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DAVENPORT, IA. – Hundreds of thousands – if not millions – saw social media posts in March 2023 about the middle-aged Iowa woman who handed a “fascist”-coded snowflake to a beaming and clearly unknowing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.

Many didn’t realize that Julie Meyerson Ross has been popping up alongside conservative candidates, subversively opposing them with coded snowflakes in hand and a big smile, for at least eight years.

In fact, Donald J. Trump was her first snowflake recipient in 2015. In 2019, she landed a double-whammy on super-conservative U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, visiting him with not only a snowflake, but also an apologetic T-shirt (“Sorry About Charles Grassley”) Ross had initially hidden beneath her zipped-up floral jacket.

Ross’s viral fame this year earned her a T-shirt line from the company that originally created the Grassley shirt, the Midwest’s “smart and sassy shirt” specialists RAYGUN. And right now, Meyerson Ross and RAYGUN also teamed up with the snowflakes to win a downtown Davenport window decoration competition.

Some progressive social media influencers have praised Ross as a “hero:” twice, at a pivotal time in politics, she had landed nationally visible blows on powerful politicians whose extreme conservative tendencies rivaled former President Donald Trump. And she’d done it with snowflakes, a tiara, and a floral jacket.

Yet, as her viral fame spread, Ross turned down interview requests from almost all media, including Newsweek and Business Insider. Now that she’s talking about her snowflake activism, Ross’s combination of innocence, irreverence and impact shines through.



Family of Julie Meyerson Ross at MCC of the Quad Cities

Julie Meyerson Ross, center, is pictured with her daughter, husband, sister-in-law and brother.

Ross’s coded snowflakes started with her family

She first learned to create “a proper six-pointed snowflake” around 2007 while teaching at a children’s museum. But one night, Ross said she had an epiphany when she etched words into her design.

“The first word I ever cut was the word ‘peace,’ cuz you know, I’m about that,” she says. “I ran it across the street to my neighbor and said, ‘Look what I did with this snowflake.’ We were admiring it, and at that point I thought, ‘I can put any word in there,’ and I have a dirty mind.

“So I went back and cut the ‘F’ word. It was gorgeous, especially the ‘K’ in the middle.”

She began to experiment with her coded snowflakes. Former President Barack Obama received a “hope”-themed ‘flake during a 2008 visit to Iowa. Her family received some of her earliest snowflakes too. Ross shares the family Christmas gathering that foretold her future in what she calls “craftivism.”

“I cut everybody’s names, and as everybody opened them, my nephew said, ‘Oh, mine says Ben,’ and my sister said, ‘Oh, mine says Lisa,’ and my brother opened his, and he goes, ‘Mine says asshole.’ And everybody laughed. So then it got to be a thing: ‘You know, Aunt Julie cuts dirty words into snowflakes!’ “

I still have it, and I still cherish it,” Charlie Meyerson says of his “asshole” snowflake. He says his younger sister has always been deeply politically active, inspired by their parents, who became involved in their small Michigan community’s civil rights and progressive issues when the three Meyerson siblings were very young.


Their mother Agnes, in particular, set a great example, Charlie and Julie said. “She was always the one calling out the school district, saying, ‘You’re not treating this child well’ or ‘you’re not meeting certain needs,’ ” Julie remembers. “She was a brilliant writer. She was an advocate for the downtrodden, and she was fearless.”

Julie Meyerson Ross snowflake window at RAYGUN

Julie Meyerson Ross’s snowflakes are on display at the RAYGUN store in downtown Davenport. The display is part of a holiday window decoration competition, open to voters through Jan. 1.

Though Julie is the youngest in the family, Charlie says she was always the “coolest,” with a “cultural radar” that helped everyone around her discover new progressive people and things.

“Julie was the first person to tell me about ‘The Daily Show,’ and about this guy Stephen Colbert who does the wackiest things,” Charlie Meyerson remembers. “And Julie was the first person to tell me about Pee Wee Herman. She’s been on the cutting edge, to this day.”

In the late 2010s, Ross had begun to organize bus trips to marches in Washington, D.C., for causes like abortion rights, and the Rally to Restore Insanity and/or Fear, coordinated by Colbert and Daily Show founder Jon Stewart. She’d also started gaining access to conservative politicians’ political events, posing tough questions that sometimes captured media attention.

