We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Paperback)

We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula Cover Image

We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Paperback)


WITH A FOREWORD BY LISA M. FINE, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY—Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its natural beauty and severe winters, as well as the mines and forests where men labored to feed industrial factories elsewhere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But there were factories in the Upper Peninsula, too, and women who worked in them. Phyllis Michael Wong tells the stories of the Gossard Girls, women who sewed corsets and bras at factories in Ishpeming and Gwinn from the early twentieth century to the 1970s. As the Upper Peninsula’s mines became increasingly exhausted and its stands of timber further depleted, the Gossard Girls’ income sustained both their families and the local economy. During this time the workers showed their political and economic strength, including a successful four-month strike in the 1940s that capped an eight-year struggle to unionize. Drawing on dozens of interviews with the surviving workers and their families, this book highlights the daily challenges and joys of these mostly first- and second-generation immigrant women. It also illuminates the way the Gossard Girls navigated shifting ideas of what single and married women could and should do as workers and citizens. From cutting cloth and distributing materials to getting paid and having fun, Wong gives us a rare ground-level view of piecework in a clothing factory from the women on the sewing room floor.
PHYLLIS MICHAEL WONG has held roles as a historian, an educator, and thirty-year member of the university level academic world, including as First Lady at Northern Michigan University (2004–12) and San Francisco State University (2012–19).
Product Details ISBN: 9781611864205
ISBN-10: 1611864208
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Publication Date: March 1st, 2022
Pages: 196
Language: English
Phyllis Michael Wong’s new book We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula renders visible the voices of the subaltern. One of the myths of US history is that white women didn’t begin working outside of the home until the early 1970s. This myth has been perpetuated by the lack of storytelling about white women working outside the home. Wong’s pioneering book offers a rare glimpse into this invisible world. This is an astonishing book that will challenge and transform your understanding of what we as Americans think about working women.—Angela J. Hattery, professor of women and gender studies and co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence, University of Delaware

In my years of study of Upper Peninsula history I often wondered when the story of the Gossard girls would be told. Now, through Phyllis Michael Wong’s diligent and thorough efforts, the story has arrived—a major milestone in the history of women in the UP.—Russell M. Magnaghi, professor of history emeritus, Northern Michigan University, and author of Upper Peninsula of Michigan: A History

This is a brilliant presentation about the cultural and economic history of women in the garment industry in the UP of Michigan. These are important and moving stories, very well researched.—Douglas B. Roberts, former chair, board of trustees, Northern Michigan University; former director, Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, Michigan State University; and former State Treasurer of Michigan

Relentlessly researched, beautifully written, and chock-full of intimate life stories from some of America’s most impactful glass-ceiling breakers, We Kept Our Towns Going is an engaging yet poignant reminder that our nation’s battle for gender equity, immigrant rights, and labor unions is replete with unsung heroes. Unsung no longer, the Gossard Girls profiled in these pages are worthy of study and celebration as our nation aims to finally and fully eradicate the inequities they so courageously faced.—Framroze M. Virjee, president, California State University, Fullerton


Celebrating the power of story, the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will be an unforgettable weekend dedicated to a shared love and language of ideas. Collected Works Bookstore is thrilled to be the official bookstore of the Festival. 

Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, amongst others, will headline the festival, discussing their work with readings and book signings that set the stage for further inspired conversations.

NOTE: If you purchase a festival event ticket that is INCLUSIVE of the author's book, you will receive that book upon check-in for your event at the festival.

To order books by festival authors directly from CW, see below. Collected Works will be carrying a wide selection of books by all participating authors available for online pre-order and at the on-site festival bookstore May 20-23.

Purchase your tickets from the SF Literary Festival website here.

Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:

Margaret Atwood     Freddie Bitsoie     Sandra Cisneros

Lynn Cline     William deBuys     Ashley Ford

John Grisham     Roshi Joan Halifax     Joy Harjo

Anne Hillerman     Cheryl Alters Jamison     Craig Johnson

Asma Khan     Phil Klay      Jon Krakauer

Valeria Luiselli     Deborah Madison      Emily St. John Mandel

George R. R. Martin      James McGrath Morris     Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. 

Carmella Padilla     Douglas Preston     Kirstin Valdez Quade

Bob Shacochis     Henry Shukman     Hampton Sides

Bryant Terry     Darryl Lorenzo Wellington     Colson Whitehead

Don Winslow     Lawrence Wright