Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret Jane Steele Rozsa, 1867-1949
By Calyn Hitchcock, student researcher, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
Suffragist, clubwoman, food and prohibition inspector, lobbyist
Margaret Jane Rozsa, born Margaret Jane Steele, was born in Utah on March 3, 1867. After graduating high school, she married blacksmith William Rozsa in approximately1890. The couple moved to Butte, Montana where they raised two daughters, Wilma, born in 1894, and Ruth, born in 1900.
Throughout her adult life, Rozsa was active in women's clubs, church groups, and local politics. She was a member of the Good Government Club, the Liberal Culture Club, the Methodist Women's Missionary Society, and the Housewives League. After achieving prominence as a suffragist, Rozsa went on to hold local positions such as club president, school board member, county commissioner candidate, city food inspector, special prohibition inspector and enforcer, and political lobbyist.
Margaret Rozsa and her family settled in Butte, a major hub for the woman suffrage movement in the state. Newspapers later referred to Rozsa as a "prominent suffrage worker," implying that she had played an important role in the movement. Living in Butte would have allowed her to help with a number of campaign strategies employed by the movement at its peak between 1912 and 1914. House-to-house canvassing and leaflet production and circulation were among the most common and effective methods of reaching voters about the suffrage issue. Perhaps if she were involved in these activities, they may have helped her develop the written and oral skills she employed in her later endeavors. Another key way the Montana suffragists reached people was through parades and by setting up booths at the state fair. In addition to her work with the Votes for Women campaign, her position as a member of the Butte school board allowed Rozsa to attend both the state fair and suffrage parade in September of 1914 to address the crowds about why they should vote for woman suffrage.
After suffrage was achieved in Montana in 1914, many of the suffrage organizations in the state merged to form the Good Government Club. This club was key in securing mothers' pensions and equal guardianship laws. Club members also actively campaigned for the enforcement of laws already in existence. Rozsa used her presidency of the club in 1917 to advocate for the abolition of the Searles Bill, which sought to regulate prostitution by creating vice districts. Some members of the Good Government Club, like Rozsa, wanted to end the restricted vice districts because they believed they were harmful to the women living in them.
Rozsa's work with the Good Government Club exemplified women's active role in Progressive reform. Another club that promoted women's participation in political reform was the Liberal Culture Club, which often hosted discussions of women's role in society and politics. The club members would choose a principal paper to read, then find another paper or two that critiqued the first in order to understand both sides of an argument. They invited female specialists on the chosen topic to give short presentations on whichever side they supported.
Rozsa also led talks on legislation reform through her church group, the Methodist Women's Missionary Society. Though it is unclear what she talked about in meetings of these groups, Rozsa was a well-known advocate for limited legislation. She is quoted several times in newspapers as wanting to focus on existing legislation instead of enacting anything new.
Rozsa did support some new legislation. After World War One, she advocated for Senate Bill No. 19, which allocated $20,000 to the Galen Hospital in order to build a ward for the soldiers who had tuberculosis. After promoting the bill's adoption, Rozsa traveled back to Helena after it passed to make sure the legislators were not reneging.
Rozsa was also active in the Housewives League, which attempted to boycott local dairies to convince them to lower their prices in order to reduce the cost of living in Butte. While the League ultimately failed in this venture, the campaign may have planted a seed in Rozsa's mind that would continue growing over the rest of her professional career.
After woman suffrage was achieved, Rozsa sought political office. She held a seat on the Butte school board in 1914. She was also a Republican candidate for the Silver Bow County Commissioner seat in 1916. She ultimately lost, though her speeches drew massive crowds. In 1919, Rozsa was named Butte city food inspector, and in 1921, she was named the first female federal prohibition inspector.
Rosza's political offices built on her club background and gave her more power to campaign for social reform. As a food inspector, she advocated for lower food prices by coming up with new ways to sell food, and by criticizing the Montana Food Administration for allowing food to rot before it could be sold in order to keep produce prices up, a fight she began with the Housewives League in 1917.
Rozsa also engaged in political lobbying work related to the goal of decreasing the cost of living. She often traveled to Helena, where the state legislature was located, because, she stated, the legislators were simply "well-intentioned children" who needed her guidance to do the right thing.
