This is the stuff of fairy tales: poor Russian immigrant falls madly in love with the heir to a great American Fortune. She is Rose Pastor. He is James Graham Phelps Stokes, the crown prince of the Phelps Stokes dynasty. Member of the legendary 400 families of New York high society. Friends with the Morgans and the Vanderbilts. And he’s totally smitten, too. This unlikely match and marriage drew front page headlines in newspapers all over the world from its astonishing beginning to its equally astonishing end. Together, this unusual couple joined the burgeoning Socialist Party and moved among the liveliest group of activists and dreamers this country has ever seen. Rose stirred audiences to tears, led strikes of restaurant waiters and garment workers and campaigned alongside the country’s earliest feminists. In fact, President Woodrow Wilson labeled her “one of the dangerous influences of the country” for publicly defying laws against distributing information about birth control. Yes, Rose was far ahead of her time. Ironically, this fairy tale didn’t have a happy ending for the charismatic campaigner for social justice. In a way no one foresaw, her too-short life ended in the same abject poverty with which it began.
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