Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alma "Rose" Moriarty, 1882-1950
By Olivia Howard, undergraduate, Meredith Reagan, undergraduate and Katherine Marino, faculty sponsor
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
Recording Secretary, Ohio Woman Suffrage Association; legal counsel, Ohio Woman Suffrage Party
Rose Moriarty was born on December 19, 1882 in Elyria, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland to Irish Catholic immigrants, Thomas Moriarty and Ellen Enright. Moriarty was very well educated, completing high school, attending Elyria Business School and then studying law at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She eventually gained admission to the Ohio bar in 1903. She never married and became an extremely active member of the community.
Between 1901 and 1916 Rose Moriarty held numerous city positions in her hometown of Elyria. At the beginning of her career, she was a member of the Safety Department Board and Clerk to the Civil Service Board. Her activism in the community earned her the nicknames the "petticoat mayor of Elyria" and a "feisty activist" in the press. In 1917, Moriarty moved to Cleveland and became an officer of the Champion Stove Company and three years later was elected "Chairwoman of Women" for Warren G. Harding. In addition to the city positions she held in Elyria and Cleveland, Rose Moriarty was also appointed by Governor Henry L. Davis in 1921 to become the first female member of the Ohio Industrial Commission, an organization which helped resolve issues between workers and employers.
Moriarty was dedicated to bettering the lives of the women in her community. In the 1910s, women conductors for the railways in Cleveland were organizing themselves into a union in order to protect their rights and their jobs. Rose Moriarty became one of the strongest advocates for these women workers, helping them succeed in their legal battle to retain their jobs even after working men had come back from the First World War and wanted to take the women's positions.
Rose Moriarty's leadership in her community gave her a strong platform from which to advocate for suffrage. Prior to moving to Cleveland, Ohio, Moriarty was active in the fight for woman suffrage in her hometown of Elyria, Ohio and surrounding communities. She made several public presentations on the topic. She was able to unite the Woman Suffrage Club of Cleveland with groups of working women. During World War I, Moriarty organized a large community gathering in Cleveland in which suffragists spoke publicly to the community in support of women's suffrage. Rose Moriarty supported both the Woman Suffrage Club of Cleveland and the Woman Suffrage Party by providing them legal counsel as well as working as a liaison between groups. A major goal of the Woman Suffrage Party, after gaining suffrage, was to elect a female candidate for City Commissioner of Cleveland and its members reached out to Moriarty for advice on this subject. In 1916, Moriarty became the recording secretary of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association, and that year she attended the 48th Annual National American Woman Suffrage Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Rose Moriarty continued her political activism after women gained suffrage. In 1920, she was elected head of the Ohio Republican State Committee and ran Florence Allen's campaign for the Supreme Court of Ohio, helping Allen to become the first woman ever elected to this position in 1923. Moriarty also joined the League of Women Voters and was a guest speaker at a 1921 gathering of the Toledo League. Still invested in labor issues, Moriarty also spent a great deal of time working as a consultant for workmen's compensation.
Rose Moriarty suffered a stroke and died on December 25, 1950, in Cleveland, after an active life dedicated to the fight for suffrage and women's rights. She was one of the most influential female leaders in Ohio in the first half of the twentieth century.
Key biographical information came from the 1900 U. S. Federal Census from Elyria Ward 3, Lorain, Ohio (Microfilm T623-1295) and her obituary published in The Cleveland Press (Cleveland, Ohio) on the December 26, 1950 and in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Information concerning her involvement in women's rights in the workplace comes from Ronald M. Benson, "Searching for the Antecedents of Affirmative Action: The National War Labor Board and the Cleveland Women Conductors in World War I," Women's Rights Law Reporter, 5(4) (Summer 1979), 271-82. Her appointment by Governor Davis is noted in "First woman to get industrial post is Ohioan," Coshocton Tribune, June 2, 1921:1. Further contextual information about her suffrage work in the community can be found in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, specifically in the articles "Elyria Suffragettes Gain Hearing for Amendments", published on August 19, 1912 and "Opposes Parties in City Politics," published on October 12, 1921. Information concerning her leadership in these organizations can be found in The Cleveland Plain Dealer article "Suffragists May Seek Amendment." Additionally, information about Rose Moriarty's activism in the suffrage movement, both on the state and national levels can be found in: The Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention (New York: National American Women's Suffrage Association, 1916); Virginia Clark Abbot, The History of Woman Suffrage and The League of Women Voters in Cuyahoga County 1911-1945 (Cleveland?, 1949), and Nancy F. Cott's Women and War: Volume 15 of History of Women in the United States, (Walter De Gruyter and Co., 1993).