Julie Meyer

Julie Meyer

Julie Meyer, from Manolo Guerrero, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bluetypo/11891015686

By Carmen Hendershott, Librarian, The New School

Julie Meyer, a pioneering scholar in the sociology of labor, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on January 15, 1897, to a banking family. She studied in Munich and Erlangen and received her Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen in 1922. After graduating, Meyer worked in a municipal high school from 1922-1933 and in the Municipal School for Social Work in Nuremberg from 1927-1933. From 1933 until her emigration to the United States in 1937, she was the head economic adviser in the Nuremberg Office of the Reichsvertretung (Reich Representation of German Jews), which attempted to assist Jews who had suffered economic reversals under the Nazi regime. Meyer came to the U.S. through the refugee scholar program that New School Director Alvin Johnson initiated and that the Rockefeller Foundation funded and administered. She arrived at the New School in 1938 and stayed there until she retired in 1967, only teaching elsewhere once, at Hunter College in 1946. She became an American citizen in 1943, and married Dr. Julius Frank, a professor of languages at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in 1947. She died on August 18, 1970, in New York City, at the age of 73. [1]

Meyer’s initial involvement at the New School was as a research assistant; she moved into teaching the following year. In 1943, she was formally designated as a lecturer, and, in 1946, as an assistant professor. By 1948, she had become an associate professor, a status she held until her retirement. Meyer’s teaching activities were carried out in the two divisions that constituted the school at that time, the Adult Division (starting in 1939) and the Graduate Faculty (starting in 1941). In both, her initial exposure to the classroom was as an assistant to Frieda Wunderlich, a pioneer in labor economics. From 1939 to Spring 1942, Wunderlich and Meyer co-taught “The Union Situation in New York City: A Seminar,” after which Meyer taught it independently to students in both divisions. Other courses Meyer taught with Wunderlich include: “Economics of Consumption” (Spring 1941); “Labor Legislation and Industrial Relations” (Fall 1941); “Labor Problems and Trade Unionism” (Spring 1942); and “Introduction to Labor Economics and Labor Sociology” (offered 11 times between Fall 1943-Spring 1954). Meyer’s final significant teaching association with Wunderlich was in the “Labor Management Workshop,” a course first offered in both divisions in Spring 1955 in cooperation with Wunderlich, Julius Manson, and various other experts on this subject; it was last offered in Spring 1959.

Meyer’s career as an established faculty member with her own courses started in 1943, when she introduced a course called “Current Labor Events” (taught 19 times between Fall 1943 and Fall 1956). Other recurring courses taught by Meyer include “Sociology of Labor” (taught 28 times); “Urban Sociology,” her main departure from courses focused mainly on the sociology of labor (taught 22 times); “Collective Bargaining” (taught 16 times); and “Industrial Sociology- Management and Labor” (taught 13 times). In addition to teaching, Meyer was a frequent participant in the General Seminar, the lively debate among scholars at the Graduate Faculty. She presented her work often and published it in Social Research, the flagship journal of the university. She also contributed a chapter to Von Juden in München; ein Gedenkbuch, edited by Hans Lamm (1959), in which she recalled her student days in Munich. At her retirement ceremony in June 1967, Arnold Brecht credited her with attracting “a new type of student to our faculty from both labor and management,” probably a reference to her ability to interest students to study labor and not only management. [2] Brecht’s comment implicitly recognizes her pioneering work in labor sociology, which gave Julie Meyer an unusual and noteworthy career.

[1]  Biographical information can be found in International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrés, 1933-1945, vol. 2, edited by Herbert A. Strauss and Werner Röder (München: K.G. Saur, 1983) and her obituary, New York Times (20 August 1970). Teaching information is gathered from course catalogs, New School Archives.

[2] “Salute to Three Colleagues.” In: New School Bulletin v.24 (1) June 1, 1967, p.5.