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Rose Finkelstein

A lifelong labor activist, Rose Finkelstein organized pay raises and better hours for women workers throughout New England. Finkelstein left high school in her senior year to begin working as a telephone operator, a poorly paid job that involved a split shift with an unpaid, three-hour break. When male union leaders proved uninterested in the female operators’ concerns, Rose Finkelstein helped organize 8,000 women to join the strike for the Boston Women’s Trade Union League in 1919, ultimately winning huge concessions and collective bargaining rights for workers. When she married Hyman Norwood in 1921, however, Finkelstein was forced by management to quit her job as an operator. Despite this, she continued her activism, organizing domestic workers, boilermakers, laundry workers, librarians, and retail clerks. She also lobbied for married women to keep the right to their paychecks. She served as president of the Boston WTUL until it was disbanded in 1950 and was active in numerous unions and civil rights organizations, from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to the NAACP. She was also heavily involved in Books for Workers, which brought library books into factories. 

Telephone Switchboard Operators, circa 1914
Full image
Women telephone operators at switchboard in Salt Lake City, Utah, circa 1914.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Date of Birth
September 10, 1889
Place of Birth
Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rose Finkelstein." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <>.


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