Talkin’ Union: Texas Women Workers

More than four decades ago, an enterprising group of young independent historians produced a path-breaking book and documentary, Talkin’ Union. It featured one of the first scholarly accounts of the great San Antonio pecan sheller strike of 1938, amplifying the powerful but overlooked voice of lifelong organizer Alberta Zepeda Snid. It uncovered interracial unions among Black, white, and Mexicana women garment workers in Dallas, of all places, as well as their union sisters along the border—long before anyone had heard of maquiladoras. The rare oral history interviews and pioneering scholarly essays in this book have clearly withstood the test of time and will now bring the power of people’s history to a new generation of activists!

Professor Max Krochmal, author of Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

NJP Publishing is proud to announce that Talkin’ Union:Texas Women Workers is now available for purchase at Lulu.com. Edited by Richard Croxdale and Melissa Hield with a preface by Glenn Scott, Talkin’ Union is the third book published by NJP Publishing as part of a 2019 series featuring women’s work, memoir, poetry and history. Talkin’ Union tells the groundbreaking story of Texas women pecan shellers and seamstresses who organized for economic and social equality in the ’30s. Researchers with People’s History in Texas relied on first-hand oral histories and extensive archival research to bring this history to life. The Pecan Shellers Strike is now acknowledged as an historic mass movement, the largest mass strike in Texas, and the foundation for Hispanic organizing for a generation.  The Texas garment workers who organized in the ’30s with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union have never received the attention they deserve.  Essays from 1979 about African American women and Chicanas in the Texas workforce capture the beginning of a sea change in women’s workforce participation that would soon transform women’s lives, family dynamics, and the U.S. economy. The material was available for limited distribution as a booklet in 1979, but has been published by NJP Publishing with a 2019 introduction to make this history available through online platforms. Talkin’ Union:Texas Women Workers can be purchased at Lulu.com and will be available soon through Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes and Noble.   

Echoes of Mercy: A soulful journey

This is no typical memoire. It isn’t, for the most part, about actions or accomplishments. And it’s definitely not about bragging. 

The structure isn’t typical, either. It doesn’t go from one thing, leave that and go to another. It unfolds the way human minds and souls unfold over time. It was created the way a painting is: sketches and washes, then loosely shaped forms, then clarifying hues and values, then detailed touches. The pattern is prose stories written in a flowing, personal voice — followed by poetic structures that meditate on the stories that were just told. The pattern repeats many times, with factual overlaps, like ocean waves. The poetry is loose and casual at first, but merges into sophisticated free verse.

But how Alyce Guynn has created this book is not as unusual as what the book says. She doesn’t offer the usual highly curated peek into her life. She escorts you down to the marrow of her soul as you follow her out of small-town, rock-ribbed, Baptist Texas into her own free life. 

She is a strong, smart, independent woman and has much to be proud of. Her spiritual journey is a common one, and I’m sure she knows that. In my own life, I am surrounded by people who have made such a journey. But there’s only one Alyce Guynn. And only one unique, remarkably open book that can make so many of us say “Yes! Yes! That’s what it was like!”

M. Phillips, April 2019

People’s History in Texas

photo of Emma Tenayuca at San Antonio pecan shellers strike.
Emma Tenayuca at San Antonio pecan shellers strike.

New Journalism Project is collaborating with People’s History in Texas (PHIT) to publish two new editions of previous works released by PHIT.  As a new generation of activists finds inspiration in the history of organizing in Texas before they were born, these books will resonate with new audiences.

Talkin’ Union: Texas Women Workers is in the final stages of production. This book was originally published under a different title in 1979 to accompany the Peoples History in Texas documentary, “Talkin’ Union.” The film and the book use oral histories and archival photos to tell the story of Texas women garment workers and pecan shellers who organized successful labor actions in the 30s.  The 1979 edition of Women in the Texas Workforce: Yesterday and Today was edited by Richard Croxdale and Melissa Hield with a preface by Glenn Scott. That earlier edition relies on workforce research and transcribed interviews with participants in the labor actions of the 30s. A new introduction by Richard Croxdale frames the material for new readers.

