In the annuls of American history, few women have made such an impact on working people as Rose Schneiderman did. Inspired by the events of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York, in 1911, she dedicated the rest of her life to improve the working conditions in factories. During that time most of the factory work was done by immigrants who were often exploited for their labor. The vast majority of the garments in the country were made in New York and most of the workers were female; a situation ripe for exploitation from employers. Rose herself fit well into this intersectionality because she was born in Poland.
In an effort to correct some of the injustices in the work place she started to organize a union. However, she did not fit the stereotype of the intransigent union boss, she worked assiduously to form coalitions with people of different races and classes. She was personal friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and secretary of labor Francis Perkins, she organized African American women at a time when very few would do so, and she received support from upper income women for her efforts. Recognizing that power rested in the ballot box, she devoted a lot of time and energy into the cause of women suffrage.
By the age of twenty-one she organized her first union and 1910 she organized the largest strike led by women. In 1917 she combined the intersecting interest of labor and suffrage for the New York Woman Suffrage Party. She lobbied the public in an unsuccessful political campaign to embrace ideas of improving neighborhood schools, state-funded health care, and unemployment insurance. Realizing that women were in a different position in society, she lobbied the New York legislature to adopt a forty-eight-hour work week and minimum wage for women. Her belief was that such laws were needed because women earned less money than men for doing the same work.
Her organizing efforts had led her close to the levers of power within the Franklin Roosevelt administration. At the beginning of the New Deal she was appointed to the National Recovery Administration’s Labor Advisory Board as the only woman. In that capacity she wrote the codes for most of the industries with a mostly female workforce. As the secretary of labor in the state of New York, her final public positon, she championed the cause of domestic workers who were excluded form New Deal protections believing their work had comparable value.
The values and causes Rose fought for are beneficial to Making It to The Finish Line’s original mission of empowering young women. She recognized an injustice and decided to take action. Also the spirit of cooperation is necessary to achieve goals that seem impossible to achieve alone. If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out about Rose Schniderman and similar inspirational role models, check out the source below.
Dreier, P. (2012). The 100 greatest Americans of the 20th century: A social justice hall of fame. New York: Nation Books.