Monday, June 8, 2009

Little Old Ladies in the "Underwear Club," 1941

Did you know that after the Ypsilanti underwear factory closed in the early 1900s, former workers met for reunions for at least 10 years, from '31 to '41, in Prospect Park? They formed a club, elected officers, and every August they'd go to the park for a big potluck picnic. Donations were requested each year to cover the cost of the reunions' special treat, ice cream.

At first, around 100 people were showing up each year. But the reunions were dealt a blow when bad weather at the fifth reunion in 1936 halved the number of attendees. For the following reunions, only around 50 people came. The newspaper clippings in the Archives trail off after a decade, so it's possible the reunions did, too.

At the tenth and possibly final reunion in 1941, a full generation after the factory closed, members arrived from Milan, River Rouge, Whitmore Lake, Illinois, Indiana, and Los Angeles. A higher number of deaths was reported than at previous meetings: seven. Members of the Underwear Club were passing out of this life, but not out of history. Longtime club officer Sara Schaff hand-wrote an extensive, detailed history of the factory, its multiple dam breaks, and its destruction process.

You may recall that the factory was by far the city's biggest employer of women--like this one. Without them, the factory and its storied place in Ypsi history couldn't have existed. Here's a long-delayed salute to the lovely ladies in the Underwear Club.

1 comment :

Dusty D said...

DD has a copy of Schaff's history of the factory and would be glad to transcribe it if folks would like to read it.