United Federal Labor Canteen

Posted by Ellen

Guest of honor at this Valentine's Day party in 1944 was Eleanor Roosevelt; serenading her was a soldier by the name of Pete Seeger.

The gathering celebrated not only Valentine's Day but also the grand opening of the new Labor Canteen of the United Federal Workers of America, CIO, near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

United Federal Workers was a labor union representing U.S. government employees. Though soldiers and sailors were certainly not unionized, they may have frequented the new canteen for political and/or social activities.

The UFW included both black and white members. But the scene in this room was extremely unusual for 1940s Washington, which was still a completely segregated city. The military was also still segregated. Eleanor Roosevelt's presence was making a political statement about race as well as labor.

The cartoons on the wall in the background may have been the work of Woody Guthrie.

As some of you will surely point out, the banjo Pete Seeger is playing here does not look like the long-necked music machine he was long associated with. That one came a few years later.

Happy Valentine's Day 2015.