Serving two Gods


Serving two Gods


Rose Schneiderman and Leonora O’Reilly were featured speakers at NAWSA conventions as early as 1907. The leaders of the suffrage mainstream warmed to working class women when they saw how these fiery activists could ignite a crowd. [New thread!]

But the middle-class suffragists grew uneasy when the speeches got too Socialist. Even the more daring suffrage groups, like Harriot Stanton Blatch’s Equality League and a group called the American Suffragettes (more on them later!) told Schneiderman and O’Reilly to tone it down.

For a while they complied - they wanted to be part of the suffrage movement, and its leaders provided funds they needed to organize working women. But eventually they grew tired of watching their words. Frustratingly, they had nowhere else to go.

Suffrage was almost as unwelcome in Socialist settings as Socialism was among suffragists. The men of the labor movement thought suffrage was a bourgeois distraction from the real work of revolution. Publicly the Socialist Party and the AFL supported woman suffrage, but privately they disparaged it as a waste of time. @AnneliseOrleck1 quotes a letter to Rose Schneiderman from a man who chastised her for squandering her talent:

“You cannot possibly serve two Gods--you cannot fill efficiently two places in two movements...

"You either work for Socialism and as a result for equality of the sexes or you work for woman suffrage only and neglect Socialism.”

Schneiderman and O’Reilly, along with Pauline Newman and Theresa Malkiel and a handful of others, persisted in trying to balance both causes.

Newman - whose friends all called her Paul - pointed out that it was easy for Socialist men to dismiss the importance of the vote; they had one. In the early years of the century we can see working class suffragists continually reorganizing.

The same cadre of women form and reform, seeking a place to be fully committed to both women and labor. They keep trying to make a way to fund their work & set the agenda without being captive to wealthy women or disdainful Socialist men. How’d that work out? Stay tuned. 


Daily Suffragist




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Daily Suffragist, “Serving two Gods,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 27, 2022,

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