Rose Pastor Stokes
Rose Harriet Pastor Stokes (1879–1933) was a Jewish-American socialist activist, writer, birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 advocate, and feminist. She was active in labor politics and women's issues, and was a founding member of the Communist Party of America in 1919. She was a figure of some public notoriety for having married millionaire socialist J.G. Phelps Stokes
James Graham Phelps Stokes
James Graham Phelps Stokes , known to his friends as "Graham," was an American millionaire socialist writer, political activist, and philanthropist. He is best remembered as a founding member and key figure in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and as the husband of Rose Pastor Stokes, a radical...

, a member of elite New York society and acquaintance of President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...


Youth and emigration

Rose Harriet was born in the tiny Jewish shtetl
A shtetl was typically a small town with a large Jewish population in Central and Eastern Europe until The Holocaust. Shtetls were mainly found in the areas which constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia and Romania...

 of Augustava Suvolk in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 (later Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

) on July 18, 1879. She was the daughter of Jacob and Anna Wieslander. Her parents separated, and her mother took the family to London in 1882 when Rose was three. There Anna married Israel Pastor, who gave his surname to Rose. The family lived in the East End. Rose Pastor attended classes for a time at the Bell Lane Free School. Israel Zangwill
Israel Zangwill
Israel Zangwill was a British humorist and writer.-Biography:Zangwill was born in London on January 21, 1864 in a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia, to Moses Zangwill from what is now Latvia and Ellen Hannah Marks Zangwill from what is now Poland. He dedicated his life to championing...

 was once a pupil there and later an instructor.

In 1891 when Pastor was twelve, her family emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

. In 1892 she found a job in a Cleveland cigar
A cigar is a tightly-rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco that is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines, and the Eastern...

 factory, where she worked as a cigar maker for the next eleven years. Her stepfather died a few years after the family arrived in Cleveland, and Pastor helped support her six siblings and mother.

Writing and activism

During this time, Pastor discovered her talent for writing. Responding to a request for thoughts from Jewish workers, she submitted an essay to the Jewish Daily News in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. It was published and she was encouraged to write more. The paper continued to publish her work. Pastor's success led her to relocate to New York in 1903. Pastor became a columnist
A columnist is a journalist who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Columns appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, including blogs....

 in the English-language section of the Jewish Daily News, where she offered advice to other young women, as well as writing human interest features. The paper was published mostly in Yiddish. With a salary of $15 a week, after a couple of years Pastor had saved enough to bring her mother and siblings from Cleveland to New York.

In July 1903, Pastor was assigned to interview J.G. Phelps Stokes
James Graham Phelps Stokes
James Graham Phelps Stokes , known to his friends as "Graham," was an American millionaire socialist writer, political activist, and philanthropist. He is best remembered as a founding member and key figure in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and as the husband of Rose Pastor Stokes, a radical...

, known to his friends as "Graham," a prominent businessman and supporter of a settlement house on the Lower East Side. He was featured in news stories because of his social status and his charitable work for the needy. Descended from families prominent since the colonial history of New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, Stokes was a railway president and a society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 figure who had given up his mansion at 299 Madison Avenue to be closer to the work he found most satisfying, that of social projects. Stokes moved to the University Settlement on the Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

, which administered to the masses of new immigrants from Europe. It was near the Jewish Daily News. Pastor praised Stokes' ideals in her report of the interview. Soon Pastor also became active in work of the settlement house. Pastor's friendship with Stokes deepened, and in early 1905 they announced their engagement. The couple were married in July 1905 and joined the Socialist Party of America
Socialist Party of America
The Socialist Party of America was a multi-tendency democratic-socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization...

 together soon thereafter.

In September 1905, together with Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

, Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

, Clarence Darrow
Clarence Darrow
Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, best known for defending teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks and defending John T...

, and Florence Kelly, Graham Phelps Stokes helped found the Intercollegiate Socialist Society
Intercollegiate Socialist Society
The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was the a Socialist student organization from 1905-1921. It attracted many prominent intellectuals and writers and acted as the unofficial Socialist Party of America student wing...

