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Rose Schneiderman Papers

Call Number



1909-1964, inclusive
; 1909-1920, bulk


Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972
Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972 (Role: Donor)
Caylor, George Nathan, 1885-1973 (Role: Donor)


3 Linear Feet in 5 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, and 2 oversize folders in shared housing.

Language of Materials

Materials are written in English.


Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972) was a Jewish labor organizer, socialist, suffragist, campaigner for protective legislation for women, and leader of the Women's Trade Union League(WTUL). Schneiderman played a leading role in the New York City garment workers upsurge of 1909-14 and was founder and president of International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), Local 62, Dry Goods Workers. After losing her bid for the presidency of the New York WTUL, she became in 1914 a national organizer for the ILGWU but, dissatisfied with the place of women in the Union, returned to the WTUL in 1916, and became head of the NY WTUL in 1918, and later the national WTUL, holding both posts throughout the remainder of the WTUL's existence (through 1950). After World War I, her focus shifted to legislative reform (with the notable exception of her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment), and she drew close to the Democratic party and established a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. Schneiderman served on the National Recovery Administration's labor advisory board in 1934, and as Secretary of the New York State Department of Labor 1933-44. Her autobiography, All for One, was published in 1967. This collection contains correspondence (leading feminists are represented), a set of letters from Pauline Newman, autobiographical typescripts, speeches, clippings, minutes, reports, and other documents representing Schneiderman's activity in WTUL, in public service, and in the women's suffrage movement.

Biographical Note

Rose Schneiderman, by Nancy Schrom Dye.

{This essay first appeared in Papers of the Women's Trade Union League and Its Principal Leaders: guide to the microfilm edition , Edward T. James, editor; assistant editors, Robin Miller Jacoby, Nancy Schrom Dye. Woodbridge, Conn. : Published for the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College by Research Publications, 1981. 319 p. (TamimentRef / HD6079.2.U5 P36 1981) This microfilm set contains 131 reels.

Rose Schneiderman was born April 6, 1882, in the village of Saven, Poland, the first of four children. Like many Eastern European Orthodox Jews in the late nineteenth century, her parents, Samuel and Deborah (Rothman) Schneiderman, worked in the sewing trades to support their impoverished family, at first in Saven and then in the industrial city of Khelm. When Rose was eight they emigrated to New York City's Lower East Side. Her father's death there in the winter of 1892 left the family dependent upon relatives and charity. Rose and her brothers spent over a year in Jewish orphanages before their mother could reunite them.

Rose's education was limited and frequently interrupted. In Poland she began her schooling at the village chedar, a Hebrew school traditionally open only to boys. For several years she attended Russian schools. In the United States, to her disappointment, she had to leave school for work after the ninth grade. Throughout her life she continued a program of self education and was an omnivorous reader.

Rose Schneiderman's first job, at thirteen, was as a department store cash girl at $2.25 a week. Three years later, in 1898, she found a better paying position as a sewing machine operator in a cap factory. Despite the oppressive conditions that characterized both retail stores and clothing factories in the late nineteenth century, her interest in trade unionism did not develop immediately. Like most young women wage earners of that day, she regarded her time in industry as temporary, to be given up for marriage or a teaching career. As she recalled in her autobiography, "We had no idea that there was a union in our industry and that women could join it. Nor did we have a full realization of the hardships we were undergoing."

Two relationships seem to have changed this view. In 1902 her family moved briefly to Montreal, where close friendship with a socialist family stirred her interest in radical politics and trade unionism. Soon after her return to the'New York cap factory in 1903, she joined another new friend, Bessie Braut, a young anarchist, in organizing the women in their shop. They applied for a charter to the United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers Union, a vigorous Jewish socialist organization, but the union, reluctant to take women members, told them to come back after they had succeeded in organizing twenty five women a task they accomplished within a few days. The union then chartered its first women's local.

Schneiderman quickly emerged as a promising organizer and labor. leader, particularly during a long and bitter citywide capmakers' strike in 1905. Her local, largely under her direction, rapidly grew to several hundred members. She was elected its secretary and one of its delegates to the New York City Central Labor Union. Previously a quiet, introverted, often unhappy young woman, she now came into her own. She joined the Socialist party and, in 1905, the New York Women's Trade Union League, the organization she was later to call "the most important influence in my life."

