Cover image for Working in America : an eyewitness history
Working in America : an eyewitness history
Reef, Catherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Facts On File, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxx, 418 pages : illustrations, maps ; 29 cm.
General Note:
Series from jacket.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD8066 .R44 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize
HD8066 .R44 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Eyewitness History is an interdisciplinary and multicultural series that reveals how significant events were seen and interpreted by people from all levels of society. Excerpts from primary sources -- memoirs, diaries, letters, newspapers, speeches, advertisements, and more -- provide a wide range of viewpoints and enhance a compelling narrative, prompting students to develop the critical-thinking skills that allow them to construct their own opinions about the people and their times.

A Complete Perspective

Each volume is a comprehensive and self-contained reference work that features:
-- Hundreds of eyewitness accounts that bring history to life
-- Essays starting each chapter, that provide historical context and that highlight major events and attitudes of the period
-- Chronologies that provide a detailed historical perspective
-- Contemporary illustrations and photographs
-- Excerpts from relevant documents of the day
-- Brief biographies of key individuals, personalizing historic,events

Some volumes also contain maps and graphs that provide visual context, helping students gain a richer understanding of historical events.

A Rich Mosaic of Eyewitness Accounts from Past Eras

Excellent for students and general readers, the Eyewitness History series deepens readers' understanding.

Working in America brings to life the experience of working in North America from colonial times to the present day. Ordinary people -- farmers, factory workers, labor leaders, miners, journalists, cowboys, working women -- describe what it was like to be an American worker in different times in history. Among the many topics discussed by author Catherine Reef are how the needsof the nation dictated the kinds of work people did, the prevalence of the Puritan work ethic in American society, the rise of trade unions, and the enormous impact of advancing technology.

Author Notes

Catherine Reef received a degree in English from Washington State University. She began her career as a writer at Washington State, where she created brochures for the College of Pharmacy and developed the university's first research magazine. She is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. She has received several awards including the Joan G. Sugarman Children's Book Award for Walt Whitman in 1996, the Sydney Taylor Award for Sigmund Freud: Pioneer of the Mind in 2002, and a Golden Kite Honor Award for Ernest Hemingway: A Writer's Life in 2010.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Library Journal Review

According to WorldCat, Reef has edited some 40 books ranging from biography to American history to physical fitness. While the "American Experience" series is touted by Facts On File as new and focusing on social and economic themes throughout U.S. history, both of the volumes reviewed here are strikingly similar to entries in the publisher's longstanding "Eyewitness History" series, which is designed to highlight important periods and events in U.S. history. Indeed, Reef's previous Working in America: An Eyewitness History (2000) contains exactly the same chapters as Working in America: The American Experience, titles and all. This is not to say that useful updates are not apparent in the latter title. Working sports a new "Graphs and Tables Appendix" and, where appropriate, new information has been included. For example, the years 1917-99 are surveyed in the "Eyewitness" edition in the chapter titled "The Labor Movement in Growth and Decline," and coverage is extended through 2006 in the "Experience" volume. This is the case with three other chapters, too. Somewhat oddly, the "Experience" volume ceases coverage of "The Cowboy" at 1886, but in the "Eyewitness" chapter, coverage spans 1840-1904. On the other hand, there is no earlier exact equivalent of Poverty in America, which appears to be a conglomeration of many other titles that Reef has produced for the publisher. Both volumes are arranged in the familiar and accessible Facts On File format. Every essay concludes with a mass of relevant, context-laden quotations culled from a variety of sources. The indexes are thorough, the biographical blurbs useful. Bottom Line While both volumes include standard appendixes (like the text of the Emancipation Proclamation in Poverty and the Equal Rights Amendment in Working), most of the featured documents, maps, graphs, and tables are uncommon and exceptionally relevant. All these features add up to valuable sources; however, those libraries that own the "Eyewitness" version of Working should consider the purchase of the newer volume optional. Both works are recommended for high school and adult collections where needed.-Katherine Mossman, Everett P.L., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Poverty tells not only the story of the poor and their current and past conditions, but also of how government and private citizens have responded to their needs. Both absolute and relative poverty are discussed. A lengthy introduction provides an overview and historical context. Subsequent chapters focus on historical periods and the attitudes that predominated during them. Working has been extensively revised and updated from the 2000 edition. While the types of workers described are the same, and include farm worker, slave, miner, and cowboy, the discussions of major trends, such as the emergence of organized labor, and the changing role of women, children, and African-American workers, have been updated to 2006. Both books include footnoted excerpts from primary sources such as diaries, news articles, and books, and the appendixes contain the texts of significant documents; brief biographies of major personalities; and maps, charts, and tables (the latter are new to Working). Most of the black-and-white archival images have been well selected to be representative of gender and ethnicity, are generally relevant, and include brief, informative captions. Valuable resources.--Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

