Josephine Goldmark

Advocate for Working Women

Child Labor Protest, New York
Child Labor Protest, New York. PhotoQuest / Getty Images

Josephine Goldmark Facts:

Known for: writings on women and labor; Key researcher for the "Brandeis brief" in Muller v. Oregon
Occupation: social reformer, labor activist, legal writer
Dates: October 13, 1877 - December 15, 1950
Also known as: Josephine Clara Goldmark

Josephine Goldmark Biography:

Josephine Goldmark was born the tenth child of European immigrants, both of whom had fled with their families from the revolutions of 1848. Her father owned a factory and the family, who lived in Brooklyn, was well off. He died when she was quite young, and her brother-in-law Felix Adler, married to her older sister Helen, played an influential role in her life.

Consumers League

Josephine Goldmark graduated with a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 1898, and went on to Barnard for graduate work. She became a tutor there, and also began to volunteer with the Consumers League, an organization concerned with working conditions for women in factories and other industrial work. She and Florence Kelley, the president of the Consumers League, became close friends and partners in work.

Josephine Goldmark became a researcher and writer with the Consumers League, both the New York chapter and nationally. By 1906, she had published an article on working women and laws, published in Woman's work and organization, published by the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

In 1907, Josephine Goldmark published her first research study, Labor laws for women in the United States, and in 1908, she published another study, Child labor legislation. State legislators were the target audience of these publications.

The Brandeis Brief

With National Consumers League president Florence Kelley, Josephine Goldmark convinced Goldmark's brother-in-law, lawyer Louis Brandeis, to be counsel for the Oregon Industrial Commission in the Muller v. Oregon case, defending protective labor legislation as constitutional. Brandeis wrote two pages in the brief called the "Brandeis brief" on the legal issues; Goldmark, with some help from her sister Pauline Goldmark and Florence Kelley, prepared more than 100 pages of evidence of the effect of long working hours on both men and women, but disproportionately on women.

While Goldmark's brief argued as well for women's increased economic vulnerability -- due in part to their exclusion from unions, and the brief documented the time they spent at home on domestic chores as an additional burden on working women, the Supreme Court primarily used the arguments on women's biology and especially the desireability of healthy mothers in finding the Oregon protective legislation constitutional.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

In 1911, Josephine Goldmark was part of a committee investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in Manhattan. In 1912, she published a massive study connecting shorter work hours to increased productivity, called Fatigue and Efficiency. In 1916, she published The eight hours day for wage earning women.

In the years of American involvement in World War I, Goldmark was executive secretary of the Committee of Women in Industry. She then became the head of the Women's Service Section of the U.S. Railroad Administration. In 1920, she published Comparison of an eight-hour plant and a ten-hour plant, again linking productivity to shorter hours.

Protective Legislation vs. ERA

Josephine Goldmark was among those who opposed an Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed after women won the vote in 1920, fearing that it would be used to overturn special laws protecting women in the workplace. Criticism of protective labor legislation as working ultimately against women's equality she called "superficial."

Nursing Education

For her next focus, Goldmark became the executive secretary of the Study of Nursing Education, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1923 she published Nursing and Nursing Education in the United States, and was appointed to head the New York Visiting Nurses Service. Her writing helped inspire nursing schools to make changes in what they taught.

Later Publications

In 1930, she published Pilgrims of '48 which told the story of her family's political involvement in Vienna and Prague in the revolutions of 1848, and their emigration to the United States and life there. She published Democracy in Denmark, supporting government intervention to achieve social change. She was working on a biography of Florence Kelley (published posthumously), Impatient Crusader: Florence Kelley's Life Story.

More About Josephine Goldmark:

Background, Family:

  • Father: Joseph Goldmark (from Vienna, Austria; died 1881)
  • Mother: Regina Wehle (from Prague, Czechoslovakia)
  • Ten siblings (she was the youngest) including Helen Goldmark Adler (married Ethical Culture founder Felix Adler); Alice Goldmark Brandeis (married Louis Brandeis); Pauline Dorthea Goldmark (social worker and teacher, friend of William James); Emily Goldmark; Henry Goldmark

Josephine Goldmark never married and had no children.


Organizations: National Consumers' League

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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Josephine Goldmark." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 26). Josephine Goldmark. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Josephine Goldmark." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).