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Matilda Robbins Papers

Identifier: LP000143

Scope and Content

Matilda Robbins' papers mainly reflect her experiences as an IWW organizer and the period of her life from 1900 to 1922.

Series Description:

Series I: Published and unpublished writings in the form of stories and columns. There are also a few related clippings. They mainly relate to her childhood and the years spent organizing for the IWW.

Series II, Personal Papers: Correspondence, newspaper clippings, certificates, and copies of articles by Richard Robbins.


  • 1919 - 1963


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


Matilda Gertrude Robbins was born in Litin, Russia January 9, 1887. She arrived in the United States in December 1900. Here her name was changed from Tatania Gitel Rabinowitz. The family settled in Connecticut where she completed her education at the eighth grade level and went to work at a variety of jobs.

She became concerned with economic conditions as they affected the working class and with her brother, David, joined the Socialist Party. She was allied with the industrial union faction of that party which opposed the older craft union group. She became active in Socialist Party leadership but resigned in 1911 for a time in the dispute between the two factions, and she joined the Industrial Workers of the World.

Her career as an organizer began with an unsuccessful attempt to organize her fellow workers at the corset factory where she was employed. In November 1912 Vincent St. John, the General Secretary of the IWW sent her to Little Falls, N.Y. to lead the strike which had broken out in the textile mills there. She replaced the IWW organizers who had previously been on the scene and who had been jailed. The strike lasted three months and, when settled, resulted in some small gains for the workers.

Later she became a national organizer for the Textile Workers Industrial Union and she was sent by the IWW to other strikes to help by speaking and organizing. Among them were the 1913 Studebaker strike in Detroit and the cigar makers strike in Pittsburgh of the same year. She was briefly jailed while in Detroit. In 1914 she worked organizing textile workers in Greenville, S.C. She ceased working as an organizer for the IWW in 1915.

In 1919 her daughter, Vita Robbins Legere, was born. She later worked for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the Staff of Advance and for the Co┬Čoperative Society in E. St. Louis, Mo. She was also secretary of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense League.

Robbins later moved to California with her daughter where she lived in Los Angeles, Fresno, and the San Francisco area. She remained an active socialist and served as the executive secretary of the Los Angeles chapter from 1945 to 1947. She wrote regularly for the "Industrial Worker" (IWW) until her death, January 9, 1963.


1 Linear Feet (2 MB)


Manuscripts (articles and stories), clippings, correspondence, personal papers, and photographs collected by Mrs. Robbins, who was a labor organizer and writer for the IWW from 1912 until her death in 1963. Subjects include the Paterson N.J. Silk Strike.

Arrangement of the Records

Arranged in 2 series - Series 1 (Boxes 1-2), and Series 2 (Box 2).


The papers of Matilda Robbins were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in March of 1965 and April of 1976 by her daughter, Vita Legere Henderson.

Related Material

Additional material on Matilda Robbins will be found in the Ben Legere Collection (folders 7:4, 7:5), the IWW Collection (folder 25:36), and the John Nicholas Beffel Collection (folder 3:18).


A small collection of photographs received with this collection has been placed in the Archives audiovisual collections.

Processing History

Finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library inAugust 1965 and updated in March 1980.
Guide to the Matilda Robbins Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA