Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Miss Rose Winslow (Ruza Wenclawska), 1889-?
By Thomas Dublin and Hannah Dudley Shotwell, Graduate student, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Rose Winslow (born Ruza Wenclawska) was born in Poland in 1889 and immigrated to western Pennsylvania with her parents at the age of five. When Winslow was eleven, she began working in a silk mill. The 1900 census of Plymouth, PA recorded her father as a miner, a brother as a slate picker and Rose as a stocking knitter/ in Pennsylvania, but at age nineteen, she developed tuberculosis and could no longer work in a factory setting. Thereafter, Winslow put herself through night school and began working as a labor organizer. She conducted factory inspections and organized unions in New York City with the National Consumers' League and the National Women's Trade Union League.
Winslow began speaking on behalf of women wage-earners. In February 1914, Winslow, along with a delegation of four hundred other wage-earning women, marched to the White House to speak with President Wilson. Wilson agreed to speak to twenty-five of them, including Winslow.
That same year, the Congressional Union for Woman's Suffrage decided to support a campaign urging women in the nine states that had women's suffrage to vote against the Democratic Party because they had blocked the National Suffrage Amendment. Winslow, along with Lucy Burns, organized one of nine headquarters in San Francisco. She participated in a similar role in Wyoming in 1916. During this time, she also toured and spoke on behalf of wage-earning women, collapsing from exhaustion several times because of illness.
In October 1917, police arrested Winslow, Alice Paul, and several other White House picketers for "obstructing traffic." (In the 2004 film version of these events, Iron Jawed Angels, Vera Fermiga portrays Winslow.) Winslow was sentenced to seven months in the Occoquan Workhouse in Fairfax County, Virginia. Paul demanded that the prison treat the protesters as political prisoners; this status would have afforded them separate housing and relief from the prison work detail, but most importantly, the public would understand that they were in jail not for committing a crime but for opposing the government. When the prison refused these demands, Paul and Winslow went on a hunger strike. Suffering gravely from the force-feedings that followed, Winslow smuggled notes out to her friends and husband, which helped suffragists give details about the plight of the prisoners to the public. Subsequently, fifteen other women went on hunger strike. Eventually all of the women were released. It appears that Winslow began working as a stage actress after the suffrage amendment passed, but her life after the NWP demonstrations remains largely a mystery.
Katherine Adams and Michael Keene, Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Maxine Seller, Immigrant Women (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994); Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920); Rose Winslow, "Prison Notes, Smuggled to Friends from the District Jail, 1917, " in Treacherous Texts: U.S. Suffrage Literature, 1846-1946, ed. Mary Chapman and Angela Mills (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 282; J. D. Zahniser and Amelia Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).