Cover of Unmentionables by Stacy D. Fahrenthold
Textiles, Garment Work, and the Syrian American Working Class
Stacy D. Fahrenthold

December 2024
320 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503638082
Paperback ISBN: 9781503641303



As weavers, garment workers, and peddlers, Syrian immigrants in the Americas fed the early twentieth-century transnational textile trade. These migrants and the commodities they produced—silk, linen, and cotton; lace and embroidery; undergarments and ready-wear clothing—moved along steamship routes from Beirut through Marseille and Madeira to New York City, New England, and Veracruz. As migrants and merchants crisscrossed the Atlantic in pursuit of work, Syrian textile manufacturing expanded across the hemisphere. Unmentionables offers a history of the global textile industry and the Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians who worked in it.

Stacy Fahrenthold examines how Arab workers navigated processes of racialization, immigration restriction, and labor contestation. She writes women workers—the majority of Syrian garment workers—back into US labor history. She also situates the rise of Syrian American industrial elites, who exerted supply chain power to combat labor uprisings, resist unionization, and stake claim to the global textile industry. Critiquing the hegemony of the Syrian peddler in histories of this diaspora, Unmentionables introduces alternative narrators: union activists who led street demonstrations, women garment workers who shut down kimono factories, child laborers who threw snowballs at police, and the diasporic merchant capitalists who contended with all of them.

About the author

Stacy D. Fahrenthold is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Between the Ottomans and the Entente (2019).

"This fascinating book enriches US women's labor history, complicates histories of Syrian immigration, and foregrounds the ways Syrian American workers resisted US empire. Connecting diverse geographies and modes of production, Stacy Fahrenthold highlights the significance of gendered labor and Syrian American workers in the globalizing US textile and garment industry."

—Aimee Loiselle, Central Connecticut State University

"This is labor history at its best: attentive to workers' dreams and demands, ingenious in tracing the flows of capital from Madeira to Massachusetts, and inspiring in its archival breadth. Stacy Fahrenthold centers Syrian workers in a fascinating global history of the textile trade. Crisp and eloquently written,Unmentionables is a must-read."

—Sarah M.A. Gualtieri, University of Southern California