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April 5: The Radical Marries the Millionaire

April 4, 2016

USAWstokes3Labor activist and Yiddish journalist Rose Pastor (Wieslander), who became a founding member of the Communist Party in the U.S. in 1919, and James Graham Stokes, an Episcopalian millionaire involved in the settlement house movement, announced their wedding engagement on this date in 1905, which stoked (no pun intended) a media frenzy in which she was dubbed “the Cinderella of the sweatshops.” They married in July and together joined the Socialist Party of America; she continued to work as a writer, contributing regularly to the The Masses and The Call. “She had her millions of dollars at command,” noted Eugene Victor Debs. “Did her wealth restrain her an instant? On the contrary, her supreme devotion to the cause outweighed all considerations of a financial or social nature. She went out boldly to plead the cause of the working class.” In contradiction to her husband’s views, Pastor Stokes opposed American involvement in World War I and in 1918 was arrested, tried, and sentenced to ten years in prison under the Espionage Act. It took her two appeals before the conviction was reversed in 1920. She was also deeply involved in the birth control movement. She and her husband were divorced in 1925, and she took another husband, Victor Jerome, who was eighteen years her junior. Born in 1879, she died of cancer in 1933.

“Fill the cup of happiness for others, and there will be enough overflowing to fill yours to the brim.” —Rose Pastor Stokes