The Transitional Twenties
ROSE HICKEY came to Atlanta from Boston in 1919 as a union organizer for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). During the Atlanta telephone workers’ walkout in the summer of that year, Hickey, at the urging of the local operators, became the primary leader and organizer for the strike. Her work as an aggressive and creative organizer, negotiator, and speaker earned her the respect of the strikers, Atlanta’s trade union leaders, and the local press, despitethe failure of the “hello girls” to achieve union recognition from Southern Bell. After the strike, the IBEW hired Hickey to act as the southern organizer for the newly established Telephone Operators’ Department of the national union. Hickey played a pivotal leadership role as the union waged a campaign against companysponsored and management-run unions in the years following World War I.
Hickey’s commitment to Atlanta grew, and she made the city her permanent home. In the fall of 1920 she married Emmett Quinn, a machinist and vice president of the Atlanta Federation of Trades. She resigned her high-level IBEW post and concentrated her efforts on improving the position of working women in Atlanta. An ardent supporter of women’s suffrage, Hickey followed her middleclass allies from that campaign into efforts to clean up Atlanta politics through charter reform. Hickey also campaigned for the establishment of an industrial department in Atlanta’s YWCA, improved educational opportunities through the passage of school bonds, and a tenure policy for teachers. She became a regular contributor to Atlanta’s Journal of Labor and wrote numerous articles supporting women’s education, advocating racial cooperation, and explaining the history of unionism. Hickey acted as a liaison between the Georgia Federation of Labor and the liberal Southern Council for Women and Children in Industry in the early 1930s and helped to create the Southern Summer School for Women Workers later in the decade.1
Hickey’s commitment to working-class women and the rights of laborers did not waver between the time of her arrival in Atlanta in the late 1910s and the 1960s, when she died. Yet Hickey virtually disappeared from the political landscape of