in the warehouse and shipping section at Ocean City Reel, a fishing gear factory located in the city's Kensington section. The wages she made there were balanced with those of her husband, Charles, a television assembly line man at Philco Radio. When her daughters entered middle school, she became a crossing guard near her home. Although leaving her job at the fishing gear plant involved a pay cut, working as a crossing guard allowed her to attend to family duties while still bringing in a modest income. She took a position at D and Clearfield Streets, joined the PCGA, and remained on the job for twenty-seven years.32

July 16, 1953; “Crossing Guards Asked to Aid in Polio Crisis,” Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1956; “Car Door Hits Woman Guard at Crossing,” Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1965; “School Crossing Guards Hold Farewell Fete,” Chicago Defender June 30, 1959.

For Daisy Schaub and other Philadelphia crossing guards in these years, the PCGA also facilitated social ties that played an important role in how women experienced their lives as municipal employees (see fig. 3). Annual banquets and award ceremonies lauding members for outstanding service were popular events that allowed guards to come together, often with their spouses and extended family members.33 From its earliest days, the PCGA put on an annual frolic show that featured as many as 150 women—who called themselves “the Guardettes”—in singing and dancing acts. As these shows grew in popularity in the early 1960s, the event was hosted at the city's posh Bellevue-Strafford Hotel; the two-hour program featured a glee club singing songs from female perspectives, including “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” and, appropriately, the popular hit “You'll Never Walk Alone.” Dancing acts were also highlighted, including a chorus line of guards who appeared on stage in costume, and tap dancers who synchronized a set to the song “Lullaby of Broadway.”34 Active throughout the year, the Guardettes booked performances at local hospitals, old age homes, and a range of city events such as the annual Public Servant's Week celebration—often accompanied by men from the police and fire department bands. Sections of uniformed guards walked in formation at the city's St. Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving parades, their presence cheered by thousands of Philadelphians. Such activities, along with bowling leagues, card parties, and Ice Capades, were common features of crossing guard association members in cities and townships across the United States.35 While women participated in such events for their own enjoyment and for the friendships they nurtured, their engagements also made an important point: crossing guards were permanent city employees performing a valued public service that taxpayers appreciated.

“It Is Much Harder to Fool a Woman”: The Chicago Crossing Guards Association in the 1950s

By the mid-1950s, the Chicago Crossing Guard Association (CCGA) was developing along similar lines as its Philadelphia cousin. First piloted during the war years, Chicago's street safety program was formalized in 1950, when 1,200 women were brought into the city service. After the city's FOP Lodge 7 spurred a request for affiliation, the CCGA was established in February 1955. Although city administrators never recognized it as a formal bargaining agent, the association secured modest pay increases, benefits, and a say in working conditions in the years that followed.36 Besides being one of the largest guard associations in the nation—with just under eight hundred members—Chicago's group stood out for its press coverage, in part because of innovative strategies, savvy leadership, and its engagement with the Democratic Party organization of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Attention to this final point offers valuable insight into how labor feminists, by demanding to be taken seriously as independent actors in one of the nation's most notorious urban machines, paved the way for later advancements for women in the city's political sphere.

The CCGA's earliest organizer and first president was Ramona Shiffer, a woman who for over thirty years was a well-known and respected public figure in the Windy City. A thirty-two-year-old mother of two daughters when she first joined the patrol in 1950, Shiffer had previously studied journalism at Mundelein College, a Catholic women's school in Chicago, and later worked as a mail sorter in the city's main post office hub. After her marriage to Raymond Shiffer, a laundry truck delivery driver and member of a Teamster local, she was a full-time homemaker for a number of years before joining the crossing guards. Assigned to the busy Devon Avenue and Leavitt Street intersection serving two schools (Stone Elementary and St. Henry's) in the city's Far North Side, Shiffer was soon appointed coordinator of the citywide program, a position that facilitated contact with guards in districts around the city.37 As part of her responsibilities, Shiffer studied conditions and policies of traffic agencies across the nation, and through the personal contacts she built with department chiefs and patrol women, her office became an informal clearinghouse for crossing guard program best practices. With an understanding of the common issues facing guards, she organized the association in 1955, coordinating its activities from her home, taking calls at her kitchen phone, and conducting official business on letterhead paid for by the group's membership dues of one dollar a month.

Like Philadelphia's crossing guard association, the CCGA that Ramona Shiffer helped organize was racially inclusive, drawing its members from neighborhoods across the city. By midcentury, increasing numbers of African American women were employed in a variety of classifications across federal, state, and local governments, and crossing supervision was an appealing option for many.38 In November 1963, Juanita Tabor, an African American crossing guard, was featured in a story in the Chicago Tribune, and the author asked her why she found the job appealing. “Well, first, I wanted to work. Second, I wanted to be home when my children are home. Both of them are in high school,” she explained. “This job gives me the opportunity to be home in the early afternoons with them. I have some time in the day to do housework, and I have summer free.” In a photo accompanying the article, Tabor is in her guard uniform standing at her kitchen table as she unpacks the groceries she will use to prepare dinner that evening.39 That same year, the Chicago Defender introduced guard Mabel Patrick in a story titled “Ex-custodian Finds Answer to Dream in School Guard Job.” Having worked sixteen years as a hospital custodian, she had grown tired of the job's dirty, harsh conditions and the long daily commute it entailed. “I felt if I had to put my foot on another bus to go to work, I'd die,” she stated. Patrick quit the job in 1952 and started a business serving hot meals to construction workers employed on a job site near her home. Once the building project was completed, she “stayed home and tended her flower garden.” Needing some more economic stability, Patrick took on what she thought would be a temporary crossing guard job, supervising an intersection at Thirty-Ninth and State Streets. She liked it and wound up staying. “Anyone who does this type of work is unfit for any other kind of work. You have so much free time you can shop or do anything else you want,” she explained.40

As these accounts indicate, the reasons that women took crossing guard positions varied, but economic need was usually a determining factor, and a collective response to their shared needs informed their decision to join the association. As head of the roughly eight-hundred-member CCGA, Ramona Shiffer was one of the most articulate spokespersons for labor feminism of this era. Describing the average association member as about forty years old, and a mother of several children who were typically enrolled in the school where assigned, Schiffer underscored the economic factors that led women to join patrols. “The job gives her the opportunity to make some extra money and still be close to her children,” she explained in 1962.41 In 1956, she conducted a survey asking members their views on the possibility of making their jobs full time, eight hours per day, with the expansion of services such as parking meter reading and other traffic enforcement duties in assigned districts. While many women supported such measures, they were never implemented, but Shiffer underscored to city officials and the general public the need for individual crossing guards to serve as permanent, long-term municipal employees. Pay raises for those who achieve such longevity were critical. Through these years, Shiffer remained a working mother, raising her three daughters and a son, and continued to represent members in pay conferences in 1961, even while pregnant.42

