Dressing the Invisible: A History of Smith College Housekeepers’ Uniforms

About the Project

Welcome!

My name is Emma O’Neill-Dietel and I am a current senior at Smith in the Archives Concentration.

This project began in January 2022 as a capstone project, but since then has grown into so much more: an exercise in community-building, activism, grassroots archiving, and collecting.

This website is the companion piece for a physical exhibit on the history of Smith College housekeepers’ uniforms and the way their uniforms impact labor issues that housekeepers face. A uniform can be a point of pride or a point of contention. They create an archetypal image in our minds of certain jobs and the workers who hold them. In some cases, uniforms can turn workers invisible.

Uniforms can be a method of control. They transform individual workers into a uniform mass (literally and metaphorically). However, uniforms also create solidarity. They help workers recognize each other as members of the same group. In the case of current Smith housekeepers, uniforms provide opportunities to organize for workers’ rights. Visit the Support Smith Housekeepers page to learn about the issues that current housekeepers face with their uniforms.

As you look through the gallery of photos, consider what you wear to work. Does it make your job easier or harder? Does it make you feel good about yourself? Who decides what you wear?

© 2022 Dressing the Invisible: A History of Smith College Housekeepers’ Uniforms

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