ROSE SCHNEIDERMAN (1882-1972)
Rose Schneiderman was born in Poland in 1882, and her family emigrated to New York when she was eight years old. Although she never married, she was one of the most influential women in the Labor Movement for the first half of the 20th century. Her career was marked by high profile appointments as labor advisor to U.S. government agencies, including a culminating position as the first woman appointed to the Labor Advisory Board by Franklin Roosevelt.
Rose's childhood; however, was typical of young women growing up on the Lower East Side. Her father died when she was ten years old and her mother was "Forced to work in a factory" at which time she "did the only thing she could do, she sent her children to an orphanage." (Taitz, p. 137) At thirteen, Rose was considered old enough to work, and her first job was as an errand girl in a department store. "She worked sixty-four hours a week and received a wage of $2.16." (Taitz, p.137) Her third job was in a factory making hats. She knew that factory work paid a better wage. Fortunately, with the wages she earned in the factory, she was able to reunite her family so her mother could stay at home with the younger children once again.
In 1903, at the age of 21, Rose organized the first female local within the United Hat and Cap Makers Union. "Having grown up in the factories, Rose knew how bad conditions were, especially for young women. Factory owners charged each worker for the supplies she used in her work. Workers had to pay for thread, machines, even electricty. (Taitz, p. 138)
Rose was also active in the suffrage movement, she "even argued before
President Wilson, insisting: 'The vote, Mr. President, is a necessity.' In
answer to the charge that women would 'lose their beauty and purity if they
voted,' (Taitz, p. 139) Rose said:
"We have women working in foundries stripped to the waist . . . [other women] stand for thirteen or fourteen hours in the terrible steam and heat with their hands in hot starch. 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 tolose standing in foundries or laundries all year round."
By 1918, Rose Schneiderman was one of the most outspoken and active women in the Women's Labor Movement. Her commitment to fair wages and improved working conditions for women made her one of the most notable spokespersons for the working class, particularly working class women.
Related biography links
Ashby, Ruth and Ohrn, Deborah, eds. Herstory: Women who Changed the World. New York, NY: Viking, 1995.
Sachs, Marilyn. Call Me Ruth. NY: Doubleday, 1982.