Ramona Shiffer's position as president of the CCGA also marked a transitional moment for women in Chicago's political world. Like all other Chicago municipal employees, crossing guards obtained these posts through a civil service apparatus that masked a highly politicized patronage system. Since 1945, Mayor Richard J. Daley had controlled this byzantine order, the city's Democratic precinct leaders allotting the city's thirty thousand jobs to party loyalists. Until the formation of the crossing guard patrols, very few women had positions in this machine. The municipal job structure, with sinews connecting to the neighborhood-level political apparatus, was thoroughly masculine; except for casting ballots, women were rarely its functionaries, and none served as aldermen or in city council until the election of Anna Langford and Marylou Von Ferstel in 1971. As a formal pressure group for the crossing guards, the CCGA broke ground for women in this system by demanding to be taken seriously as municipal employees and also as an important independent voting bloc. Known for her confidence and public speaking style, honed from her years studying journalism, Ramona Shiffer was an adept operator in this all-male political scene. Photos from her years as a guard advocate show her interacting with party chieftains and police leaders, conveying a sense of mutual rapport, affability, and respect (see fig. 4). Appearing in uniform at budget hearings and city council sessions, Shiffer was a known public figure. Warm personal ties with Mayor Daley, who each year came as a special guest at the CCGA banquet, along with his wife, and whose birthday was always remembered by CCGA leaders, further nurtured an insider status.43

The CCGA's interactions within the Daley organization sometimes took on a more confrontational tone. Looking ahead to 1957, the CCGA called for pay raises and a new scheduling system that would assign guards to intersections closer to their homes. Even though the objectives had the support of Chicago's chief of police, Thomas V. Lyons, some council members rejected them out of hand. Alderman Paddy Bauler was the most adamant: “All you crossing guards do is stand on corners and do nothing. Or you hide in doorways and smoke cigarettes. I'm against women who smoke cigarettes,” he declared at a city council budget subcommittee conference in November 1956. CCGA vice president Dorothy King immediately responded, stating, “Your English is poor. Your manners are repulsive. And your clothes are sloppy.” Kathryn Lisle, chairwoman of CCGA's Legislative Committee, was even more blunt. “Alderman, if you come near my corner, I'll push you under a truck,” she told him. Taking a less bellicose route, President Shiffer reminded Bauler that her organization represented close to eight hundred women and implied that if more respect was not forthcoming, he would face political consequences.44

These sparks on the city council floor abated in the coming week. Behind the scenes, the mayor's office, police officials, and association leaders reached an agreement that, on the key issues, they would acquiesce to the CCGA's demands. With these gains, Shiffer returned to the legislative chamber two weeks later and “walked to Bauler and shook hands,” in the words of a Chicago Tribune reporter, “then she planted a kiss on his cheek while the chamber rocked with laughter.” As he exited to an antechamber to be photographed with CCGA representatives, Bauler quipped, “My wife is gonna divorce me for this.”45 Shiffer's unexpected gesture was strategic, revealing the complex ways that labor feminists exacted gains from male officials not only by means of political mobilization and public appeals but also by underscoring their roles as women who were also political machine insiders. Such an approach confirms Leah F. Vosko and David Scott Witwer's research on the strategies of labor feminist women who worked in dairy plants in the 1950s, who in their engagement with male Teamster officials took on “a congenial—if still quite firm and insistent—tone” that pushed male power figures to shift their assumptions on the economic value of female workers, while remaining in touch with feminine cultural norms.46 With her deep personal connections to CCGA members and her operational skills in a tough political world, Ramona Shiffer stayed in office for over thirty years.47

The history of the CCGA's early years underscores the independent sentiments that characterized labor feminist organizations in the 1950s. While police unions refused women guards as members, other government sector unions sought them out. In 1958, Victor Gotbaum, director of Chicago's blue-collar city workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 19, approached CCGA officials to merge with the citywide organization. On June 16, 1958, CCGA vice president Kathryn Lisle read a prepared statement rebuffing the offer. “The majority of the city's crossing guards listened attentively to the pros and cons of becoming part of the union's 190,000 membership and took action without blinking an eyelash, curly or otherwise,” she explained. Four reasons against a merger were stated: “1) Our association leaders have a more natural aptitude for verbal combat 2) We have more endurance and determination than male negotiators 3) Women are much more practical than men at the bargaining table and 4) It is much harder to fool a woman.” Addressing Gotbaum, she continued, “We can continue to function in a capable manner with the exceptional representation we have received from our president Mrs. Ramona Shiffer.”48 Although this factor is not mentioned in the statement, guard leaders may have also considered the choice to join the larger unit impractical, since AFSCME Council 19, and most other public sector unions lacked the legal right to collectively bargain with government officials in Illinois at this time. Maintaining a stance that aligned the CCGA as a political ally within the powerful Daley machine made sense.

The CCGA's insistence on female leadership in 1958 allows some insight into the labor feminist principles of crossing guards in this era, both in Chicago and across the nation. As Dorothy Sue Cobble's analysis of waitresses’ organizations makes clear, working-class women at times embraced gender separatism in the workplace and broader social sphere as both pragmatic and desirable.49 Given that the crossing guards instituted a female-controlled organization with roots in a gender-specific municipal service, their early history supports such a view. In this way, crossing guards’ position goes against the kinds of equity feminism that characterized second-wave variants of the women's rights movement that emerged in the 1960s. With this in mind, the crossing guard as an icon of midcentury womanhood was transitional and, at times, contradictory. The stop-sign paddles that many guards carried with them into the intersections are apt symbols of this dichotomy. Like these signs, crossing guards’ variant of labor feminism had two sides: on one, their public personas were grounded in an acceptance of “traditional” gender roles where women, whether mothers or not, performed what was held as essentially a maternal social role. Crossing guards’ positions emerged organically out of existing school cultures and a range of informal neighborhood networks. Although women's influence in these zones was undeniable, as the majority of elementary school teachers were female and the PTA units established were run by mothers, the school boards and principals who controlled educational policy were almost uniformly male. The customs that developed out of this intersection reinforced the notion of separate gender spheres. In most coed schools, girls from elementary grades into high school years held a secondary status, barred from serving on school safety brigades, limited in their access to leadership roles, and, in the 1950s, discouraged from taking part in school sports programs. School crossing guards or their organizations did not, for the most part, question these cultural assumptions or the power dynamics they manifested.50

There was another side, though: women crossing guards broke down old social assumptions by taking responsibilities formerly considered masculine and asserting the economic role played by working mothers. More importantly, guards and their associations demanded a say in how they functioned in overseeing these new responsibilities. Although they did not seek to overturn their gender-specific status within the male police department, they were not invisible, passive figures—hardly the “Angels at the Intersections” that some media stories dubbed them.51 By supervising crossings at busy intersections to help protect the children of other working women who could not be at home in these hours, guards played an active part in realizing broader labor feminist demands for social rights in the immediate postwar years. Just as day care centers were increasingly considered a basic right by working mothers, so too were municipally coordinated street crossing programs.52 As the labor force that directed these vital services, guards also laid a foundation for further social progress in the years to come. Many school-age girls looked up to the women guards they encountered, and this younger generation would prove even more decisive in challenging for new kinds of gender relations in the years that followed. With the changes in federal employment law and civil rights in the 1960s, women were claiming ground, not least of which was access to higher education. Many of the girls the crossing guards watched over on route to school would set about making these changes. By 1963, nearly 1.7 million women were enrolled in college, and by 1980 they would outnumber male students seeking advanced degrees.53

For crossing guards in Chicago and elsewhere, the tactics of congenial but firm interaction in the male power structure led to incremental change in the 1950s; but as many guards soon realized, this strategy had its limitations. In the years that followed, new approaches would be taken up by crossing guard units across the United States, as they allied with other union women and with growing segments of an emerging militant government worker movement, conditions that opened new prospects for the advancement of labor feminism by the 1970s.

