Today in Feminist History: Speaking of Jewish Socialists . . .

Speaking of Jewish socialists: on this day in 1882, Rose Schneiderman was born in Savin, Poland. After her family immigrated to the United States, her education was interrupted by her family’s poverty. When the more “respectable” job of salesgirl didn’t make enough, she turned to the factories. After successfully organizing her fellow workers into the United Cloth and Cap Makers, she became the first woman elected union official.  She helped lead the great shirtwaist strike of 1909-1910, led New York Women’s Trade Union League, ran for Senate on the Labor Party ticket, worked on labor legislation with the FDR administration, and resettle Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. 

Notably, while some radicals, like Emma Goldman, were famously dismissive of the vote, Schneiderman was a leader of the Wage Earners Suffrage League. In 1912, she responded to a New York politician fretting about how the vote would ruin women’s feminine nature:

We have women working in the foundries, stripped to the waist, if you please, because of the heat. Yet the Senator says nothing about these women losing their charm. . . Of course you know the reason they are employed in the foundries is that they are cheaper and worker longer hours than men. . . Surely these women won’t lose any more of their beauty and charm by putting a ballot in a ballot box once a year than they are likely lose standing in foundries and laundries all year round. There is no harder contest than the contest for bread, let me tell you that.

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