JANUARY 13, 1810–AUGUST 4, 1892
Ernestine Rose was born in Piotrków, Poland, in 1810. She was a women’s rights activist and freethinker. The only daughter of a rabbi, she was raised Jewish, but frequently questioned her father’s conservative religious views, including his unequal treatment of women. When she was 16 years old, her father attempted to marry her to a much older man. The young Rose successfully argued in court that this was unjust, and soon after left Poland.
Rose moved around Europe for the next ten years, becoming involved with socialist and social reform movements before settling in New York City with William Rose, a husband whom she chose. She became involved with the women’s rights movement there, and befriended Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She worked as a lecturer and organizer. Rose was especially invested in the cause of married women’s equality, fighting for property rights and less strict divorce laws. Though she had been an abolitionist, after the Civil War she sided with Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and helped form the National Woman Suffrage Association, which disapproved of the 15th amendment giving Black men but not white women the right to vote.
A powerful lecturer, Rose was often criticized for her open atheism and direct questioning of religion. At times, she was also attacked by anti-Semites for her background as an immigrant and Jewish woman. She moved back to England in 1869, working and lecturing there for the next several years.
She died in 1892 at age 82.
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