Which tragic event in the U.S. propelled Rose Schneiderman to advocate for safer workplace conditions?
Pictured between U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and American labor leader David Dubinsky (1892-1982), is the Polish-born American socialist and feminist Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972). She was one of the most prominent female labor union leaders, a member of the New York Women’s Trade Union League.
Her contribution to improving safer working conditions resulted from the tragic event that occurred in 1911- the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, that occurred in Greenwich Village, neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. On March 25th the fire caused the death of 146 garment workers - 123 women and girls and 23 men. They died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths.
Because the stairwells and exits were locked - a common practice at the time to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft - many of the workers could not escape from the burning building and jumped from the high windows.
Rose also was a suffragist who helped pass the New York State referendum in 1917 that gave women to right to vote. As a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, she served on the National Recovery Administration’s Labor Advisory Board under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She is credited with coining one of the most memorable phrases of the women’s movement and the labor movement of her era- “Bread and Roses”, to indicate a worker’s right to something higher than subsistence living.