This book analyzes consumer organizing tactics and the decline of the Seattle labor movement in the 1920s, as a case study of the U.S. labor movement in the 1920s. The book examines the transformation of the movement after the famous Seattle General Strike of 1919 by showing that workers organized not only at the point of production, but through politicized consumption as well, employing boycotts, cooperatives, labor-owned businesses, and union label promotion. It pays special attention to the gender dynamics of labor's consumer campaigns, as trade union men sought to persuade their wives to "shop union," and to the racial dynamics of campaigns organized by white workers against Seattle's Japanese-American businesses.
"Frank contributes significantly to the efforts of recent historians to go beyond interpretations of the 1920s as lean years for labor...Purchasing Power will play a key role in an increasingly sophisticated literature on the 1920s, and it deserves a careful read by anyone interested in a precise, detailed analysis of twentieth-century labor, gender, race, and the urban West." Pacific Historical Review "As a historian, Frank has compiled a detailed, well-researched analysis of a carefully defined project. ...it is a compelling story of a decade of startling economic and social change through which the reader can easily draw parallels to current events and issues." Journal of Consumer AFF "...riveting and evocative...a significant contribution to our knowledge of twentieth-century working-class history...a very nuanced exploration of the interplay between economic conditions and political activism." The Nation "Purchasing Power is a careful, nuanced study of consumer organizing within the labor movement in the 1920s. Frank exposes the pivotal importance of gender relations inside and outside the home in shaping the successes and failures of labor boycotts, cooperatives, and union label campaigns. Her analysis also adds a great deal to our understanding of organized labor's decline in the 1920s--a problem of interest not only to historians but to anyone interested in the crisis of unionism today." Ruth Milkman, University of California, Los Angeles "Dana Frank has written a perceptive, witty fascinating, and, ultimately, pathbreaking history...Purchasing Power is a model of detailed local scholarship combined with wide reading of the scholarship of others...Hers is a book thoroughly engaged with the implications of the past for the present. It is a work that should inform the analysis and methodology of historians and of people in labor, ethnic, and women's studies for a long time to come." Michael Honey, Western Historical Quarterly "Dana Frank's clearly written study is a major contribution to key debates in the histories of labor, consumer culture, and women...Both activists and historians can learn much from this fine, nuanced work...Activists will gain a critical understanding of the organizing potential of politicized consumption. Historians will be inspired by Frank's sophisticated demonstration of the integration of class, race, and gender in this illuminating study of workers and consumption." Jacqueline K. Dirks, Labor History "...adds significantly to ongoing reformulations of labor history...[T]his intensive examination of one locality over a very short period of time yields a richly textured narrative...Frank has convincingly written gender and race into the complex tale of the labor movement and working-class consciousness in the 1920s...a major work of significance for scholars of labor, gender, and social history." Lynn Y. Weiner, Journal of American History "Frank's study of the rise and fall of Seattle's labor movement during the years after World War I is a provocative and important contribution to the study of labor politics, consumer culture, and the role of gender in class relationships...Purchasing Power ultimately forces us to complicate our view of the meaning and language of class in American history." Journal of Interdisciplinary History "...an engaging and nuanced account of a neglected chapter of labor history...[Frank's] thoughtful analysis of how gender and race interacted with class in this movement should make the book of much interest to sociologists of labor and social movements." Robert V. Robinson, Contemporary Sociology