Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Rose Brennan, 1874-?

By Marian Mills, Graduate student, Simmons College

Several women named Rose Brennan appear in the census records for Fall River, Massachusetts. The Rose Brennan who became a suffragist was probably the one born in England around 1874 to Irish parents. She moved to Fall River with her father, Patrick Brennan, around 1880. At the age of 13 she began working in a cotton mill, she later recounted. Brennan remained single throughout her life and lived with her father, who worked as a janitor. After moving to Fall River, Brennan and her father took in boarders for a time, but by 1910 they lived by themselves. Brennan later told the National Child Labor Committee that she had always wanted to have a better education, so she attended night school as a young adult, but she found that her work in the mill left her exhausted. She admitted that she would often fall asleep at her desk.

Brennan was an active member of the Women's Trade Union League. In 1905 she was involved in the formation of national committees that aimed to spread awareness of the working conditions in various trades. Brennan herself worked on the League's Textiles committee. Brennan also attended some meetings of the Socialist movement, and was elected in 1909 to a Socialist Woman's Committee within the textile mill in which she worked.

Through the Women's Trade Union League of Boston, Brennan became involved in the Massachusetts suffrage campaign as well. Brennan marched on the State House in Boston on February 23, 1909, in the company of approximately 2,000 women including many other League members. At one of four overflow meetings held on the Boston Common, Brennan spoke eloquently about suffrage for women. Anne Withington, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Women's Trade Union League of Boston, pronounced Rose's speech "one of the best suffrage speeches I ever heard, and made many converts."

In 1913 Brennan spoke in front of a legislative committee advocating for a shorter work day for children, saying, "I myself had rather work another hour longer and give the children a chance. They are never going to be good citizens and they are never going to get an education in a cotton mill."


Conant, Richard K. "Eight-Hour Day in Massachusetts" In The Child Labor Bulletin Volume 3, 92-93. New York: The National Child Labor Committee, 1914.

Harper, Ida Husted. "Massachusetts." In History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, 292. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

"National Movement." Progressive Woman, September 1909, 15.

"Notes of the Week." Charities: A Weekly Journal of Philanthropy and Social Advance (New York), April 22, 1905.

Withington, Anne. "Boston League Report." In Second Biennial Convention of the National Women's Trade Union League of America, 18. Chicago: National Women's Trade Union League of America, 1909.

Note: All of these sources were found on Google Books.

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