In mid-February 1917 a women's movement independent of political affiliation erupted in New York City, the stronghold of the Socialist party in the United states. Protesting against the high cost of living, thousands of women refused to buy chickens, fish, and vegetables. The boycott shut. down much of the City's foodstuffs marketing for two weeks, riveting public attention on the issue of food prices, which had increased partly as a result of increased exports of food to Europe that had been occurring since the outbreak of the First World War. By early 1917 the Socialist party had established itself as a major political presence in New York City. New York Socialists, whose customary spheres of struggle were electoral work and trade union organizing, seized the opportunity and quickly organized an extensive series of cost-of-living protests designed to direct the women's movement toward Socialist goals. Underneath the Socialists' brief commitment to cost-of-living organizing lay a basic indifference to the issue itself. While some Socialists did view price protests as a direct step toward socialism, most Socialists ultimately sought to divert the cost-of-living movement into alternative channels of protest. Union organizing, they argued, was the best method through which to combat the high cost of living. For others, cost-of-living or oganizing was valuable insofar as it led women into the struggle for suffrage, and similarly, the suffrage struggle was valuable insofar as it moved United States society one step closer to socialism.

Although New York's Socialists saw the cost-of-living issue as, at best ,secondary or tertiary to the real task at hand, the boycotters, by sharp contrast, joined the price protest movement out of an urgent and deeply felt commitment to the cost-of-living issue. A shared experience of swiftly declining living standards caused by rising food prices drove these women to protest. Consumer organizing spoke directly to their daily lives and concerns; they saw cheaper food as a valuable end in itself. Food price protests were these women's way of organizing at their own workplace, as workers whose occupation was shopping and preparing food for their families.

It can be inferred from the passage that the goal of the boycotting women was the

achievement of an immediate economic outcome

development of a more socialistic society

concentration of widespread consumer protests on the more narrow issue of food prices

development of one among a number of different approaches that the women wished to employ in combating the high cost of living.

attraction of more public interest to issues that the women and the New York Socialists considered important.


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