Human, labor, and consumer rights

The late nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed campaigns for the rights of workers, minorities, and women who fought for and won the right to vote in 1920. The campaign for the rights of consumers began with efforts to educate the public about the conditions under which the products they bought were created.

Left: "Radium girls" painting dials on watches in U.S. Radium Corporation, Orange, NJ (source)


Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802–1887)

Born in Maine, Dorothea Dix became an advocate for the humane care of the mentally ill, founding or enlarging thirty-two mental hospitals in the United States and abroad. The first of these was the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum in Trenton (Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in West Trenton) founded in 1848.

  • List of original publications in Special Collections in QuickSearch

Mary Teresa Norton (1875–1959)

Mary Norton was a New Jersey politician who was a labor advocate and supporter of women’s rights. A resident of Jersey City, she was the first woman elected as a Democrat in the United States House of Representatives, where she served from 1925 to 1951. She helped pass the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 and was a delegate to the International Labor Conference in Paris in 1945. Her papers include drafts of her unpublished memoir "Madame Congressman."

Mary Dyckman (1886-1982)

Mary L. Dyckman, a leader of the Consumers League of New Jersey, campaigned successfully for the landmark Child Labor Act of 1940 and advocated better conditions for migrant workers.


New Jersey is the birthplace of the consumer movement. Several New Jersey organizations challenged corporations and the state government to ensure that goods and services were safe, reliable, and fairly priced.

Consumers League of New Jersey (1900-1988)

The Consumers League of New Jersey was established in 1900 as an affiliate of the National Consumers League. Focused on improving the working conditions of women and children in industry and agriculture during the first half of the century, the organization shifted its agenda during the 1960s and 1970s to issues such as consumer credit, consumer fraud, food prices, the use of pesticides and food additives, national health insurance, and environmental pollution.

The collections contains records concerning the "radium girls" in Orange, NJ.

​​​Consumers’ Research, Inc. (1927-1980)

Founded in 1927 and located in rural Washington, New Jersey, Consumers’ Research was the first product-testing organization in the world. The organization and its leaders established the rights of consumers to purchase safe and effective products, setting standards for industry and government.