 (ISS) to encourage study and discussion of socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 in colleges. Over the next decade both Graham and Rose lectured frequently on socialist themes on behalf of the ISS on college campuses around America.
In 1909 a few years after their marriage, the Stokes moved to a house in Greenwich, Connecticut
Greenwich, Connecticut
Greenwich is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. As of the 2010 census, the town had a total population of 61,171. It is home to many hedge funds and other financial service companies. Greenwich is the southernmost and westernmost municipality in Connecticut and is 38+ minutes ...

, where Rose was integrated into her husband's circle of intellectual socialists, including William English Walling, Anna Strunsky Walling and Helen Stokes. Both Graham and Rose Stokes continued their activities on behalf of the Socialist movement. Pastor Stokes frequently traveled around the country to speak and debate about the cause. She also helped picket, strike and organize for specific events. She wrote regularly for the New York Call
New York Call
The New York Call was a socialist daily newspaper published in New York City from 1908 through 1923. The Call was the second of three English-language dailies affiliated with the Socialist Party of America to be established, following the Chicago Daily Socialist while preceding the long running...


In 1909 Pastor Stokes took part in the Shirtwaist Strike
New York shirtwaist strike of 1909
The New York shirtwaist strike of 1909, also known as the Uprising of the 20,000, was a labor strike primarily involving Jewish women working in New York shirtwaist factories. Led by Clara Lemlich and supported by the National Women's Trade Union League of America , the strike began in November 1909...

, to show support for the 40,000 garment workers in New York. Her marriage to Graham Phelps Stokes had increased her prominence, and reporters came to cover her appearance at the strike headquarters at Clinton Hall. She said, "My ideal is that we all be economically interdependent. We should not be independent like millionaires, nor dependent like laborers. My ideal is that we all be interdependent. And I'm not working in a losing cause." In May and June 1912, Pastor Stokes helped lead a strike by the New York City restaurant and hotel workers. In the winter of 1913, she aided the New York garment workers in another "bitter strike."

James began to devote more time to writing, but Rose continued her activism. She distributed birth control information, and organized meetings with the leaders Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger
Margaret Higgins Sanger was an American sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist. Sanger coined the term birth control, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established Planned Parenthood...

 and Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century....

. In addition, she continued writing, contributing poetry to such publications as The Masses
The Masses
The Masses was a graphically innovative magazine of socialist politics published monthly in the U.S. from 1911 until 1917, when Federal prosecutors brought charges against its editors for conspiring to obstruct conscription. It was succeeded by The Liberator and then later The New Masses...

, Independent and The Century Magazine
The Century Magazine
The Century Magazine was first published in the United States in 1881 by The Century Company of New York City as a successor to Scribner's Monthly Magazine...

. In 1916 she wrote a play about a labor leader.

War and prosecution

In 1917 the Socialists denounced the American war program
Preparedness Movement
The Preparedness Movement, also referred to as the Preparedness Controversy, was a campaign led by Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt to strengthen the military of the United States after the outbreak of World War I...

. Graham Stokes withdrew from the party and joined the Armed Forces of the United States. At first Rose Pastor Stokes also left the Socialists, as she was disappointed with the party's official position on the war: endorsing "active interference with the war effort". She believed that Germany was a threat to democratic nations. Shortly she rejoined the Socialists, as she doubted whether President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

's policies furthered international democracy. She became associated with the Left Wing of the political faction. In a few years this element grew into the American Communist Party.

Pastor Stokes began to travel throughout the United States, speaking and contributing articles to various newspapers. In 1918, after comments following a speech in Kansas City were incorrectly reported, Pastor Stokes wrote a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star in which she criticized US involvement in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. She accused the US government of being allied with profiteers. Controversy over the letter led to a federal indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

 and trial of Pastor Stokes in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

, for violating the Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18, Crime...

. This was one of several indictments of activist women during the WWI years. Their criticism of the war threatened the national power of the patriotic mothers.

