Profile in Courage: Rose Winslow

26 Aug

Rose Winslow, born a citizen of Poland under the name of Ruza Wenclawska, immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was just an infant. She grew up in a working class family; her father worked in coal mines and steel factories. By the time she was eleven years old Rose was working in a textile factory. She lived and worked in New York City, eventually becoming a union organizer as well as a factory inspector. When she was nineteen she had a bout with tuberculosis which kept her from working for two years and would later cause her to collapse of exhaustion after speaking at protests.

She became involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement when she joined the National Women’s Party. Once a member she actively took part in protests, picketing, and spoke to numerous crowds. During her involvement, Rose was imprisoned twice, once at Occoquan Workhouse and second at the DC jail. While in the DC jail she led a hunger strike alongside Alice Paul. They, like many other women of the suffrage movement, sacrificed their bodies and freedom for the goal of women’s suffrage.

Her journal, “Jailed for Freedom”, written about her time spent in prison was later reprinted in ink by Doris Stevens. She wrote of her horrible experiences in the prison during her hunger strike. She wrote, “One feels so forsaken when one lies prone and people shove a pipe down one’s stomach.” This statement, written about the force feedings that took place numerous times during these hunger strikes, documents the brutality faced by the women. As awful as her life must have been in these prisons, she was persistent and dedicated to her cause keeping her focus on future generations of women with the hopes that we would not have to suffer for our rights like she did. While in prison she spoke of her hopes, “All the officers here know we are making this hunger strike that women fighting for liberty may be considered political prisoners; we have told them. God knows we don’t want other women ever to have to do this over again.”

Rose Winslow spent some time in trade organization for women in the Women’s Trade Union League and the Consumer’s League. In her last three years when she was able to work she spent it campaigning for women’s suffrage. She also campaigned in anti-Democratic conventions with Lucy Burns, another advocate of women’s suffrage. Rose was an active spokeswoman in working women’s delegation to President Wilson. However, she is most well known for her involvement in the prison hunger strikes described above.

A final thought on women’s suffrage spoken by Rose Winslow. “I feel so happy doing my bit for decency. For our war, which is after all, real and fundamental.”

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