The New York League, recently organized and on the lookout for promising women trade unionists, had sported Schneiderman's organizing work and invited her to its meetings as early as 1904. Although hesitant at first about an organization containing so many upperclass women, she made her decision to join and quickly became a leading member. By 1908 she was the League's vice president and one of its most effective organizers. In that year a stipend provided by Irene Lewisohn, one of the League's wealthy supporters, enabled her to give up factory employment and work for the League, meanwhile continuing her education at the Rand School of Social Science.

During the tumultuous years of the general strikes in the garment trades from 1909 through 1914, Rose Schneiderman became well known in trade union circles for her abilities as an organizer, public speaker, and union administrator. As the League's East Side organizer, she helped found numerous women's unions, primarily among Jewish immigrants. She was active in the 1909 general strike of the shirtwaist makers, the "Uprising of the Twenty Thousand," and served on the shirtwaist makers' union's executive board. She also established, virtually single handedly, a small union of white goods workers that became Local 62 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. As its first president and organizer, she led it carefully from its precarious beginnings in 1908 through its general strike in 1913.

Friction with Melinda Scott, the League's organizer for English speaking women, who had defeated her in the contest for president of the League in 1914, led Schneiderman to resign her League positions at the end of that year and become a national organizer for the I LGWU. She spent a year in the job, traveling throughout the East and Midwest to organize shirtwaist makers, but found working for a male dominated trade union frustrating and unfulfilling. The experience seems to have deepened her commitment to the Women's Trade Union League and to the woman's movement generally. Throughout the second decade of the twentieth century she was an active suffragist, and throughout her career she did not hesitate to voice criticism of union policies that indicated insensitivity to women's concerns. She became president of the New York League in 1918, and in 1926 accepted the presidency of the National WTUL as well, although the New York League remained her primary focus.

The years after World War I saw changes in Rose Schneiderman's activities and priorities. Although, under New York League auspices, she continued to organize women workers in New York City, she devoted increasing time and energy to administrative and legislative matters. As president of the New York League, she channeled much of her energy into lobbying at the state capitol for protective legislation for women, particularly eight hour and minimum wage laws. She also gave vigorous opposition to the new Equal Rights Amendment proposed by the National Woman's Party.

Her political orientation also changed during these years. Earlier a Socialist, she helped organize the state Labor party in 1919 and was its candidate for U.S. Senator on the Farmer Labor ticket of 1920. So strong was her reputation at this time as a political radical that she was assailed by conservative groups as "Red Rose" and was one of the individuals investigated by New York's Lusk Committee. Over the next few years, however, the decline of the Socialist and Farmer Labor parties and her friendship with Democratic activists within the New York WTUL Iike Nancy Cook and especially Eleanor Roosevelt (who joined the League late in 1922) drew her toward that party. She was pleased when the Democratic governor, Al Smith, appointed her a state delegate to a child labor conference in Washington in 1924. Though she campaigned that fall for the Progressive presidential candidate, La Follette, she also voted for Smith. Before long she had become a staunch Democrat.

Her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt soon extended to Franklin as well, during visits at Hyde Park, Campobello, and later at the Governor's Mansion. The friendship greatly in fluenced Schneiderman's public career. She in turn, through their conversations, gave Roosevelt in insight into the labor movement,and the problems of women workers that did much to shape the future president's outlook on labor relations.

During his first, presidential year Roosevelt appointed Schneiderman to the National Recovery Administration's Labor Advisory Board one of the first women he named to a high post. As the Board's only woman member, she was regularly consulted on women's issues. Her appointment lapsed with the NRA itself in 1935. In 1937 Governor Herbert Lehman of New York appointed her secretary (the second ranking officer) of the state's Department of Labor, an office she held until 1944.

Throughout these years Rose Schneiderman had continued as president of both the New York and the National Women's Trade Union Leagues. Her resignation from the first post, in 1949, marked her real retirement from public life; her presidency of the National League came to an end when it disbanded in 1950. While living quietly in Manhattan, she completed her autobiography, All for One, written in collaboration with Lucy Goldthwaite; it was published in 1967. Rose Schneiderman died at the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged in New York City on August 11, 1972.