Among her first impact moments attending conservative rallies undercover: a Rick Perry visit to Iowa in the early 2010s, when Ross asked him why his state had the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured children.

“There was a little blip in an AP article,” Ross said. “It said a woman asked him this question. I thought, ‘I did it. I did that. I made a slight difference.’ “

So Ross committed to going to more conservative events. She would “dress the part” to gain unscrutinized access to those events, wearing floral-patterned sweaters like the one that hid her “Sorry About Charles Grassley” T-shirt, or donning accessories like a patriotic-colored pin, or the  rhinestone-decorated tiara she wore to her DeSantis visit earlier this year.


Her friend Cath Bolkcom accompanied Ross to many of these events and has taken many of the pictures that have gone viral. “She’s unassuming, almost to a fault, I would say at this point,” Bolkcom says. “She totally undervalues her contribution.”

Julie Meyerson Ross with Charles Grassley 770 by 1027 1

With U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley pre-shirt reveal

Julie Meyerson Ross with Sorry About Charles Grassley shirt 770 by 1026

With U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley post-shirt reveal

Dozens of politicians have now received a Julie Meyerson Ross coded snowflake

She gave her first sarcastically-coded snowflake to Donald Trump in 2015, handing him a packet of ‘flakes that incorporated four different messages, including “f*** you.” Her Republican snowflake targets and their coded messages over the years include not only Grassley, DeSantis and Trump, but also Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, former presidential contenders (and Rock Island native) Kari Lake,  Carly Fiorina, Herman Cain, and Ted Cruz.

Democratic or progressive politicians who join Obama in earning positively-coded snowflakes from Ross include Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Kirstin Gillibrand, Juan Castro and Bernie Sanders. All the while, Ross continues to attend conservative events with tough questions in addition to the occasional snowflake or snappy shirt.

I really want to inspire and encourage people to go to these political speeches, to go hear the candidates,” she says. “People don’t have to take any action. They don’t have to ask a question. They don’t have to protest. But just to go and experience it; to feel the aura and hear what’s important to these candidates is something.”

Cath Bolkcom and Julie Meyerson Ross

On Sept. 17, MCC of the Quad Cities honored Cath Bolkcom, founder of Progressive Action for the Common Good, and Julie Meyerson Ross, long-time activist who gained nationwide respect in March when her latest presentation of coded snowflakes featured Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Bolkcom and Ross say the impact of Ross’s craftivism is especially important for middle-aged women.


“Middle-aged women in our culture are so undervalued as to become virtually invisible in the wider culture,” Bolkcom says.  “I’ve certainly experienced that myself. And so she can go into an event and nobody will pay any attention to her. What she has given to our community is really incredible.”

Ross’s husband Jim has gradually become more involved with Ross’s craftivism, after initially staying slightly distanced from it, Ross says. “Now, he’s out there holding ‘Men For Choice’ signs and at the book ban protests. You can just see in his face; he’s a very, very quiet man, but he’s delighted that I can get away with this.”

Today, other than taking up RAYGUN’s offer to display her self-labeled “craftivism” in their windows and on their shirts, Ross is focused on things other than snowflakes, or the fame she’s earned by creating them. She is involved in several local progressive efforts, including obtaining sewing machines for Afghan women, repopulating monarchs from her Davenport backyard, or fundraising for the Wapsipinicon River. She’s also joined a group called The Wild Ones, focused on bringing back native plants. 

“She is a worker bee,” Bolkcom says. “She is somebody who shows up for every effort in the progressive organizations that are grassroots here. “The way she runs… is to show up and then to really do what people need done. And she’s amazing.”

Bolkcom also says her friend’s work can inspire everyone to find their own unique ways of being involved. “I think one of the things that’s been very good about it is, we don’t all have to be the leaders of organizations. We don’t all have to be pulling stuff out on the street, although she’s done that…. There are lots of different ways to be a rebel, and you can do it with some humor.”

Click on the gallery below to see an array of Meyerson Ross’s snowflake pictures.

(An earlier version of this article originally appeared in the October 2023 print edition of The Real Mainstream. Snowflake photos courtesy of Julie Meyerson Ross).