The Gentle General

Rose Pesotta, Anarchist and Labor Organizer

By Elaine Leeder

Subjects: Social And Cultural History
Series: SUNY series in American Labor History
Paperback : 9780791416723, 212 pages, September 1993
Hardcover : 9780791416716, 212 pages, October 1993

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Chronicles of a Gadfly: Overview of Rose Pesotta's Life History



1. Early Life

2. The New Life

3. Sacco and Vanzetti

4. Labor Organizing: The Early Years

5. Labor Organizing: The Challenging Years

6. Political Work

7. Personal Life: Home, Friends, and Family

8. From Organizer to Author to Rank and File

9. Epilogue






This is the first major biography of Rose Pesotta, the organizer and vice president of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) from 1933 to 1944. After moving to the United States from the Ukraine in 1913, Pesotta became involved in the resurgence of the garment workers' industry, women's labor colleges, and labor activism. While working for the union, she confronted serious opposition as a woman and an anarchist within an all-male bureaucracy.

This book chronicles Pesotta's life while exploring a number of personal political themes. The author examines Pesotta's relationships and friendships as they reflect the issues of gender, power, and sexuality, paying particular attention to her relationships with Sacco and Vanzetti and with Emma Goldman. In the course of this biography, Leeder portrays the inherent conflicts between anarchism and bureaucratic organization and between female consciousness and male-dominated institutions. The book explores the potential for pragmatic activism by social visionaries and offers clear contextual frameworks within which to compare and contrast Pesotta to others in similar historical roles.

Elaine Leeder is Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Ithaca College and is a practicing psychotherapist.


"This biography is long overdue." — David Porter, State University of New York, Empire State College

"There isn't another biography of Rose Pesotta, and there are very few studies of women labor leaders. This book breaks new ground. It is significant for women's studies, labor history, and courses on women's biography, and it may become more valuable to historians and labor activists as the labor movement pays increasing attention to organizing women workers in coming years." — Ruth Meyerowitz, State University of New York at Buffalo