Born on June 22, 1929, in East Baltimore, MD, Rose Kushner was the fourth and last child of Israel and Fannie Rehert. Her parents, both Eastern European immigrants, died by the time she was ten, and Rose went to live in the house of her aunt Golde. She was raised speaking Yiddish at home, and attended Hebrew School as well as classes at the Workmen’s Circle. Rose was an eager, bright student and hoped to attend college and ultimately become a physician, but since her older brothers were not willing to pay for her tuition, she went to work after graduating from high school. After briefly holding several office jobs, she became the assistant to animal behaviorist Dr. Horsley Gantt (1892–1980) at the Pavlovian Laboratory of Johns Hopkins Medical School, where she worked from 1947 until 1951.