Sometime between 1928 and 1940, Margaret Rozsa moved to Los Angeles, California with her husband. He took work as a gardener, and she got a part-time job washing dishes. Margaret was widowed in 1942 and continued working as a dishwasher until her death at age 82 on October 5, 1949. She and her husband were buried together in Alameda, California.
"Charitable to the Legislators." The Butte Daily Bulletin, 11 Aug. 1919, p. 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045085/1919-08-11/ed-1/seq-5/.
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 February 2018), memorial page for Margaret Jane Steele Rozsa (3 Mar 1867–5 Oct 1949), Find A Grave Memorial no. 85508074, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8). https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85508074/margaret-jane-rozsa
"Fruit is Allowed to Rot in Order to Keep Prices Up." Great Falls Daily Tribune. (Great Falls, Mont.), 26 July 1919, p. 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024808/1919-07-26/ed-1/seq-9/.
"Good Government Clubs' Convention." The Dillon Examiner (Dillon, Mont.), 17 Jan. 1917, p. 012. Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana. http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053034/1917-01-17/ed-1/seq-12/.
"Great Woman's ‘Suff' Parade Friday Night." The Suffrage Daily News. (Helena, Mont.), 24 #x00a0Sept. 1914, p. 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-24/ed-1/seq-2/.
Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (New York: J. J. Little & Ives Co., 1922), p. 363 & 367, [LINK]
"Interesting Meeting of Liberal Culture Club." The Butte Daily Bulletin, 9 May 1919, p. 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
"May Take Action on Social Evil: Discussion of Segregated Vice Likely by Good Government Club." The Butte Daily Post, 8 Jan. 1917, p. 7. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-01-08/ed-1/seq-7/.
"Montana News Brieflets." The River Press (Fort Benton, Mont.), 09 Nov. 1921, p. 8. Montana #x00a0Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana. http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053157/1921-11-09/ed-1/seq-8/.
O'Neill, Mary E. "Equal Suffrage Department." Big Timber Pioneer, 12 Nov. 1914, p. 3. montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn84036123/1914-11-12/ed-1/seq-7/.
"Salons of State are Harshly Criticized." The Butte Daily Post. (Butte, Mont.), 14 March 1917, p. 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-03-14/ed-1/seq-6/.
"South Side Notes." The Butte Daily Post. 28 Feb. 1917, p. 8. Chronicling America: Historic #x00a0American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-02-28/ed-1/seq-8/.
State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics, Ancestry.com.
"Urge Movement to Help Fallen Women: Good Government Club Invites Other Local Clubs to #x00a0Participate." The Butte Daily Post, 22 Jan. 1917, p. 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-01-22/ed-1/seq-2/.
U.S. Federal Census, 1910; Census Place: Butte Ward 8, Silver Bow, Montana; Roll: T624_836; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0120; FHL microfilm: 1374849, Heritage Quest, heritagequest.com.
U.S. Federal Census, 1920; Census Place: Butte Ward 4A, Silver Bow, Montana; Roll: T625_976; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 214, Heritage Quest, heritagequest.com.
U.S. Federal Census, 1940; Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Roll: m-t0627-00395; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 60-255, Ancestry.com.
"Votes for Women." The Suffrage Daily News. (Helena, Mont.), 26 Sept. 1914, p. 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-26/ed-1/seq-2/.
"Woman Named to Important Post." The Flathead Courier (Polson, Mont.), 17 Nov. 1921, p. 9. Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana. http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn86075296/1921-11-17/ed-1/seq-9/.
"Woman Named to Important Post: Mrs. Margaret Rozsa is Appointed Federal Prohibition #x00a0Inspector." The Powder River County Examiner and the Broadus Independent. (Broadus, Mont.), 25 Nov. 1921, p. 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of #x00a0Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84036256/1921-11-25/ed-1/seq-5/.
"Women in Congress a Boost for Suffrage." The Dillon Tribune, 17 Nov. 1916, p. 6. Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana. http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053040/1916-11-17/ed-1/seq-6/.
"Women of Butte Give Up Boycott." The Choteau Montanan, 12 Jan. 1917, p. 9. Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana. http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053031/1917-01-12/ed-1/seq-9/.
"Women of Butte Give Up Boycott: Housewives League Seeks to Find Other Means of #x00a0#x00a0Reducing Living Cost." The Glasgow Courier. 12 Jan. 1917, p. 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042379/1917-01-12/ed-1/seq-3/.