Crossing Guards and Public Worker Militancy in the 1960s

In the 1960s, labor commentators noted that a “New Militancy” characterized the strategies of unionized public sector workers. Bold organizing drives saw union membership rates in federal, state, and local government services spike upward as public employees increasingly turned to disruptive tactics and political engagement to secure wage improvements. With large percentages concentrated in health services, education, and a range of public agencies, women made up a significant section of this new labor bastion. Crossing guard activism, continuing from the previous decade, marks an overlooked aspect of this historical development. Frustrated with the limits of cordial appeals to city budget directors and police officials, many women-led guard associations adapted a more confrontational rhetoric and range of methods, protesting outside administrative centers, organizing picket lines, and threatening work stoppages. Mergers with AFL-CIO unions, especially with AFSCME, marked this trend by the end of the decade, signifying this broader strategy shift among crossing guards. These affiliations with established unions also highlight traditions of pragmatism that characterized the earlier associations, a continuation of the labor feminist program that simultaneously embraced the kind of maternalism implied in child oversight, with new understanding of the role of working women within the national labor movement. Even for the many guard associations that remained independent, the 1960s were noteworthy for an impatience with the secondary status they held within the municipal employment hierarchy, and as will be seen, these groups allow for a greater understanding of the complexities of the New Militancy into the 1970s.54

Multiple social changes account for the strategic shifts noted among crossing guard associations after 1960. During President John F. Kennedy's administration, a surge in federal funding increased local school budgets, leading to infrastructure projects and an uptick in the hiring of educational staff from teachers and guidance counselors to janitors and cafeteria aides. High school teachers, aware of their increasingly significant roles in the national economy as Baby Boomers entered school, demanded higher pay and better conditions. By 1965, teachers, school maintenance crews, and secretaries were organizing in unprecedented numbers and engaging in work stoppages the likes of which had rarely been seen before.55 Encouraged by this, other sections of the public sector took bolder action as well. Blue-collar municipal workers in sanitation and highway bureaus waged strikes that often resulted in immediate gains. Successful unionization drives in police departments also marked this trend. Studies of police movements note a range of causes to these collective responses, including resentment at US Supreme Court decisions that sided with due process over police discretion, the rise of community watchdog groups to monitor police behavior, rising crime rates, and infusion of younger recruits into public safety departments as factors explaining militancy on the force. Increases in public spending at both federal and local levels also expanded funds for both police hires and salary boosts. In response, the FOP, the largest police organization in the nation, became more adamant in its demands, and as a result, police salaries rose 38 percent between 1964 and 1969.56

The convergence of these trends in the public sector was apparent especially in New York City. Following lobbying and protest actions by AFSCME District Council 37, Mayor Robert Wagner Jr. signed Executive Order 49 in 1958, spurring organizing campaigns and certification elections across the municipal system.57 By 1960, DC 37, which had had a small base of just eight hundred members only a few years before, had boosted to over ten thousand, a number that would eventually reach an astronomical figure of over one hundred thousand. A range of independent unions took advantage of this new legal context forged by AFSCME and petitioned for formal recognition as bargaining agents for their members. Among the existing municipal organizations to do so was the one-thousand-member New York City Crossing Guard Association (NYCGA). Formed in 1956, the group's first set of demands included immediate pay increases, paid time off, civil service status, and insurance coverage—all of which were rejected, they were told, because their duties were part time. In October 1957, more than 250 guard members picketed outside City Hall, demanding that their needs be taken seriously. Two months later, following the death of crossing guard Louise Davis—crushed against a wall as she pushed a child out of the way of a careening vehicle—the city agreed to medical compensation for guards who sustained injuries on duty.58

By 1959, the NYCGA was headed by Elsa McSorley, a mother of three and a former airline attendant who would, over the coming few years, lead the association in a series of highly publicized showdowns with the city. Not much is known of McSorley, although her earlier employment in the airline industry, where women fought for greater status and economic rights, suggests some prior engagement in workplace organizing informed by labor feminist positions.59 Under McSorley's direction, the NYCGA again set up pickets around city hall in February 1960, threatening to strike after Police Commissioner Stephen P. Kennedy refused to grant modest pay increases or accept the organization as the official bargaining unit for the crossing guards. Alarmed at the prospect of a break in school-day services across the five boroughs, parents spoke out, and political pressure mounted. In response, Mayor Wagner stepped in, brokering another meeting between police department supervisors and Elsa McSorley. Soon after, the NYCGA celebrated as their demands for recognition were at last secured.60 In the years that followed, the New York's group remained an independent organization with McSorley at the helm, despite invitations to merge into the rapidly growing AFSCME District Council 37. Like the Chicago Crossing Guards Association a few years earlier, New York guards placed a premium on maintaining their unique identity within the municipal workforce, believing that their relationships with children and their parents, and with the local political structure, would guarantee continued improvements into the future.

Other crossing guard associations around the nation took different routes, seeking greater leverage by joining with broader coalitions of municipal workers. By mid-decade, public sector unions were securing impressive gains by taking up more confrontational means, which sometimes included illegal work stoppages and service slowdowns. Growing numbers of urban crossing guard units looked to increase their own bargaining power through mergers with such municipal unions. The Philadelphia Crossing Guard Association was the first to do so, joining the eighteen-thousand-member AFSCME District Council 33 in 1967. Founded in 1938 during a violent sanitation strike where militant city workers and their supporters clashed with police patrols on neighborhood streets, Philadelphia's AFSCME section was one of the largest and most powerful in the nation. By nurturing an alliance with Democratic Party chieftains, the union secured welfare and medical benefits in the 1950s, although wage scales for those in lower-paying classifications remained low. In 1965, a slate of African American leaders from DC 33’s sanitation local pledged to return the union to its more militant roots, soon calling a series of trash collection slowdowns that ultimately forced city managers to raise take-home pay.61

DC 33’s new militant leadership continued to build political ties to the city's Democratic machine as a key to economic advancement. This pragmatic alliance was in play in 1967, as the city's Democratic Party machine fractured when Mayor James H. J. Tate faced a primary battle from Alexander Hemphill, the city's reform-minded city controller. Needing to secure political support, Tate offered tangible concessions to the union leading up to the May primary contest, including a pledge to open negotiations with the city's almost one thousand crossing guards who had opted to merge into the union as a separate local. Official union recognition followed, along with a quick contract settlement. The guards’ first contract after their group was chartered as AFSCME Local 1956 instituted a new pay scale at $7.50 a day—an increase of $1.25—along with snow day compensation, six paid holidays, five days paid vacation, and health and welfare benefits.62 In this contract, the crossing guards gained more in one shot than they had since the formation of the association thirteen years earlier (see fig. 5).