A second edition of another People’s History in Texas book is also in production. Clarksville: Whose Community? by Jennifer Sharpe was first published in 1982 and chronicles an important fight against gentrification in a west Austin neighborhood.  Clarksville was founded in 1871 as black freedom town where former slaves reunited with family separated and displaced by slavery.  In the late 70s, this community waged a battle against developers. This upcoming book will add to the history of gentrification in Austin.

About People’s History in Texas: PHIT’s first project in 1976 was the Women in Texas History Calendar, one of the first compilations of Texas women’s history facts.  PHIT’s research uncovered stories of women workers and activists who organized labor unions in the 1930s and l940s. With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Youth Grants Program and the Texas Committee for the Humanities, they collected oral histories of Texas women labor organizers and produced “Talkin’ Union” (1979, 58 mins., b/w film/video), an oral history of four women who participated in the pecan shellers and garment workers unions. PHIT published Women in the Texas Workforce: Yesterday and Today (1979), essays on women’s work for wages.

Peoples History in Texas (PHIT), a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1975 by five women including a writer, an elementary school teacher, a librarian, and two graduate students.  PHIT brings to life the stories of ordinary people and significant socio-political movements through its research, publishing, and media production. 

Looking Glass

Looking Glass Poems by Alice Embree book cover

Alice Embree, Austin writer and activist, is a frequent contributor to The Rag Blog and collaborator on Rag Radio. She helped launch Austin’s underground newspaper, The Rag in 1966. With Thorne Dreyer and Richard Croxdale, Embree edited Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper in 2016. She has written for The Texas Observer and contributed to the 1970 anthology, Sisterhood is Powerful, edited by Robin Morgan.

In Looking Glass, Embree explores the intimate terrain of grief, the memory of an earlier Austin, and the joys and challenges of living a creative life. The author introduces the collection with these words: “I find that through the alchemy of writing, I’m able to disperse the fog and find the light.”

Looking Glass is the second in a series by NJP Publishing that will feature women writers. Looking Glass is available online at Lulu.com, Amazon, Ingram and Barnes and Noble, and is sold in Austin at BookWoman.

Echoes of Mercy: Psalms from the Marrow Bone

Echoes of Mercy by Alyce M. Guynn book cover

Echoes of Mercy: Psalms from the Marrow Bone by Austin author Alyce M. Guynn is richly layered poetry and prose.  Guynn, a reporter for the Austin American Statesman in the late 60s and an antitrust investigator, has a passion for writing.  A prolific poet, she has been a contributor to The Rag Blog and a guest on Rag Radio.  Her published work includes Deal Me In, a book of 52 love poems illustrated by Jesse ‘Guitar’ Taylor, a book of poetry entitled Beyond Blue: In Memory of Champ Hood and Feeding the Crow, a collection of poetry and prose.

Alyce Guynn’s memoir, Echoes of Mercy, lovingly records the language and rhythms of bygone, church-goin’ small-town Texas where Sunday lunch is called dinner, family members have nicknames like Toadie Mae and Aunt Sister, where caskets are left open, and teenagers swoon over Elvis, go the picture show, make out in old cars – and sometimes get ostracized as unwed mothers… — Sharon Shelton-Colangelo

Echoes of Mercy is the first in a series by NJP Publishing that will feature women writers.  Echoes of Mercy is available online at Lulu.com, Amazon, Ingram and Barnes and Noble.

Celebrating The Rag

Celebrating The Rag book cover

In 2016 the New Journalism Project published Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper. This first publishing effort in October 2016 coincided with a 50th-anniversary celebration and reunion of Rag staffers. Celebrating The Rag garnered national acclaim. Reviews are posted on The Rag Blog. Celebrating The Rag is available online at Lulu.com in paperback, hardback and as an e-book. The paperback Celebrating The Rag can also be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram. If you purchase through Amazon, please use Amazon Smile and designate the New Journalism Project as your charity of choice. In Austin, the book can be purchased at BookPeople, BookWoman and other locations.