Illustration by Art Seiden

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

from Colonial Times to 1900:


Ernestine Rose: A Key Leader In The Women's Rights Struggle

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Ernestine Rose was a leader in the struggle for full rights for women and, as a result of her activities, is considered one of America's great women of the 19th Century. She was born January 13, 1810, in Piotrkow, Poland, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi. Emestine, whose mother died when she was 16, rebelled against her strict environment by leaving home at the age 17, when her father remarried.

She traveled throughout Europe and England, where she met the social reformer, Robert Owen, and became one of his disciples. In 1832, she met William Rose, a jeweler and a silversmith, who was a non-Jewish Owenite. They married the same year and lived in England until 1836, when they moved to New York City.

Ernestine Rose became involved with the struggle for human rights, especially those of women. She traveled throughout the Eastem United States, pushing for reform in laws that discriminated against women.

For 30 years, she took an active role in the National Women's Suffrage Association. If Susan B. Anthony was the "soul," then Ernestine L. Rose was the "brain" of the suffrage movement. She petitioned the New York State Legislature to give married women equal rights with their husbands in property ownership and in the guardianship of children. Her initial effort failed, but she kept up the struggle until, in 1848, these reforms became law.

In 1850, Rose helped to organize the first National Woman's Rights Convention, which met in Massachusetts. As a result, she became acquainted with such feminists and abolitionists as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and others. When the Territory of Wyoming's legislature became the first to grant women the right to vote, it was a great personal victory for her.

Rose, who was considered to be one of the more radical leaders of the feminist movement, attacked the 14th and 15th Amendments which emancipated blacks but did not include women's rights. However, she never seemed to attach any importance to her Jewish background until 1863, when she had a published debate with Horace Seaver, the abolitionist editor of the Boston Investigator, whom she accused of being anti-Semitic.

Eventually Ernestine Rose's health started to fail and she returned with her husband to England, where she died in Brighton in 1892.

This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.

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