Josephine Aspinwall Roche

Hall Inductee Josephine Aspinwall Roche was not only was the first policewoman in Colorado, but also the first woman to run a major coal company, and the second woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. But one of her biggest accomplishments was unionizing mine workers and getting them paid an unheard of $7 dollars a day.

By 1927 she had become a leading progressive liberal and labor advocate in Colorado. When her father, who was president of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), died, she inherited his minority stock and found herself ready and willing to apply her progressive ideas close to home. In March 1928, when Roche had purchased enough shares to control RMF, she invited the United Mine Workers to unionize her mines. RMF was the first western coal company to sign a union contract and pay its miners an unheard of $7 a day. After Roche’s unsuccessful bid for the governorship of Colorado, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

For years, disagreements between laborers and corporations were still common, and some turned bloody. In April of 1914, The National Guard shot miners, their wives and children after being called in to control a volatile situation at a mining camp which was owned by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in Ludlow, located between Walsenburg and Trinidad, Colorado. Josephine helped attend to the grieving families and helped them testify. After years of fighting for rights, as some battles were lost and won, the eight-hour work day became standard practice in 1940 for all laborers in the private sector after a long, drawn out battles over the years between workers and government officials.

In her police work she was assigned to keep an eye on the “amusements” – dance halls and prostitution as well as protecting children from the streets. After her success at this assignment, she was fired by the Fire and Police board. Apparently, she was bad for business. She contested her decision and won her job back. She earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Her thesis, “Economic Conditions in Relation to the Delinquency of Girls” was a prelude to her political philosophies.

 



×



×