Early Life



Rachel Rose Schneiderman was born on April 6, 1882 in Saven, Poland. Her parents, though poor, enrolled her in school so that she could receive an education. She immigrated to the United States ten years later. As a teenager, she worked in a factory , sewing caps. Quickly, she became involved in the political workings of the factory.

The factory that she was working did not offer its workers a national union to join. So, she helped to establish a chapter of the United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers in her factory. She worked to get women elected into this union. She was then elected onto their executive board, making her the first American woman to ever hold such a high-ranking position in any such body. Early on in her career, she helped to lead the shirtwaist strike. She gained notoriety and respect in labor circles, which allowed her to gain high-ranking positions. As the president of the New York Women’s Trade Union League, and later, the National Women’s Trade League, she fought to make better conditions in factories a standard all across America. She also coordinated union activities.

Schneiderman was a close confidant of Eleanor Roosevelt. She helped Roosevelt establish her political career by giving her insight into how working class women lived. She also introduced Roosevelt to the workings of labor unions, and helped to convince her to join the cause. With Schneiderman’s help, Roosevelt learned to value the rights of female workers and campaign for them. In return, Roosevelt connected her with her husband. Schneiderman became the only woman to be appointed to Franklin Roosevelt’s National Labor Advisory Board. Her position on this board allowed her to influence important economic policy at the time, such as the New Deal. When the board was dissolved, she became the secretary of New York’s Labor Department, a position that she held alongside her two labor board presidencies.

In one of her most famous speeches, Rose said: “The woman worker needs bread, but she needs roses too.” This quote likens bread to necessities in the workplace, like sanitary conditions, humane working hours, and decent wages. Roses are benefits that the worker needs to lead a fulfilling life. This encompasses schooling, unions, and recreational opportunities, all meant to help someone find enrichment in their life. With this as her motto, Rose worked tirelessly to make it a reality for the working class women of America. In all of her positions, she campaigned for women to have equal rights, pay, and benefits to their male counterparts.

Along with her labor work, she campaigned for causes personal to her. Her Jewish heritage played a large part in her identity and in her work. She campaigned for the rights of Jewish people throughout her life, particularly during World War II. She brought together people in the labor reform movement under the cause of donating money to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied lands. Further, she assisted into resettling these displaced people into new homes. Additionally, not only did she campaign for the rights of women in the workplace, she also helped lead the successful drive for women to get the right to vote in 1917.

Rose died in 1972. She is best remembered as a fiery, skilled orator, recognized for her excellent work in making the workplace a safer, fairer place for factory women. With drive and determination, she gave women a voice in unions and in the workplace as a whole, which beforehand had been completely dominated by men. Her legacy can still be seen today as the foundation for modern workplace regulation.