- End of Dye essay -

For Rose Schneiderman's career in the Women's Trade Union League, a more comprehensive source than her own papers is the records of the New York WTUL, also part of the WTUL microfilm edition. These include minutes of regular and executive board meetings in which she participated, from 1905 to 1955; her correspondence as president of the New York League from 1918 to 1949; and some of her correspondence as president of the National League. The correspondence files, particularly in later years, also include occasional personal letters, and they throw light on other aspects of Schneiderman's career, such as her post World War I evolution from socialist to Democrat.

Other portions of the microfilm edition contain scattered Schneiderman letters: the papers of Margaret Dreier Robins, Mary Anderson, and Leonora O'Reilly, and the National WTUL Papers at the Schlesinger Library. There are also Schneiderman letters in the National WTUL Records at the Library of Congress, which have been microfilmed as part of this edition.

Manuscript collections elsewhere that contain Schneiderman letters include the Brookwood Labor College Records at the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University; the Herbert H. Lehman Papers, School of International Affairs, Columbia University; the Eleanor Roosevelt Personal Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; and the Pauline Newman Papers, Schlesinger Library. There is a brief chapter on Schneiderman in the unpublished autobiography of her old friend George N. Caylor (originally Cohen), "If Memory Serves Me Right," in the Caylor Papers at the Tamiment Library, New York University. The records of the National Recovery Administration in the National . Archives (Record Group 9) include the office files of Rose Schneiderman and other members of the Labor Advisory Board. Her official correspondence as secretary of the New York State Department of Labor seems not to have survived.

The basic source for Schneiderman's life is her autobiography, All for One (1967), written in collaboration with Lucy Goldthwaite. See also her early autobiographical article, "A Cap Maker's Story," Independent, LVIII (Apr. 27, 1905), 935-938. Also, Gary Endelman, "Solidarity Forever: Rose Schneiderman and the Women's Trade Union League" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1978). Schneiderman is viewed in different contexts in Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, A Generation of Women: Education in the Lives of Progressive Reformers (1979), and Pat L. C. Schbiten, "Militant Women for Economic Justice: The Persuasion of Mary Harris Jones, Ella Reeve Bloor, Rose Pastor Stokes, Rose Schneiderman, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn" (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1979), and Annelise Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire (1995).

Chronology Apr 6, 1882 Born in Saven, Poland.1890 Came with parents to United States; family settled in New York City's Lower East Side.1892-1893 Spent a year in Jewish orphanages after father's death.1895 Left public school after ninth grade to become a cash girl in a department store.1898 Became sewing machine operator in a cap factory.1903 Helped organize the women in her shop into a local of the capmakers' union, thus starting her labor career.1905 A leader in citywide capmakers' strike; joined New York Women's Trade Union 1906 Elected vice president of New York WTUL.1908 Left factory work to become an organizer for the WTUL.1909-1914 A leader in shirtwaist and other general strikes of New York garment 1909-1917 Active as campaigner for woman suffrage.Dec 1914 Resigned as WTUL vice president and organizer.1915-1916 National organizer for International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.1918-1949 President of New York WTUL.1920 Farmer Labor party candidate for U.S. Senator.1924 Campaigned for La Follette for president.1924 Growing friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt (a WTUL member) and Franklin D. Roosevelt drew her toward Democratic party.1926-1950 President of National WTUL.1933-1935 Member of Labor Advisory Board, National Recovery Administration.1937-1944 Secretary of New York State Department of Labor.1967 Published her autobiography, All for One, written in collaboration with Lucy Goldthwaite.Aug 11, 1972 Died at Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, New York City.


Correspondence folders are arranged chronologically and the other series are generally arranged alphabetically.

Materials were organized into five series:

Series I: Correspondence Series II: Special Topics Series III: Biographical and Personal Series IV: Newspaper Clippings Series V: Pauline Newman Letters

Please note that the order of the materials on the microfilm reels is different than the order of the original materials, as is described in the container list.