Such advancements in the Quaker City encouraged similar mergers with AFSCME councils across the country. First organized in 1953, the Hartford Crossing Guard Association called a one-day strike on May 6, 1969, after city officials reneged on a promise of an increase in paid holidays. Although only thirty-six of seventy-two members called out, the action spurred meetings between the association and city negotiators, resulting in a modest pay boost and reinstatement of the previously offered holidays. Similar actions were taken in the nearby city of Norwalk, where forty-six of the city's fifty-two guards resigned in a protest over disagreements over wages and benefits. On April 21, 1969, crossing supervision was disrupted; while some police helped in overseeing street crossings that day, the city's firefighters, and public works employees, both affiliated with AFSCME, refused the mayor's calls to do the same, a fact highlighted in local press coverage. The following day, the full contingent of guards returned on the promise that negotiations would continue.63 A satisfactory resolution of their demands led Hartford and Norwalk's guards to affiliate with AFSCME the following year. Other units of crossing guards in Connecticut cities of Middletown, Bristol, and New Britain joined them soon after. Similar AFSCME organizing drives for crossing guards succeeded in cities and townships across Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan, becoming models for continued efforts across the nation in the coming years.64

Newspaper coverage of the kinds of advancements made by crossing guards in these cities spurred activism elsewhere. In Washington, DC, women guards organized an independent association in 1965, stepping up calls for longer workdays and salary boosts. The following year, the Massachusetts Traffic Police Women's Association—an independent statewide organization of crossing guards—was formed, eventually bringing together over eight hundred members to promote awareness of their important responsibilities and to lobby for improvements. In Burbank, California, the city's guard unit joined an existing City Employees’ Association to gain leverage in their quest for wage boosts. Often the tactics and goals of these women were modest and nonconfrontational, similar to the programs of guard associations from the previous decade. The six guards in San Gabriel, California, wrote to their city council asking for a raise of twenty-five cents an hour, and in 1971, the thirty-four patrol mothers in the city of Torrance formed a group saying they “just like to be appreciated.” In explaining their demands and strategies, spokeswoman Fern Cannon was decidedly reserved, displaying confidence in administrators’ goodwill. “I don't think anyone would even think of striking,” she announced. “We'll just continue asking the city for better conditions.”65

Crossing Guards,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1968. For Fern Cannon quote, see Mary Ann Lee, “Crossing Aides Seek Pay Hike, Appreciation,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1971.

Such rhetoric was consistent with the pragmatic gradualism of crossing guard associations from the previous decade and suggests a continuation of the maternalist impulse that informed these women's understanding of the special roles they played each school day. While some unionized guards turned to work stoppages to push for better wage and benefit deals, these remained rare and, when acted on, were not prolonged. Indeed, a reluctance to walk away from the intersections and the children they supervised characterized their responses; this, plus a desire to maintain the trust of parents and taxpayers, again suggests a duality of crossing guard–based labor feminism in the 1960s—rooted in popular gender norms, but also looking to advance social rights and economic security. Examples of that duality mark this period. After negotiations between city officials fell short of securing more than a ten-cent hourly raise in early 1968, the thirty-six-member Passaic Crossing Guard Association voted to go on strike. When city manager Theodore Janeczyk informed them that if they did so he would fire them and replace them with new guards, the guards did not back down. “Let him try. He won't succeed. It's hard to find people who are willing to stand out in extreme heat, bitter cold and rain for $2 an hour,” guard president Hazel Neuman told a reporter. “We're not asking for the moon,” she continued. “We just want to get a fair wage and a few paid holidays.”66 No walkout took place in the subsequent days, and no mention as to what happened was provided in local newspapers. New rounds of negotiations did continue, however, as guards eventually secured a more modest pay boost of seven cents. Representing but a small bloc of the municipal workforce, Neuman and other guard leaders may have reasoned that police officers would step in to oversee operations, thus limiting their job action's effectiveness. Yet the fact that a strike vote was taken at all indicates a changed tone in exchanges with urban managers. Over the coming two years, crossing guard wages in Passaic, New Jersey, advanced to $2.50 an hour, a clear indication of their effectiveness.67

The above examples allow more insight to comprehending the complexities of labor feminism within this unique section of the municipal workforce. A pragmatic gradualism that linked crossing guard advancements to building support among parents and taxpayers remained a predominant strain within these female-led organizations. Overwhelmingly, the communities these women served held them in high regard. Newspaper articles featuring the laudable character of individual guards continued in this period, and expressions of appreciation from citizens were not unusual. In a letter typical of this spirit, a mother of an elementary school student wrote to the Paterson News praising a guard she interacted with each day. Her letter said, “I would like to say something about Mrs. Addie Poston who is on duty at School 6. She is like a mother to the children, always fussing about them. I never worry about my child when she is on duty.”68 In February 1967, the Allied Florists Association of Greater Baltimore chose the city's 375 crossing guards as that year's “Valentines of Baltimore,” and each received a corsage in appreciation. “There is no way of knowing how many lives are saved or how many injuries to children are prevented by the faithful service of these carefully instructed women,” stated Hellen Tullis of the Maryland Safety Traffic Committee.69 Such sentiments were predominant in communities where crossing guards served.

“I Wouldn't Give Up This Corner”: Crossing Guard Activism in a New Era of Public Policy

While it is important to note that many crossing guard associations remained independent, a trend toward mergers with AFL-CIO unions continued into the 1970s and 1980s. Over time, crossing guards were represented not only by AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) but also by the Laborers International Union (LIUNA), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Teamsters, and even one small chapter affiliating with the Boilermakers Union.70 These mergers, along with new membership drives, proved an important development for this growing section of the American labor movement. As Joseph E. Hower has noted, AFSCME's increased emphasis on pay equity issues in the 1970s drew on women's understanding of the union's commitment to racial justice, especially after the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, positioning the union to place a similar focus on gender rights.71 Crossing guard affiliation with AFSCME and other unions also underscores how the infusion of labor feminist traditions within public sector organizations had origins that dated back before the 1960s. Seasoned and confident, crossing guard leaders were attuned to negotiation and media engagement and, once on union bargaining committees and executive boards, put women's issues at the fore.

Some who had headed independent crossing guard associations became important leaders within the broader councils with which they merged. In 1968, Frances Rooney, one of the original organizers of the Philadelphia Crossing Guard Association who helped oversee its merger into AFSCME District Council 33, joined the union's executive board, one of the first women to do so. In an indication of the significance of the one thousand women who made up Local 1956 in the council's power structure, Rooney was soon elected vice president of DC 33. Bette MacDonald, the popular head of the crossing guards section, followed Rooney into council office, elected secretary-treasurer in 1996, a position she held for twenty-four years. In the 1970s, Lillian Tully, leader of the crossing guard chapter of the New York Civil Service Employees Association, which merged with AFSCME in 1978, was an effective spokeswoman for her members and working women throughout the state organization. Following their merger with SEIU Local 73 in the early 1980s, Chicago's crossing guard leaders continued the advocacy of their founder, Ramona Shiffer, taking an important role in defining union priorities and making sure women's needs were not sidelined.72

Joining with women leaders from locals representing social workers, public health, clerical and professional offices, crossing guards informed policy decisions that transformed local and state government workplaces. New regulations opening positions formerly closed to women, pregnancy leave, improved childcare and health coverage were implemented at the bargaining table. Building on these new priorities, AFSCME forged a legislative agenda for women's issues, calling for federal laws to fight pregnancy discrimination, and at the state level, took on inequities in job classifications through comparative worth surveys.73 Crossing guard leaders and rank-and-file members were also active in union sponsored educational conferences through these years. Pennsylvania's AFSCME Council 13, a trailblazer in forming women's committees across its varied locals, had a large section of crossing guards represented across their locals, who raised awareness of women's work in their sessions.74 These efforts to highlight the work of crossing guards and other working women had a significant impact within the international union. In 1979, AFSCME organized a women's conference where two hundred met for two days in problem-solving workshops that focused on organizing and political action and called for affiliates to organize women's committees. Eve Johnson, the union's coordinator of women's activities, stated, “At some time, most of us will work, and at some time most of us will realize that if we are going to gain equality, we must do it through unions, the same way men have done it. We must start now, and pledge that each of us will speak up for what we want and need.”75 Such sentiments embodied the spirit of labor feminism and tap the organizational imperatives that had shaped crossing guards’ associations for more than a generation.

Even as they joined with women across government workplaces, crossing guards remained a distinct service, and their leaders continued to address the everyday work needs of the women at the intersections. Their range of concerns grew even more challenging by the end of the 1970s. More so than in any time since the founding of their groups, guards faced threats to the continuation of state-run child safety initiatives. In the immediate postwar years, when crossing guard programs expanded in communities across the United States, federal expenditures for traffic safety bolstered local government funding for training and implementation. Public support for such measures was almost entirely positive. By the mid-1970s, however, economic decline and rampant inflation led to service cutbacks in cities and townships across the country. Even child traffic safety was not spared.76 In the summer of 1975, almost two thousand crossing guards were furloughed by New York mayor Abraham Beame, so the New York Crossing Guard Association (NYCGA) sued to keep members’ jobs. Despite support from parents across the boroughs, the campaign to keep this vital service fell short. Ending the safety program had awful consequences: in the following two years, nine children were killed at busy intersections. Mayor Ed Koch revived the program in 1978 in response to community pressure, but the guards, many of whom were longtime employees, returned at lower pay and without the range of benefits they had won over the previous twenty-two years. Looking to gain some leverage, the independent association merged with the 120,000-member AFSCME DC 37 as a new section of the School Board Employees Local 372. Following a fact-finding panel conducted by the city's Office of Collective Bargaining, benefits were reinstated the following year.77

Such austerity narratives played out constantly in cities and townships across the nation. After 1980, as federal funding evaporated even further, city administrators knifed away at a range of basic urban services, with child traffic safety initiatives routinely viewed as expendable. Crossing guards and their leaders fought back, showing up at budget hearings, writing to local newspapers, organizing protests outside administrative offices, and building coalitions with parents and community groups. Following the announcement that Detroit's 275 crossing guards would receive pink slips before the start of the 1976 school year, the city's Civilian Crossing Guards Association, an AFSCME affiliate, set up pickets and called for parental support. On the first day of school, parents blocked intersections demanding program reinstatement. “I think it's disgusting,” said Barbara Rice as she walked her twin boys to school. “The city has money for new buildings, but they don't think about protecting the people. The children should come first.”78 Because of the coalition formed by the Detroit guards, administrators found emergency funds to maintain the program. Crossing guards in other cities fought defunding through court action and by raising political pressure in these years. While not always successful, many did result in maintaining safety initiatives and members’ jobs—for at least a portion of the force, if not for all. Such responses in the face of recurrent budget crises remained a constant need for crossing guards and their organizations through this era.79

From the 1970s through the end of the century and into the next, policy skirmishes over municipal street safety initiatives took on increasingly ideological tones. In most locales, concerted attacks against crossing guard programs were advanced by conservative political groups that sought to curtail government services as much as possible.80 The way child traffic safety oversight has contracted is a testament to the success of these measured attacks. Yet such defunding of community services geared for the protection of children could only be socially acceptable in light of a transformation of both the culture of parenting and the understandings of public space. Shifting parenting styles characterized by hypervigilance has become embedded in the American psyche, marking in some ways a return to Victorian models of individual parental responsibility that focus blame for child injury on parents alone, especially mothers.81 Parental advice literature lasers in on a range of inherent social dangers that demand constant oversight. While self-sufficiency was encouraged in the youth of earlier generations, now public zones are defined as adult space, and children—even those who live just a few blocks from school—are met by parents who walk them or drive them home. Under this new logic, the social status of the school crossing guard as a community icon has shifted: a guard is no longer considered an essential figure guarding the vulnerable, but is now seen as an increasingly unnecessary functionary, the remnant of a moribund social order in which the state played a greater role.

In the face of these unprecedented challenges, the crossing guards—the majority of whom remain women—continue to fight for the continuation of traffic safety programs for children, and for their own rights as workers with real economic needs. This remains as important as it ever was in the history of this unique section of the municipal services. By the early years of the twenty-first century, the rise of a kind of educational service underclass, again composed of women, had become increasingly evident. In 2009, the National Education Association highlighted a day in the life of Deb DeGrave, an educational support professional in the town of Denmark, Wisconsin. Besides her work as a classroom aide, she cobbled together jobs as a food service employee in an elementary school, and a part-time bookkeeper in a high school, before ending her day as a crossing guard at yet another location.82 Long days and the exhaustion it entailed ultimately brought in wages that made it difficult for her to afford the most basic expenses. Such an account underscores the greater economic precarity working women face. These kinds of struggles are not unique to smaller communities, but in the biggest cities as well. On April 8, 2015, crossing guard members of AFSCME Local 372 protested outside New York City Hall to bring attention to their conditions and to demand a living wage of fifteen dollars an hour.83 Later that year, DC 37 sued the city for pay equity, charging that crossing guards made less than predominantly male traffic enforcement officers. A Manhattan judge eventually ruled against the suit, on grounds that guards had different duties and required less education and training, so they did not merit parity with NYPD enforcement personnel. Despite these setbacks, crossing guards in New York and elsewhere continue to organize and assert their worth in the communities they serve, drawing on labor feminist traditions forged by earlier generations of guards.

