Nina Samarodin (4 Jul 1892 – Nov 1981)
A suffragist who fought for the vote and for the women’s labor movement, Nina Samarodin was born into an Orthodox Jewish family on July 4, 1892 in Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine). She graduated from Jewish-friendly Kiev University and in 1914 came to America on a visit, remaining after finding work in a garment factory in New York City. After witnessing the injustice against immigrant laborers, she entered the fight to organize women workers in industrialized America.
Turning her advocacy toward women’s political equality, she joined the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and participated in the picketing of the White House in 1917.
On September 13, at the age of 25, she was among six pickets who marched to lower gate of the White House, carrying banners that read, “How Long must women wait for Liberty?” and “Mr. President, what will you do for suffrage?” Before a crowd at the gate and across the street in Lafayette Square, Samorodin was among the six women who were arrested. Charged with obstructing traffic, she was sentenced to 30 days or a $25 fine. She chose prison. Following a visit to the Occoquan Workhouse, Samorodin’s sister Vera was shocked by her loss of weight and strength and headaches from hunger. She wrote to the Russian ambassador about the cruel prison conditions, urging him to ask city commissioners to change Samorodin’s status to “political prisoner” to protect her from abuse.
Following Samarodin’s release from the Workhouse in 1917, she traveled to New York and taught a course in Russian language at a Socialist workers’ school, the Rand School of Social Science. In 1919, she became an organizer for the Shirtmakers’ Union, an affiliate of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) in Philadelphia. Her proficiency with three languages—Russian, Yiddish, and English—and her NWP connections helped build connections and ease tensions between American-born and immigrant workers. She also recruited other NWP members to organize women workers.
Samarodin married a fellow Socialist, Anthony Ramuglia, and gave birth to a son. She later became a general advocate for immigrants and in the early 1920s disseminated propaganda for the Communist Party of America.
In advocacy for factory workers and immigrants, she pressed for a formal American trade agreement with Russia and urged American trade unions to petition Congress to open diplomatic negotiations with Russia. To protect immigrants, especially radicals and Communist Party members, threatened by unlawful prosecutions or deportations, Samorodin fought “anti-alien” legislation in Congress. She dropped out of public life in 1930, when a House of Representatives special committee investigating Communist propaganda identified Samorodin as “a well-known agent of the Russian Communist government.”
Samarodin died in 1981 but is remembered for her struggles to achieve the women’s vote and protect women and immigrants in the labor force.
Inez Haynes Irwin, The Story of the Woman’s Party, (New York, NY, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921) pp242-243.
Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, (New York, NY, Boni & Liveright, Inc., 1920) p278
Thomas Wirth, “Biography of Nina Samarodin,” Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920, www.alexandriastreet.com
Special thanks to Genealogist Melissa Harshman for providing birth and death dates and information on her family.