57 Inches of Fire

The Life & Labor Legacy of Rose Schneiderman

Her enemies called her “The Red Rose of Anarchy.” Male union leaders dismissed her as a fabrente meydeleh (“fiery girl” in Yiddish…aka “hothead”). Her friends knew her as a force to be reckoned with.

Rose Schneiderman, 1909 (Library of Congress)

No Union-Made Caps for Sale!

The conditions in the cap factories like Rose’s were typical of what we think of as sweatshops: poor ventilation, unsafe conditions, long hours, and of course low wages. Despite the challenges, Rose did well there. She soon realized, however, that there were limited advancement opportunities for girls, and was not happy about it.

The Uprising of the 20,000/Hey, Sister Suffragette

Her network of friends included many other young Jewish immigrant women working in various parts of the garment industry. Many of them — women like Clara Lemlich and Pauline Newman — were powerful organizers in their own right. Together, they dedicated their lives to the causes of socialism, suffrage, and most of all, trade unionism.

Women picketing as part of the 1909 “Uprising of the 20,000” Garment Workers Strike (Wikimedia Commons)

After Triangle

146 people died in that fire. We all know the stories. The doors were locked to prevent the taking of breaks or the stealing of materials. The rickety old fire escape collapsed. Desperate women jumped to their deaths from the 9th and 10th stories.

Women protesting post-Triangle Fire (Wikimedia Commons)

The Big Leagues

The tragedy only sharpened Rose Schneiderman’s determination. By then, she had become a battle-hardened organizer, as well as a shrewd politician and media savvy operator.

Votes for Women

Poster for Rose’s Speech (Library of Congress)
Rose speaking as president of the National Women’s Trade Union League (Library of Congress)
Cooper Union’s Great Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
Rose with Eleanor Roosevelt at the theater, 1938

“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” — Rose Schneiderman

NYC Tour Guide, writer, and amateur historian focusing on NYC women’s history. My day job is staying curious @AtlasObscura.