Even as these debates over the future of traffic safety outside schools take shape, the woman crossing guard remains an important figure in everyday life in cities and townships around the nation. Through their unions and associations, they are persistent agents not just for children's safety but also for their own betterment and the rights of all working women. To do so in the current social and political climate requires the kind of quiet resilience that has always marked the day-to-day routines of these essential workers. Such courage was highlighted in a 1974 Los Angeles Times story about seventy-one-year-old crossing guard Dorothy Hannigan. Knocked unconscious one year earlier as she pushed children out of the way of a veering car, she returned to her post at the start of the next school year, vowing to stay on as long as she could. In her statement to a reporter, she expressed her joy in the work she did, and her understanding of how important it was: “I wouldn't give up this corner. I want this corner. I love this job. Oh! I'm a happy and lucky, lucky person.”84

Notes

1.

“Crossing Guards.”

2.

Barry, “‘Too Glamorous to Be Considered Workers.’”

6.

Lansing, “First Mothers’ Safety Council Formed in Philadelphia”; “More Security for Tots Asked,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1924; “Mothers in ‘Strike’ for Guards,” Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1941; “Irate Mothers Form Human Chain across Intersection,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1941; “AAA Urges District to Hire Women for Safety Patrol,” Washington Post, November 19, 1951; “Trucks Kill Two in North Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 29, 1949; “Let City Hire Crossing Guard, Barricading Mothers Advised,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, September 23, 1954; “Mothers Block Street in School Guard Row,” Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1963; “Legionnaires and Auxiliary Guard Monrovia Crossings as School Opens,” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1941; “Floridians Seek Traffic Guards,” Chicago Defender, February 13, 1954; “School Mothers Recruited for Traffic Patrol Duty,” Washington Post and Times Herald, December 2, 1956; Murray, The Progressive Housewife, 111. For a more general historical treatment of traffic safety management in the early twentieth century, see Norton, Fighting Traffic.

7.

Roger B. Farquhar, “Gus the School Crossing Guard Rules Corner with Iron Hand,” Washington Post, April 16, 1948. Not all crossing guards were—or are—women. For accounts of male guards, see Bob Sherlock, “Former Catalina Island Guide, 81, Enjoys Fourth Career as Guard,” Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1958; “Crossing Guard ‘Dusty’ Miller at Job on Time—a Day Early,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 4, 1963; Keith Takahashi, “Guard All Business at Crossing,” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1971.

10.

Berry, “Pasadena's (Texas) Policewomen Protect School Crossings”; Wills, “Pittsburgh Women Traffic Officers Safeguard School Children”; West, “Nashville's PTA Crossing Patrols.” For statistics on the number of cities initiating crossing patrols in this period, see Employment of Women as School Crossing Guards; Lawder, “Women School Crossing Guards”; “Women Traffic Aid OK'd by Council,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, June 5, 1952; “City Seeks 700 Women to Guard School Traffic,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, August 24, 1952; and Owen E. McDonnell, “Women Guards on Traffic Duty Have Last Word,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 1952.

12.

Adams, “‘The Feminine Arm of the Law’”; Darien, “The Alter Ego of the Patrolman?” 

14.

Oscar Schisgall, “When Mothers Make Good Cops,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1954; “110 Uniformed Women Guard Milwaukee School Crossings.” 

15.

Saturday Evening Post, December 3, 1960.

16.

“Pretty Crossing Guard Ends First Day on Traffic Duty without Much Heckling,” Washington Post, December 10, 1953.

17.

“They Guard Lives,” Verona-Cedar Grove Times, May 28, 1963.

20.

“Crossing Guards.” For additional scholarship of the politics of housework in this period, see Guard, Radical Housewives.

21.

Marguerire Rhodin, “‘Mrs. Policeman’ Guards 260 School Children and Auto Drivers Do a Double-Take at Crossing,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, December 7, 1952.

24.

Ruth Hill, “Crossing Guards on Job,” Nashua Telegraph, January 26, 1963.

26.

Schulz, From Social Worker to Crimefighter, 43–56, 118–19. For additional insight into women police officers and gender norms in the 1950s, see Fowler, “The Lady Is a Cop.” 

27.

Mary Lou Loper, “Crossing Guards: Safety with Smile,” Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1961; “School Union Formed by Crossing Guards,” Hartford Courant, February 26, 1958; “Notes around Paterson,” Passaic Herald-News, February 16, 1954; “To Study Parking Lot Plan; Favor Tunnel Job,” Quad-City Times, November 16, 1955; “Christmas Plans at Hospital,” Item of Millburn and Short Hills, December 19, 1957; “Skirts Get Close Shaves from Cars,” Richmond Times Dispatch, January 10, 1962; “Crossing Guards in Valley Wear Smart, New Uniforms,” Valley News, November 20, 1956; “Visit Albion,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 23, 1961; “7 Rotary Awards Made for Community Service,” Syracuse Post Standard, January 30, 1954; Catherine Nugent, interview by author, Philadelphia, July 16, 1998. For a treatment of the formation of independent women's organizations in the United States see Scott, Natural Allies.

28.

“More Than 100 Crossing Guards Have Quit Jobs,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 1953; “Those Women School Guards,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 11, 1953. For the response from the crossing guard, see “In All Kinds of Weather,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1953.

29.

“The School Guard's Life,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1953; “Men as School Guards,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1953; “School-Guard's Hard Work,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1953. See also Catherine Nugent, “A Child Saved,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1954.

30.

“‘Can Be Replaced,’ School Guards Told,” Philadelphia Tribune, January 15, 1955.

31.

Earl Selby, “In Our Town,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, March 28, 1954; “Gibbons Hears School Guards,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April 8, 1954; “School Guards Win Injury Benefits,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, May 16, 1955; “Women's Crossing Guards Call $4 a Day Peons’ Wages,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, January 10, 1955; “Pay Boost for Guards at School Crossings OK'd,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, June 1, 1955; Robert C. Lowry Jr., “New Portable Traffic Signals May Replace Women Guards,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, May 9, 1955. For an example of children's literature that explains women's reasons for taking up crossing duties as primarily psychological, see Lattin, Peter's Policeman.

32.

Mary Howells, interview by author, Philadelphia, July 18, 2007.

33.

“Manhole Blast Burns Woman Guarding School Crossing,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, February 16, 1954; “School Crossing Guards Honored by Police,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, September 19, 1954; Richard J. Maloy, “Lady Guards Win Praise of Officials,” Washington Post and Times Herald, June 17, 1954; “Auto Kills School Guard,” Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1943; “20 Years’ Service: Crossing Guard Cites Nervous Moment,” Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1966; Mary Lou Loper, “Crossing Guards: Safety with Smile,” Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1961; “Police Honor Woman Guard,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin,

34.

