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Harry Bridges and Noriko (Nikki) Sawada Bridges Flynn Photograph Collection

Identifier: larc-pho-0023

Scope and Contents

This collection, the bulk of which spans the years 1934 to 1996, comprises personal photographs of Harry Bridges and Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn with their families and friends, as well as photographs that document Bridges' and Flynn's attendance at various International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) events.

Series 1, Union-related Photographs, contains some 8x10 photographs of the 1934 General Strike, but the majority consist of Harry Bridges at various ILWU conferences and political and union events, including meeting Nikita Krushev in 1959. Noriko Sawada Bridges attended many of these events with her husband. This series also contains various portraits of Harry Bridges from 1940 until his death in 1990.

Series 2, Family Photographs, consists of black and white prints of Harry Bridges with his second wife, Nancy Fenton Berdicio Bridges, and their two children. Also includes photographs of Bridges and Sawada Bridges Flynn on their wedding day, as well as with their daughter, Kathy.

Series 3, Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn Personal and Travel Photographs, documents her personal friendships, her interests, and her involvement in Japanese-American civil rights. A large number of prints and negatives taken during her travels to Europe and Japan in 1958 are included in this series. While the images in the collection mostly comprise prints of various sizes, this series also contains over a hundred small (3 1/2 x 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 x 2 1/2) negatives of Japan, Europe, and the San Francisco Bay area. Many of the negatives are duplicates of prints contained in the collection.


  • 1930-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1934-1996


Collection is open for research.


Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives and Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor Archives and Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Biography of Harry Bridges

Harry Renton Bridges was born Alfred Renton Bridges in Melbourne, Australia on July 28, 1901. At just 15 he persuaded his father to let him work on a ship sailing from Melbourne to Tasmania, a notoriously rough ocean crossing. His father thought it would cure his son of the desire to be a sailor but it had the opposite effect and Bridges spent the next six years working as a seaman. In 1920, Bridges moved to San Francisco, working on boats up and down the West Coast. After two years he settled in San Francisco as a longshoreman on the San Francisco docks. At that time, all longshoremen on the San Francisco waterfront were represented by a company union. Although supposedly there to protect the rights of the workers, in reality, the Blue Book union system (named for the color of the membership book) only served the interests of the shipping companies. Longshoremen who didn’t work fast enough were replaced, individuals that attempted to form or join a different union faced retaliation or were blacklisted, and workers without a clean “book” were not selected for work. In 1933, Harry Bridges led a campaign to form a San Francisco local of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). Within six weeks, the overwhelming majority of longshoremen had deserted the Blue Book and signed with the ILA. In March 1934, in an effort to force the shipping companies to recognize the union and to implement a coast-wide contract, the ILA membership voted overwhelmingly to strike. After days of escalating police violence, public opinion started to favor the strikers and a General Strike was called with large numbers of San Francisco unions striking in solidarity. The success of the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike is said to have launched the modern labor movement in the Western United States and established Harry Bridges as a well-known and respected labor leader. In 1937, Bridges became president of the newly formed International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, now known as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a post he would hold for the next forty years.

The federal government tried a series of deportation cases against Harry Bridges in 1939, 1941, 1948 and 1953 on the grounds that he was a Communist Party member but ultimately none were successful and Bridges remained in San Francisco. He and his wife, Noriko "Nikki" Sawada Bridges (becoming Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn when she remarried in 1994 after his death), travelled frequently to attend conferences and meet with ILWU members and leaders.

Harry Bridges married three times. His first two marriages, to Agnes Brown in 1925, and to Nancy Fenton Berdicio in 1946, ended in divorce. Bridges third marriage in December 1958 was to Noriko Sawada, the daughter of Japanese immigrant parents. They had one daughter together and remained married until Bridges death in 1990.

Biography of Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn

Noriko "Nikki" Sawada Bridges Flynn was born February 11, 1923 in Los Angeles County to Japanese immigrant parents. In 1942, Flynn, along with her family and thousands of Japanese-Americans, was forcibly relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. It wasn't until early 1945 that the federal government ended the exclusion order and allowed Japanese-Americans to return to the West Coast. The three years Flynn spent in the internment camp and the injustices she witnessed against Japanese-Americans, in the camps and in California, resulted in a life-long dedication to civil rights issues.

Flynn moved to the Bay Area and found work as an assistant to Charles Garry, a well-known San Francisco civil rights attorney. It was through Garry that she met Harry Bridges, founder and leader of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU). They married in December 1958 in Reno, Nevada. At first the clerk refused to issue them a marriage license on the grounds that it violated a 1860s law prohibiting marriage between whites and Asians. It wasn’t until their case went to court that the law was struck down and they were allowed to be married. Bridges and Flynn were married for 32 years and had one daughter together. As an activist in her own right, Flynn often accompanied Harry Bridges to union events and conferences across the United States and overseas.

In 1973, Flynn went back to school, enrolling in creative writing courses at San Francisco State University. Her articles, particularly those about her childhood and internment experiences, were published in national magazines. She continued to fight for redress and reparations for interned Japanese-Americans all her life, and was an active member of the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Women’s Concerns Committee of the Japanese American’s Citizen’s League. In 1988 she was the recipient of the “Women Warrior” award presented by the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition (PAAWBAC). After Harry Bridges death in 1990, she continued her husband's legacy, helping endow the Harry Bridges Chair in Labor Studies at the University of Washington's Center for Labor Studies in 1992.

In 1994, she married Ed Flynn, past president of the Pacific Maritime Association. She died February 7, 2003, in Palo Alto.


1.5 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection, the bulk of which spans the years 1934 to 1996, comprises personal photographs of Harry Bridges and Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn with their families and friends, as well as photographs that document Bridges' and Flynn's attendance at various International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) events.


The collection is divided into three series: Series 1: Union-related Photographs, 1934-1990; Series 2: Family Photographs, 1930-1990; and Series 3: Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn Personal and Travel Photographs, 1955-1996. Each series is arranged chronologically.


Collection is available onsite.


Donated in 2003 by Katherine Bridges Wiggins, daughter of Harry Bridges and Noriko Sawada Bridges, accession number 2003/057.

Related Archival Materials

Related materials that provide additional information on the personal and professional lives of Harry Bridges and Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn can be found in the following collections in the Labor and Archives Research Center: Harry R. Bridges Artifacts; Harry Bridges Collection; Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn Papers; Norman Leonard Papers; and Harry Bridges Scrapbook.

Processing Note

Re-processed in 2015 by Frances Wratten Kaplan.

Harry Bridges and Noriko (Nikki) Sawada Bridges Flynn Photograph Collection
Frances Wratten Kaplan.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Labor Archives and Research Center Repository

San Francisco State University
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
1630 Holloway Ave
San Francisco 94132-1722 USA
(415) 405-5571