Rose Schneiderman named officer of NY State Labor Party
At a meeting in the Hotel New Yorker on July 16, 1936, Rose Schneiderman was elected vice chairman of the New York State Labor Party. The newly formed party declared its support for President Franklin Roosevelt and New York Governor Herbert Lehman, but called on all working people to desert the two established parties and join in a new coalition. The party's platform, developed during the same meeting, supported New Deal legislation and called for the extension of Social Security, further economic reform, and unemployment relief. The platform also defined the party's purpose as "to mobilize the political power of labor and the progressive forces of the people everywhere, in the cities and on the farms, against reaction and for freedom, against economic oppression and for recovery and democracy."
When she was elected to the vice chairmanship of the New York State Labor Party, Schneiderman was already president of the National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) and an established figure in labor activism. Born in Poland in 1882, Schneiderman left school at thirteen to help support her siblings and widowed mother by taking a job as a salesclerk at a New York City department store. After three years, she found a higher-paying job as a cap maker, and immediately became involved in union politics. In 1903, she organized the workers in her shop, and the following year, she became involved with the New York WTUL. The WTUL was a mostly middle-class organization that hoped to gain credibility with workers by bringing women like Schneiderman on board. For the next two decades, Schneiderman worked alternately for the WTUL and the working-class International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), gaining a national reputation as "the Red Rose of Anarchy," and becoming a central figure in both labor and feminist politics.
It was through the WTUL that Schneiderman became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and when Franklin Roosevelt became President in 1933, he named Schneiderman as the only woman on the National Labor Advisory Board. In that role, Schneiderman had a profound influence on New Deal legislation, writing the labor codes for every industry that had a predominantly female work force. She also helped to shape Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 1937, though she had publicly called for laborers to leave the Democratic Party for the new Labor Party, she was named secretary of labor for New York State under the Democratic governor. In that post, she supported unionization efforts and equal pay campaigns. Later, she was active in efforts to rescue and resettle European Jews.
Schneiderman retired from public life in 1949. In her later years, she wrote her memoirs and spoke occasionally on the radio and to union groups. She died on August 11, 1972. At the time of her death, large numbers of American women were beginning to take up the fight for equal pay in the workplace and recognition of women's labor in the home, causes in which Schneiderman was a pioneer. While there is still no independent Labor Party in U.S. politics, the workers' protections that Schneiderman helped create are now an integral part of U.S. law.
Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1209-1212; Gary Endelman, Solidarity Forever: Rose Schneiderman and the Women's Trade Union League (New York, 1982). Annelise Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965. (Chapel Hill, NC, 1995); Rose Schneiderman, All for One (New York, 1967); New York Times, July 17, 1936.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Rose Schneiderman named officer of NY State Labor Party." (Viewed on September 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/16/1936/rose-schneiderman>.