Reef offers a general introduction to US labor history from the Colonial period to the end of the 20th century. She develops the material both chronologically and thematically, with chapters devoted to early agrarianism, slavery, the rise of factories, and other major topics. Each chapter begins with an overview describing the important historical events affecting workers during the period. The overview is followed by "eyewitness testimony" or personal accounts drawn from contemporary records to illustrate the social context of work. Numerous photographs and illustrations also supplement the textual materials. The book contains separate appendixes that provide additional documentary materials, brief biographical sketches of significant historical figures, and a set of maps. Included in the documentary appendix are such familiar writings as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World, and the text of Section 7(a) of the Na tional Industrial Recovery Act. The volume concludes with an extensive bibliography listing basic references in the field. Overall, this publication is an understandable and interesting survey of an important aspect of the American experience and is particularly suitable for students at the high school and beginning college levels. Public, secondary, and lower-division undergraduate library collections. R. L. Hogler Colorado State University



From colonial times to today, the destiny of the United States has been inextricably linked to its workforce. The Puritan work ethic--the belief that hard work helps to secure one's future status in heaven--provided a context for the millions of Americans who labored to build the country from an agriculturally based colony to an industrial sovereign nation. By tracing U.S. labor history, this volume relates social history as well--from slavery and expansion in the West to child labor laws, equal rights for women, and affirmative action. Within these pages, author Catherine Reef describes, often in their own words, the lives and labors of yeoman farmers, enslaved Africans, factory workers, miners, cowboys, seamstresses, union organizers, newsboys, secretaries, truck drivers, migrant farmworkers, computer programmers, and genetic engineers. Working in America provides hundreds of firsthand accounts--from diary entries, letters, speeches, and newspaper accounts--that illustrate how historical events appeared to those who lived through them. Among the eyewitness testimonies included are those of Thomas Jefferson, Malcolm X, Samuel Gompers, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jesse Jackson, and Jane Addams. In addition to the firsthand accounts, each chapter provides an introductory essay and a chronology of events. The book also includes capsule biographies of more than 130 key figures, a bibliography, an index, more than 80 black-and-white photographs, and historical documents, such as the Land Ordinance Act of 1785; the 12 propositions of the North Carolina slave code of 1830; the regulations for boardinghouses of the Middlesex Company in Lowell, Massachusetts; the Sherman Anti-Trust Act; the constitution of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO); and the Equal Rights Amendment. Eyewitness Testimony on Working in America: A man oppressed by extreme want is prepared for all evil, and the idler is ever prone to wickedness; while the habits of industry, filling the mind with honest thoughts, and requiring the time for better purposes, do not leave leisure for meditating or executing mischief. --Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania statesman and writer, late 18th century cannot but be evident to [a stranger], that the great mass of [slaves] are not treated so well as many of the brute creation; and that the dogs and horses of their masters are better fed, have less labour, less punishment, and quite as much of intellectual culture and enjoyment as the slave... --J. S. Buckingham, English traveler commenting on treatment of enslaved Africans in America, 1842 In Georgia where children work day and night in the cotton mills they have just passed a bill to protect song birds. What about the little children from whom all song is gone? --Mother Jones, speaking at a demonstration in New York City, 1903 In capitalist society the working man is not, in fact, a man at all; as a wage worker, he is simply merchandise; he is bought in the open market the same as hair, hides, salt, or any other form of merchandise. --Eugene V. Debs, speech at Grand Central Palace, December 10, 1905 Women who do not look for jobs equal to their actual capacity, who do not let themselves develop the lifetime interests and goals which require serious education and training, who take a job at twenty or forty to "help out at home" or just to kill time, are walking, almost as surely as the ones who stay inside the housewife trap, to a nonexistent future. --Betty Friedan, from The Feminine Mystique (1963) Companies are downsizing. There's a large workforce, and they're capable of taking anyone's job at any time. So companies have no incentive to give anybody any more. Basically, the feeling is, if you don't like it, there's the door, there's others out there. And they're right. So I don't see the average worker gaining anything in the foreseeable future. --A 48-year-old systems analyst, 1996 Excerpted from Working in America by Catherine Reef All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1. The Yeoman Farmer: 1783-1900p. 1
2. The Role of Enslaved Workers: 1619-1865p. 24
3. The Factory System Emerges: 1733-1865p. 45
4. Building a Transportation Network: 1794-1900p. 65
5. The Mining Frontier: 1719-1900p. 87
6. Industry in the Gilded Age: 1870-1914p. 111
7. Labor Organizes: 1788-1918p. 133
8. The Cowboy: 1840-1886p. 162
9. The Movement to End Child Labor: 1875-1924p. 181
10. The Great Depression: 1929-1941p. 202
11. The Labor Movement in Growth and Decline: 1917-1999p. 228
12. African Americans Seek Equality in the Workplace: 1865-1996p. 252
13. The Changing Role of Women: 1776-1999p. 280
14. The American Worker Faces the Future: 1946-1999p. 306
Appendix A Documentsp. 315
Appendix B Biographies of Major Personalitiesp. 346
Appendix C Mapsp. 377
Bibliographyp. 382
Indexp. 403