“The Gay Guardettes: Mothers at the Crossings Turn Theatrical,” Today: Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, July 7, 1957, 10; “Exhibit Geared to Thrill Show,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 31, 1958; Changpyo Hong, “Crossing Guards Don Toppers for ’66 Frolics,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, March 9, 1966; Charlie Bannister, “Around Our Town: 41 Mark 15 Years as School Guards,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 15, 1967; Annie S. Freeman, “Police Laud School Guards, Reveal Early ‘Trepidations,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, March 15, 1967.

35.

James T. Gilson, “Thousands Pay Tribute in Columbus Day Parade,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 12, 1959; Sel Yackley, “26 Crossing Guards March in Blue,” Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1967; “Crossing Guards Form Parade Unit,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1964.

36.

“Traffic Guard Eight Hour Day Plans Shelved,” Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1956.

37.

Mike Conklin, “A Tireless Advocate for Crossing Guards,” Chicago Tribune, August 31, 2005.

38.

For treatments of African American women in the federal service, see Gooding, American Dream Deferred; and Rung, Servants of the State.

39.

“Woman Is Daily Traffic Stopper,” Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1963.

40.

Ernestine Cofield, “Ex-Custodian Finds Answer to Dream in School Guard Job,” Chicago Defender, June 15, 1963; “Mrs. Mabel E. Patrick,” Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1966.

41.

Patricia Leeds, “Women in Blue Now Guard Pupils,” Chicago Tribune, February 11, 1962.

42.

“Traffic Guard Eight Hour Day Plans Shelved,” Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1956; Michael Shiffer, email to author, October 22, 2020.

43.

Cohen and Taylor, American Pharaoh; Freedman, “Doing Battle with the Patronage Army”; Despres with Heise, Challenging the Daley Machine; “Crossing Guards Ass'n Celebrates Anniversary,” Chicago Defender, February 29, 1960.

44.

Edward Schreiber, “Paddy Bauler's Tummy Ache Is Pain to Women; but Crossing Guards Growl Back,” Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1956.

45.

“Bauler Given Kiss, Crossing Guards Are OK,” Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1956.

46.

Vosko and Witwer, “‘Not a Man's Union,’” 179.

47.

Mike Conklin, “A Tireless Advocate for Crossing Guards,” Chicago Tribune, August 31, 2005. In 2005 the City of Chicago declared the 2700 block of West Pratt Boulevard Ramona Shiffer Drive in honor of Mrs. Shiffer.

48.

George Bliss, “Women Scoff at Bid to Join Men's Union,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1958. For background of AFSCME in Chicago, see Bellush and Bellush, Union Power and New York, 81–104. An independent union was formed in Cincinnati, one of the few cities in the nation with a mostly male staffed crossing guard program. See “Union Established by School Crossing Guards,” Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, February 27, 1958.

50.

Coontz, A Strange Stirring, 14; Love and Cott, Feminists Who Changed America, 1963–1975, s.v. “Barbara Bryant,” 63. For treatment of the transformation of gendered scholastic athletic programs in the 1950s, see Grundy, “From Amazons to Glamazons.” 

51.

Ellen Shulte, “Crossing Guards: Angels at the Intersections,” Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1967. For other references to crossing guards as “guardian angels,” see “Tots’ Safety Their Job,” Chicago Defender, February 29, 1960; Donna Scheibe, “School Crossing Guard Completes Her 25th Year,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1971.

56.

Burpo, The Police Labor Movement, 11; John Harrington, “What Police Want,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, October 13, 1965.

58.

“School Crossing Guards Eye Union,” New York Daily News, May 1, 1956; “School Guard Bid Fails,” New York Times, July 25, 1956; “School Guards Ask Raise,” New York Times, June 11, 1957; “Guards Up,” New York Daily News, October 23, 1957; Lee Silver, “Wife Who Loved Kids Gives Her Life as Crossing Guard,” New York Daily News, December 2, 1957; “Bury Crossing Guard with Full Police Honor,” New York Age, December 7, 1957.

59.

For coverage of airline attendant workplace activism see Barry, “Too Glamorous to Be Considered Workers.” 

60.

“Changing of the Guards,” New York Daily News, June 14, 1959; “Crossing Guards Postpone Strike,” New York Times, February 20, 1960; “Kennedy Bid Delays School Guard Strike,” New York Daily News, February 20, 1960; “Lady Guards See Kennedy, Get Nowhere,” New York Daily News, February 24, 1960; “Crossing Guards Picket over Pay,” New York Times, March 8, 1960; “Guard Group Certified,” New York Times, March 16, 1960; “School Guards Ask City for Pay Raise,” New York Times, May 13, 1960.

62.

“Union Is Trying to Organize Crossing Guards,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, May 7, 1967; “Crossing Guards’ Union Obtains Raises from City,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, November 21, 1967. For details on Philadelphia's 1967 Democratic Party divisions, see Young, The Memoirs of Wendell W. Young III, 91–99.

63.

“46 Women School Guards Stay Off Job in Norwalk Dispute,” Bridgeport Post, April 21, 1969; “City Officials Man Crossings after Guards in Norwalk Quit,” Bridgeport Post, April 22, 1969; “Guards Fail to Resolve Pay Dispute,” Bridgeport Post, April 24, 1969; Irving Taub, “Irving Taub's Norwalk Nowadays,” Bridgeport Post, April 27, 1969; Irving D. Taub, “Police Commissioner Plan Parley with Crossing Guards,” Bridgeport Post, May 5, 1969; “Cheshire Cops Vote to Join AFSCME,” Bridgeport Telegram, July 8, 1969; “Council OK's Police Pact in Stratford,” Bridgeport Post, October 2, 1970; “Cops Say Union Shuns Protest,” Bridgeport Post, July 3, 1968.

64.

Theodore Driscoll, “School Crossing Guards Hit by ‘Epidemic,’ Miss Work,” Hartford Courant, May 7, 1969; “Crossing Guards Vote Friday on Bargaining Agent,” Hartford Courant, December 10, 1970; “Guards Fail to Resolve Pay Dispute,” Bridgeport News, April 24, 1969; “School Guards Fail to Report to Work,” Hartford Courant, April 22, 1969; “School Crossing Guards to Join Municipal Union,” Hartford Courant, December 4, 1968; “Crossing Guards Vote Friday on Bargaining Agent,” Hartford Courant, December 10, 1970; “School Guards Vote to Join Labor Unit,” Hartford Courant, October 22, 1975; “Crossing Guard Union Proposed,” The Bee (Danville, VA), October 24, 1969; “Union Buttons to Be Badges for Crossing Guards,” Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, January 24, 1969.

65.

“Crossing Guards Organize,” Washington Post Times Herald, September 12, 1965; “School Guards Seeking Increased Hours, Pay,” Washington Post Times Herald, November 19, 1969; “Police Women's Assn. Session Attracts 150,” Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, May 7, 1966; “Employees of City Seek Job Benefits,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1966; Mary Ann Lee, “Crossing Aides Seek Pay Hike, Appreciation,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1971; “School Street Guards Ask Wage Boost,” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1969. For details on wage disputes in Orange County, California, see Herman Wong, “Cities in Uphill Fight over

66.