Scope and Content Note

Series I, Correspondence

The first series, Correspondence, is on the first microfilm reel (R-7099/113), series II, III, and IV are on the second microfilm reel (R-7099/114). The overall dates are 1909 through 1964, but the greatest concentration falls in the years before World War I. The letters for those years deal with personal and family matters, trade union and Women's Trade Union League affairs, woman suffrage, and, more briefly, socialism. They give some insight into the day to day life and concerns of an early twentieth century woman labor organizer. Much of the correspondence is from friends in the Women's Trade Union League, the labor movement, and the suffrage campaign. Through such letters it is possible to glimpse the female network that sustained Schneiderman and other women reformers and unionists in the male dominated labor movement.

Series II-IV

These series are more miscellaneous, fragmentary and not always well arranged. The microfilm reel is divided into two sections, Part 1 and Part 2, in each of which the frames are numbered separately. They are made up of a variety of largely miscellaneous items, both personal and official, and a more detailed description can be found in the container list.

Note: In filming these three series, some groups of material have been omitted (as described below), i.e.: a selection of material from the folders comprising these series was filmed in a sequence thought to be most useful to researchers, but one different from the arrangement of these materials in their folders.

Omitted materials: personal memorabilia of lesser significance, such as White House invitations, Christmas cards, and dinner menus; a folder of photographs subsequently separated and accessioned as the Rose Schneiderman Photographs (Tamiment Photographs 10) that includes some women labor leaders of the early twentieth century; and a typed final draft of Rose Schneiderman's autobiography. Also omitted were such National Women's Trade Union League items as minutes of executive board meetings and convention proceedings, since more complete files are to be found in other portions of the present microfilm edition.

Series IV was origianlly subdivided into subseries A - E. The items that constituted subseries B-E were integrated into other folders after microfilming.

Series V, Pauline Newman Letters (not microfilmed)

These letters dated 1910-1912 are from Rose Schneiderman's close friend Pauline Newman, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union organizer and official. It was formerly closed at the time of microfilming and therefore was not filmed.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Tamiment Library has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1909 to 1964, are expected to enter the public domain in 2043.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Rose Schneiderman Papers; TAM 018; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Location of Materials

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Rose Schneiderman in 1962; an additional accession was donated in 1965 by George N. Taylor. The accession number associated with these gifts is 1962.010.

Custodial History

Donated to the Tamiment Institute Library in 1962. The library was acquired by New York University the following year, and the papers were transferred at that time. The accession number associated with this gift is 1962.010. A second donation of materials was made by Rose Schneiderman's friend George N. Caylor in 1965, when Schneiderman moved into a nursing home.

In the 1970s, Rose Schneiderman's close friend Pauline Newman removed a number of her letters to Schneiderman from the collection. Photocopies of many of these letters were retained at the time. Between 1977 and 1980 Newman donated her papers, including the letters to Schneiderman, to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College. In 1981 Newman's letters to Schneiderman were separated from Newman's papers at the Schlesinger and returned to Tamiment Library.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version of Series I- Series IV; microfilm call number is Film R-7099, Reels 113-4.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Papers of the Women's Trade Union League and its Principal Leaders contains 14 collections on 131 reels of microfilm, of which the Rose Schneiderman Papers constitute collection VI (2 reels of microfilm).

Contents: I. Margaret Dreier Robins papers -- II. National Women's Trade Union League papers (Schlesinger Library) -- III. Mary Anderson papers. -- IV. New York Women's Trade Union League papers -- V. Leonora O'Reilly papers -- VI. Rose Schneiderman papers -- VII. Agnes Nestor papers -- VIII. Mary Kenney O'Sullivan autobiography. Boston Women's Trade Union League collections. Chicago Women's Trade Union League collection -- IX. Women's Trade Union League publications.

Papers of the Women's Trade Union League and its principal leaders: Guide to the microfilm edition, Edward T. James, editor ; assistant editors, Robin Miller Jacoby, Nancy Schrom Dye. (Woodbridge, CT): Published for the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College by Research Publications, 1981. TamimentRef / HD6079.2.U5 P36 1981)

Rose Schneiderman Photographs (PHOTOS 010)

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About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-10-18 13:24:53 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English.

Processing Information

Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2019 have not yet been recorded. In 2019, items were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes in preparation for offsite storage.

Revisions to this Guide

May 2019: Updated and edited by Jasmine Sykes-Kunk for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description
October 2023: Revised by Anna Björnsson McCormick to add information about custodial history and access restrictions

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Schneiderman Guide.doc


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
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