Betty Tianti

Betty Tianti
"Trade unionism is a way of life. It is something that I believe is the only way that workers can improve their lives, not only for themselves, but for generations that come after."
- Betty Tianti

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1929

Died: 1994

Inducted: 1994

Town: Danielson and Newington

Betty Tianti dedicated her life to the advancement of the labor movement. In doing so, she made history in 1985 when she was elected president of the AFL-CIO in Connecticut, becoming the nation’s first woman to head a labor federation. Tianti further made history three years later when she was appointed to be the state’s first female Commissioner of Labor—a position that had been filled by men since its inception in 1873.

Tianti was born in Plainfield, Conn., in 1929, the daughter of Theodell and Evelyn Mathieu. She graduated from Plainfield High School and attended the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts. She moved to Danielson and, in 1956, started working as a machine operator at the American Thread Company in Willimantic, where she immediately joined the Textile Workers Union of America. Within a few months, not only was she promoted to machine fixer, becoming the first woman to hold that position, but was chosen union steward. After two years, she was secretary-treasurer of Local 460, and soon thereafter, was elected president of the same union.

In 1967, Tianti left the thread company to become the first woman deputy director of the union's Committee on Political Education (COPE). She returned to Connecticut three years later to become the first woman agent of the State Board of Labor Relations. In 1974, she accepted the position of Connecticut's Director of COPE and was later elected the first woman secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO federation. When she was elected president of the state AFL-CIO in 1985, she used her leadership skills to coordinate legislative, educational and community services for member unions.

She also served on a number of state commissions, including the Governor's Committee on the Status of Women (1973) and the Committee on Objective Job Evaluations and Pay Equity (1986-1987). In 1988, Governor William O'Neill appointed Tianti to be the state's Commissioner of Labor, a position she held until her retirement in 1991.

Betty Tianti died in Alexandria, Va. in May 1994.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice