Rose Pastor Stokes

Rose Pastor Stokes (1879 - 1933) was a Socialist Party leader and feminist. Born in Russia, she emigrated to the United States and became active in labor politics and women's issues. Scandalizing "polite" society, she married millionaire James Graham Phelps Stokes, a personal friend of President Woodrow Wilson.

Youth and emigration

Stokes was born in the tiny Jewish settlement of Augustava Suvolk on July 18, 1879. She was the daughter of Jacob and Anna Wieslander. Her mother remarried when Rose was a youth and gave her daughter the name of her stepfather, Pastor. The family was very indigent and remained but a short time in Russia.

They migrated to London when Pastor was three, settling in the depressed Whitechapel district. She attended classes for a time at the Bell Lane Free School. Israel Zangwill was once a pupil there and later an instructor. When Pastor was twelve her family emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, where she was forced to find work as soon as possible. In 1892 she found a job in a Cleveland cigar factory and worked as a cigar-maker for the next eleven years.

Writing and marriage

During this time, Pastor discovered her talent for writing poems. She submitted some of her work to the "Jewish Daily News" in New York City. These were accepted, as well as others which followed. Her success led to her removal from Cleveland and relocation in New York in 1903. Pastor became a columnist with the paper, advising young women in a part of the English section. Her salary was approximately $15 a week.

Five months after coming to New York, she was asked by the paper to interview Mr. Stokes. He was often in the news at this time because of his lifestyle. Stokes was descended from families who were prominent during the colonial history of New England. He was a railway president and a society figure who had given up his mansion at 299 Madison Avenue a short time earlier in order to be nearer the work he found most appealing, that of social projects. George moved to the University Settlement on the Lower East Side, in close proximity to the office of the "Jewish Daily News". Rose praised Stokes' ideals in her report of the interview.

Soon Rose became active performing the work of the settlement. Her friendship with Stokes deepened, and in early 1905 their engagement was announced. The couple were married in July. Both became active members of the Socialist Party.

War and prosecution

The first impediment in their relationship came in 1917. It was when the Socialists denounced the American war program. Stokes withdrew from the party, joining the armed forces of the United States. Rose at first left the Socialists, but then returned and became associated with the Left Wing of the political faction. This element grew into the American Communist Party.

Rose began to travel throughout America, speaking and contributing articles to various newspapers. In 1918, Mrs. Stokes wrote a letter to the editor of the "Kansas City Star" criticizing US involvement in World War I. The communication berated the US government as being allied to profiteers. The controversy over her letter to the editor led to her federal indictment and trial in Kansas City, Missouri, for violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

After receiving a sentence of 30 years in prison, Stokes and her attorney, Seymour Stedman of Chicago, Illinois, successfully appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, Missouri. The government afterwards dropped the case against her.

Divorce and death

Relations between Rose and Graham Stokes were congenial until 1925. Mr. Stokes brought a petition for divorce in Nyack, New York, on grounds of misconduct. He won a decree. Rose then issued a statement denouncing the New York divorce laws. Furthermore she stated she and her husband had co-existed as friendly enemies for some time. She said she would cherish her freedom.

In the ensuing years she devoted herself to Communist Party causes, serving on the central executive committee of the Workers Party of America in 1923. [cite web cite web
title = Communist Party officials
work =
publisher = Marxist History
date =
url =
format = html
doi =
accessdate = 2006-10-08
] She participated in strikes and making court appearances to support men and women arrested for picketing and/or demonstrating. News that Rose had remarried became known after she was arrested in 1929 for demonstrating during a textile workers' strike. Her second husband, Isaac Romaine, was a language instructor. The couple lived at 215 Second Avenue.

In April 1933 friends of Rose Pastor Stokes held a mass meeting at Webster Hall. The group collected funds for her hospital expenses. Friends announced that she was in Germany but her whereabouts there were not revealed. There was fear that she might be persecuted by National Socialists because she was a Communist and a Jew.

She entered Municipal Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, on April 15, where she was operated on for cancer by Professor Vito Schmiden. She subsequently died in the hospital of a heart attack. Her body was to be cremated and the ashes sent to New York. She was 54 years old.

Rose was working on her autobiography at the time of death. Before her death, she had sent documents related to her writing to agents she was close to in the United States.


* New York Times, "Rose Stokes Dies After Operation", June 21, 1933, Page 17.



"The Woman Who Wouldn't and Other Plays" (New York: Putnam's, 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).

Translation, in collaboration with Helena Frank, "Songs of Labor by Morris Rosenfeld" (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914).

External links

* cite web
last = Stokes
first = Rose Pastor
title = Rose Pastor Stokes
work = The Communist, November 8, 1919
publisher = Marxists Internet Archive
date =
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2006-10-08

* cite web
last = Engdahl
first = J. Louis
authorlink = Louis Engdahl
title = Rose Pastor Stokes Asks Privilege to Return to Socialist Party Ranks
work = The Eye Opener (Chicago), v. 9, no. 26, pg. 4.
publisher = Marxists Internet Archive
date = January 19, 1918
url =
format = PDF
doi =
accessdate = 2006-10-08
* [ Rose Pastor Stokes]
* [ Spartacus UK - History of the United States in the 20th Century]

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