Although the industrial union organizations that emerged under the banner of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s and 1940s embraced the principles of nondiscrimination and inclusion, the role of women within unions reflected the prevailing gender ideology of the period. Elizabeth Faue's study of the labor movement in Minneapolis argues that women were marginalized by union bureaucratization and by the separation of unions from the community politics from which industrial unionism had emerged. Faue stresses the importance of women's contribution to the development of unions at the community level, contributions that made women's ultimate fate within the city's labor movement all the more poignant: as unions reached the peak of their strength in the 1940s, the community base that had made their success possible and to which women's contributions were so vital became increasingly irrelevant to unions' institutional life.
In her study of CIO industrial unions from the 1930s to the 1970s, Nancy F. Gabin also acknowledges the pervasive male domination in the unions, but maintains that women workers were able to create a political space within some unions to advance their interests as women. Gabin shows that, despite the unions' tendency to marginalize women's issues, working women's demands were a constant undercurrent within the union, and she stresses the links between the unions' women activists and the wave of feminism that emerged in the 1960s.