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American National Biography Online Norwood, Rose Finkelstein (10 Sept. 1889-25 Sept. 1980), labor organizer and leader, was born in Kiev, Russia, the daughter of Henry Finkelstein, a distillery worker who aspired to be a rabbi, and Fanny Schafferman. When Rose Finkelstein was one year old, she emigrated with her parents and older sister to Boston, where her father became a tailor and her mother operated a small grocery store. During her grammar school years in largely Irish-American East Cambridge, Finkelstein was taunted by other children as a "Christ Killer" and was injured several times when they threw bricks at her. These assaults, the most searing memory of her childhood, forced the family to move to a Jewish neighborhood in Dorchester. Leaving high school in her senior year (1908), Rose Finkelstein became an operator for the New England Telephone Company in Boston. Her father was a staunch trade unionist, and she absorbed from him a lifelong reverence for the labor movement. In 1912 she became a charter member of the Boston Telephone Operators' Union, organized by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with major assistance from the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL). Finkelstein served on the union's executive board and was a leader of the 1919 New England telephone strike. Involving 8,000 operators, it was one of the largest strikes ever initiated and led by women. Lasting six days, it paralyzed telephone service in five New England states and was one of the few in the wave of postwar strikes to end on favorable terms for the workers. In 1919 Finkelstein, whose educational desires had been frustrated by repeated moves throughout her childhood, and by her mother's indifference to the schooling of her daughters, began a long involvement with workers' education. She entered the Boston Trade Union College when it opened that year. Sponsored by the Boston Central Labor Union, the college recruited a distinguished faculty composed of professors from such schools as Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Tufts, and Simmons to teach night classes to working people. Finkelstein studied economics, government, literature, history, psychology, and law there until the school closed in 1931. The Boston Trade Union College's governing board considered her one of the school's best students. In 1921 she was part of the first class to attend Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. To the consternation of Bryn Mawr's administration, she joined with other worker-students to demand that trade union hour standards be applied to the college's black maids and groundskeepers. She attended summer institutes at Brookwood Labor College in 1928 and 1935. In December 1921 Finkelstein married Hyman Norwood, owner of a small tire and battery business and a former streetcar conductor and motorman who had participated in the Boston Elevated strike of 1912. Norwood was also a Russian Jew who had immigrated to the United States as a young child. An avid motorcycle racer, he met Finkelstein at a race in 1916. During the next several years the couple learned to pilot airplanes together. They had two children. Although compelled by New England Telephone to resign as soon as she married, Rose Norwood remained active in the labor movement through the WTUL during the 1920s, serving as vice president of the Boston chapter and on its executive board. Influenced by childhood memories of her parents' discussions of the Dreyfus affair, she became deeply involved in the defense of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti between 1921 and their execution in 1927. She retained a strong emotional commitment to the Sacco-Vanzetti defense throughout her life, attending memorial meetings through the 1970s. Through the WTUL, she also became involved in the interwar peace movement and joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. But, alarmed by the threat of fascism, she abandoned pacifism by 1939, and actively campaigned for lend-lease legislation in early 1941. During the 1930s Norwood emerged as one of the nation's most prominent and energetic woman labor organizers. Her indefatigability on the picket line became legendary. Undeterred by police dogs, she continued to leaflet in the snow and bitter cold long after male organizers had retired. In 1933 she began work with the Commercial Telegraphers' Union and led a successful organizing drive at the Boston Postal Telegraph Company. Four years later she became business agent for the laundry workers' union, directing strikes in Boston, Watertown, and Somerville. Norwood demanded that management establish a guaranteed weekly wage in an industry where employment was notoriously irregular. During the 1940s Norwood worked in Massachusetts as an organizer, first for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and then for the International Jewelry Workers' Union (1944-1949). Her work for the ILGWU included successful campaigns at a General Electric factory in Lowell, and at Vatco, a Boston company that made automobile seat covers. In 1944 she also organized the staff of the Boston Public Library for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and worked for the boilermakers' union organizing workers in the shipyards at Portland, Maine. Norwood became president of the Boston WTUL in 1941, serving until it disbanded in 1950. She championed women's causes in a labor movement that was largely hostile to them. In speeches and articles she vigorously defended the right of married women to hold jobs. In 1942 she spearheaded the unsuccessful effort to put the Massachusetts Federation of Labor on record as supporting the creation of public day care centers for the children of women war workers. Norwood also hosted a regular radio program on "Women and Labor" and sponsored talks by European women labor leaders. She held forums and wrote extensively to draw public attention to the plight of domestic workers, calling for their unionization and for them to be covered by government-funded insurance. Norwood's involvement in organizing librarians led her to conceive of the "Books for Workers" program, through which public libraries supplied books to factories and union halls. During World War II she served on the Boston Herald Rumor Clinic, chaired by Gordon Allport and designed to combat anti-Semitic and racist prejudice as well as Nazi-inspired rumors intended to undermine the Allied war effort; she was its only woman member. She served on the Advisory Committee of the Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was a member of the Massachusetts Committee for the Marshall Plan. She also became deeply attached to the Labor Zionist cause. In 1949 Norwood became an organizer for the Retail Clerks' International Union, working in Boston, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Repeatedly thrown off the premises of the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston, she became a master of disguises, continually returning hidden behind sunglasses. Norwood ended her career as an organizer for the Building Service Employees' International Union, retiring in the mid-1950s. In her last years Norwood lamented labor's new quiescence. Although forgotten by the labor movement, she emerged as a prominent and outspoken advocate for Boston's senior citizens. Boston's mayor Kevin White appointed her to the advisory council to his Commission on the Affairs of the Elderly. She died in Boston, surviving her husband by twenty-three years. For over four decades Rose Norwood was one of the nation's most prominent labor organizers; a relentless voice for women's causes in the labor movement; a leading advocate of workers' education; and a tireless crusader against fascism, anti-Semitism, and racism. Bibliography The Rose Finkelstein Norwood Papers are in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass. Letters from Rose Norwood are also in the National Women's Trade Union League Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. See also Stephen H. Norwood, Labor's Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators and Worker Militancy, 1878-1923 (1990) and "Rose Finkelstein Norwood" in Biographical Dictionary of American Labor, ed. Gary Fink (1984). Obituaries are in the Boston Globe, 28 Sept. 1980, and in the Boston Herald-American, 27 Sept. 1980. Stephen H. Norwood Citation: Stephen H. Norwood. "Norwood, Rose Finkelstein"; http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-01033.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org.