Socialist organizer Winnie Branstetter was a follower of Victor Berger, who along with Eugene V. Debs and Morris Hillquit founded the Socialist Party of America in 1901. Winnie Shirley, the daughter of Ambrose and Gertrude Prather Shirley, was born in Hick City, Missouri, on March 19, 1879, and married Otto Franklin Branstetter in 1899. The Branstetters moved to Norman, Oklahoma Territory, in 1904, and the couple had two children, Gertrude and Theresa.
Elected as the assistant secretary of the Oklahoma Socialist Party in 1908, Winnie Branstetter fought diligently to promote socialism in Oklahoma and to recruit women into the party as equal members. She belonged to the Women's National Committee (WNC), an organization within the Socialist Party. She also worked for woman suffrage, believing that the right to vote was essential if socialist women were going to change economic and social evils that they perceived to accompany the capitalist system. Unlike many who devoted their efforts to obtaining economic equality for working-class women, Branstetter put aside class differences and worked with middle-class suffragists to help women attain the franchise. She was a member of the Oklahoma Woman's Suffrage Association, serving as vice president for three years. In 1913 she moved from Oklahoma to Chicago, where she became an officer of the WNC. Branstetter died on November 15, 1960, in Providence, Rhode Island, and was buried in Swan Point Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mari Jo Buhle, Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983). James R. Green, Grass Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895-1943 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978). John William Leonard, ed., Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 (New York: American Commonwealth Co., 1915). Howard L. Meredith, " History of the Socialist Party in Oklahoma" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1969). Suzanne H. Schrems, Across the Political Spectrum: Oklahoma Women in Politics in the Early Twentieth Century, 1900-1930 (Lincoln, Nebr.: Writers Club Press, 2001).
Suzanne H. Schrems
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