After receiving a sentence of 10 years in Missouri State prison, Pastor Stokes and her attorney, Seymour Stedman
Seymour Stedman
Seymour Stedman was a prominent civil liberties lawyer and a leader of the Socialist Party of America. He is best remembered as the 1920 Vice Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, when he ran for office on a ticket headed by Eugene V...

 of Chicago, Illinois, successfully appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* Eastern District of Arkansas* Western District of Arkansas...

 in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

. The experience of her trial and conviction pushed Pastor Stokes' politics to the left. The government ultimately dismissed the case against her in 1921.

Despite tensions due to their differing positions on World War I, relations between Pastor Stokes and her husband were relatively congenial. Graham had been embarrassed before WWI by her activities for birth control and labor politics. Some of his family were quite opposed to her politics. With increasing strain between them, in 1925 Graham brought a petition for divorce in Nyack, New York
Nyack, New York
Nyack is a village in the towns of Orangetown and Clarkstown in Rockland County, New York, United States, located north of South Nyack; east of Central Nyack; south of Upper Nyack and west of the Hudson River, approximately 19 miles north of the Manhattan boundary, it is an inner suburb of New...

, on grounds of misconduct by his wife. He won a decree. Pastor Stokes then issued a statement denouncing the New York divorce law
New York divorce law
On August 15, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed no fault divorce into law in New York state.Until 2010, New York recognized divorces only upon fault-based criteria, though the parties might agree to enter into a separation and have the separation agreement or judgment be the further basis for a...

s. She stated she and her husband had co-existed as friendly enemies for some time. She said she would cherish her freedom.

By 1929 Pastor Stokes had remarried. Her second husband Jerome Isaac Romaine, also an immigrant, was a language teacher. The couple lived at 215 Second Avenue.

Communist Party activity

Pastor Stokes withdrew again from the Socialist Party and became a founding member of the Communist Party of America in 1919. In 1922, she traveled to Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 as an American delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. Pastor Stokes also served as the reporter for the special Negro Commission at the Congress. After returning to the United States, she was elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the newly formed Workers' Party. It was at this time that Rose adopted the pseudonym "Sasha".

She participated in strikes
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 and made court appearances to support men and women arrested for picketing and/or demonstrating. In 1929 she was arrested for demonstrating during a garment workers' strike. Due to her years of working with activists of the Lower East Side, she was called "Rose of the Ghetto
A ghetto is a section of a city predominantly occupied by a group who live there, especially because of social, economic, or legal issues.The term was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. The term now refers to an overcrowded urban area often associated...


Death and legacy

Pastor Stokes was diagnosed with breast cancer
Breast cancer
Breast cancer is cancer originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Cancers originating from ducts are known as ductal carcinomas; those originating from lobules are known as lobular carcinomas...

 in 1930. In 1933 she went to Germany for radiation therapy. In April 1933 friends collected funds for hospital expenses. Pastor Stokes entered Municipal Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, on April 15, where she was operated on for cancer by Professor Vito Schmiden. While under treatment, she died at age 54 in the hospital on 20 Jun 1933. Her body was cremated and the ashes sent to New York, where a memorial service was held at Webster Hall.

At the time of death, Pastor Stokes was working on her autobiography. Before her death, she had sent numerous documents related to her writing to her agents in the United States. Her unfinished autobiography was published posthumously.

Her papers are held by New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

, where they are held at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives
The Tamiment Library is a research library at New York University that documents radical and left history, with strengths in the histories of communism, socialism, anarchism, the New Left, the Civil Rights Movement, and utopian experiments. The Robert F. Wagner Archives, which is also housed in...

 and at Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 in New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second-largest city in Connecticut and the sixth-largest in New England. According to the 2010 Census, New Haven's population increased by 5.0% between 2000 and 2010, a rate higher than that of the State of Connecticut, and higher than that of the state's five largest cities, and...

. Much of this material is also available on microfilm.


  • "The Condition of Working Women, from the Working Woman's Viewpoint", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1906
  • Songs of labor and other poems,, by Morris Rosenfeld
    Morris Rosenfeld
    Morris Rosenfeld was a Yiddish poet....

     Translated by Rose Pastor Stokes in collaboration with Helena Frank. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914.
  • The Woman Who Wouldn't New York, London : G.P. Putnam's Sons 1916.
  • "I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes. Eds. Herbert Shapiro and David L. Sterling (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992).

Additional reading

External links

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