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Rose Winslow (d. 1977)

Rose Winslow (d. 1977)

Rose Winslow

Born Ruza Wenclawska in Poland, Rose Winslow was brought to the United States as an infant with her immigrant parents. Winslow’s father worked as a coal miner and steelworker in Pennsylvania. She began working as a mill girl in the hosiery industry in Pittsburgh at age 11 and was also employed as a shop girl in Philadelphia, but was forced to quit work temporarily at age 19 when she contracted tuberculosis, leaving her disabled for the next two years. Winslow became a factory inspector and a trade union organizer in New York City with the National Consumers’ League and the National Women’s Trade Union League. In addition to her labor and suffrage activism, she was an actress and poet.

Winslow’s NWP activism is emblematic of the somewhat uneasy role of working-class women and labor rights advocates in the suffrage movement, as well as the NWP’s stated–but imperfectly realized–desire to reach out to women across the social spectrum. Winslow differed with Alice Paul over the former’s desire for outreach to male miners and factory workers and whether the NWP program was too focused on upper- and middle-class women. Winslow brought her speaking and organizing powers first to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) and then to the NWP by addressing gatherings on the streets, in union halls, and at suffrage rallies. In February 1914 she and Doris Stevens spoke at a mass meeting for working women, after which a contingent of working women marched to the White House to meet with Woodrow Wilson on suffrage rights. That same year, Winslow joined Lucy Burns as leaders of the CU campaign in California to urge voters to oppose Democratic congressional candidates. Later, she worked similarly with other organizers in Wyoming during the electoral campaigns of 1916.

Winslow, like Inez Milholland and many of the other speakers sent out by Alice Paul on extensive speaking tours, displayed great energy at the podium or on the platform, but suffered privately from periodic collapse and exhaustion. Paul became irritated with Winslow when she became incapacitated, despite her history of ill-health. Demonstrating persistency and endurance was, after all, part of the NWP strategy.

Winslow was a leading demonstrator on the picket lines in the 1917 silent protests at the White House in Washington, D. C. She subsequently served time in the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse.

In October 1917 Winslow and Alice Paul combined forces to set examples by refusing to eat or do work while they were imprisoned. Their actions demonstrated that they were political prisoners who refused to be classified and treated as criminals by the courts for exercising their First Amendment right to public assembly. Weakened by their hunger strike, Winslow and Paul were subjected to force-feedings. Their determination helped inspire other suffragists to perform acts of civil disobedience–defying court authority to convict them on false charges and placing even more pressure on the Wilson White House to accede to suffrage demands.