“‘Let Him Try,’ Says Passaic Guard Chief of Firing Threat,” Paterson News, February 9, 1968.

67.

“Passaic Crossing Guards Ask $1 an Hour Increase,” Passaic Herald-News, January 23, 1970; “Fired Passaic Crossing Guard Takes Appeal to Manager Galik,” Passaic Herald-News, June 23, 1971.

68.

“Hails Crossing Guard,” Paterson News, February 15, 1968.

69.

“Keep Crossing Guards!,” Montclair Tribune, January 31, 1968; Elizabeth Kirkness, “They Protect Your Children: You Have to Like Youngsters to Be School Crossing Guard,” Burlington Free Press, November 3, 1967; Eloise Wright, “Their Job Is Your Children,” Tyler Morning Telegraph, November 19, 1971; “1967 Valentines of Baltimore: Crossing Guards Get the Message in Flowers,” Baltimore Sun, February 11, 1967.

70.

For Teamsters representing crossing guards, see “Union Buttons to Be Badges for Crossing Guards,” Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, January 24, 1969. The Chicago Crossing Guard Association merged with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the 1980s. See James Strong, “Budget Raises No Tax, Just Questions,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1985. The Pittsburgh crossing guards joined SEIU in 1969: “School Guards Boss Blasts Top Brass: Ladycop McInerney Resigns in a Huff,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 20, 1969; Ronald Rowland, “School Guards Seek Union Tie,” Pittsburgh Press, October 22, 1969; “Ladycops Eye Union Affiliation,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 22, 1969; Lawrence Walsh, “1000 in City Employees Union Demand 20% Pay Hike, Fringes,” Pittsburgh Press, December 10, 1969. An eighteen-member unit of crossing guards in Cheltenham Township, a Philadelphia suburb, were represented by the Boilermaker's Union. Jane M. Von Bergen, “Teamsters Ask 13% Raise; Panels Named,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 23, 1983.

72.

Andy Wallace, “Frances K. Rooney, 62; Started Union,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 20, 1992; Jim Nicholson, “Crossing Guard Exodus Predicted over Benefits Loss,” Philadelphia Daily News, June 6, 1992; Dave Davies, “Facing Hell on Wheels All Alone,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 17, 1997; Bette MacDonald, interview by author, Philadelphia, July 30, 2021; Dallas Gatewood, “School Crossing Guards to Protest Police Plan,” Newsday (Suffolk ed.), April 10, 1976; Don Smith, “Dilworth: Cut School Crossing Sites,” Newsday (Suffolk ed.), March 23, 1979; Mike Shiffer, interview by author, New Brunswick, NJ, August 23, 2015.

74.

Liz Long, AFSCME Council 13 Education Director, interview by author, Harrisburg, PA, August 25, 2009.

76.

“Crossing Guards Fighting Lay Offs,” Toledo Blade, March 1, 1976; “Berkeley Budget Eliminates Jobs,” Oakland Post, May 11, 1979. For cultural representation of the economic realities faced by crossing guard from this era, see “The Crossing-Guard” in Higginson, Paterson Pieces, 27.

77.

Fred Ferretti, “City Gives Layoff Notices to 9,104 More Workers,” New York Times, June 7, 1975; “School Crossing Guards Enjoined from Walkout,” New York Times, June 10, 1975; “School Crossing Guards to Vote on Union,” Public Employee Press, April 25, 1975; “Crossing Guards in Fact Finding,” Public Employee Press, September 28, 1979.

78.

“Guards Protest,” Lansing State Journal, March 1, 1976; Ellen Grezech and Helen Fogel, “Few Guards Protect Children,” Detroit Free Press, September 9, 1976.

79.

“Guards Protest,” Lansing State Journal, March 1, 1976; Frances Rooney, “School Crossing Guards a Necessity the City Can't Lose,” Philadelphia Daily News, July 31, 1990; Lisa Ellis, “Phila. Crossing Guards Protest Plan to Eliminate Health Benefits,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1992; Mary Dieter, “Crossing Guards ‘Rally’ for a Fight,” Chicago Daily Herald, March 14, 1977; Scott Hildebrand, “Crossing Guard Talks Open; Progress Slow,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, December 22, 1986; Ron Seth, “City Plans Crossing Guard Layoffs,” The Times (Munster, IN), October 10, 1987; Dennis A. Shook, “They're Keepers of the Kids: Guards Stand Watch on City's Street Corners,” Kenosha Sunday News, December 11, 1983; “Guards Defend Their Jobs,” Kenosha News, February 10, 1987; James Wensits, “Crossing Guards to Discuss Layoffs Friday,” South Bend Tribune, May 23, 1988.

80.

For an overview of the conservative backlash against public sector unionization in this period, see McCartin, “Fire the Hell out of Them” and “A Wagner Act for Public Employees.” For detail on the politicized debate over the function of school crossing guards in the first decades of the twenty-first century, see Laffey, Primary Mistake, 5–6, 132; Meg Bonacorsi, “Union Has Issues with Volunteer Crossing Guard,” WAOW.com, January 27, 2010, https://www.waow.com/story/11891208/union-has-issues-with-volunteer-crossing-guard, accessed August 8, 2015. “AFSCME Union Bosses Still Want 86-Year Old Volunteer Crossing Guard Fired,” RedState.com, February 8, 2010, https://www.redstate.com/diary/laborunionreport/2010/02/08/afscme-bosses-still-want-86-year-old-volunteer-crossing-guard-fired; Deborah Hastings, “Retired Marine Puts on Dress Blues to Act as Crossing Guard for Pennsylvania Kids,” New York Daily News, August 28, 2014; Alexa Valiente, “Students Safely Cross Street without Crossing Guard Thanks to Retired Marine,” ABC News, August 28, 2014, https://Abcnews.go.com/US/Pennsylvania-students-safely-cross-street-crossing-guard-retired/story?id=25159733.

82.

Mary Ellen Flannery, “Four Jobs in One Day,” NEA Today, August 23, 2009.

83.

Abigail Rowe, “NYC's Crossing Guards: Mostly Female, Still Underpaid,” April 9, 2015, The Gothamist, https://gothamist.com/2015/04/09/nycs_crossing_guards_female_underpa.php. Julia Marsh and Josh Saul, “School Crossing Guards Paid Less Because They Are Mostly Women, Lawsuit Claims,” New York Post, September 24, 2015; Kaja Whitehouse and Lia Eustachewich, “Judge Tosses Crossing-Guard Pay-Bias Suit,” New York Post, May 2, 2018. For other organizing efforts by crossing guards see Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, “Crossing Guards Form Union,” Times Union, April 15, 2015; “State Orders Crossing Guards Rehired,” Boston Globe, July 28, 2013.

84.

Mary Barber, “This Is Mrs. B's Corner,” Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1974.

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