The Polk School: Intersections of Women’s Labor Leadership Education and the Public Sphere

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, the author examines the transformative role of a multiday residential labor school in which she served as director, both for the female participants and for herself: the Regina V. Polk Women's Labor Leadership Conference, or Polk School. The school's institutional home is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Labor and Employment Relations–Labor Education Program (LEP). The author discusses the school's origins as well as its impact on newer generations of women in a changing labor movement. It also considers Regina Polk's legacy and how the leadership training program established in her name encourages and nurtures democracy through access, agency, and power to the public sphere. The program helps emerging leaders gain specific organizational skills and, even more importantly, reach new levels of confidence and commitment to organizing. The author also describes how her involvement in the Polk School has expanded her role as a labor scholar and educator, offering the rewards of a larger public role.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCivic Labors
Subtitle of host publicationScholar Activism and Working-Class Studies
EditorsDennis Deslippe, Eric Fure-Slocum, John W. Mckerley
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780252040498
ISBN (Print)9780252040498, 9780252081965
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Publication series

NameThe Working Class in American History


  • labor movement
  • organizing
  • public sphere
  • agency
  • democracy
  • leadership training
  • Regina Polk
  • women
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Polk School


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