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Ernestine Rose presides over national women's rights convention

October 19, 1854

Ernestine Rose was born in Poland in 1810. Fleeing an arranged marriage at the age of 16, Rose traveled around Europe, arriving in England in 1830. There, she became a follower of the noted social reformer Robert Owen and honed her skills as a popular public orator.

Rose arrived in America with her husband, a jeweler, in 1836, ready, apparently, for a fight. She learned, soon after her arrival, that a bill proposed to the New York legislature would grant married women the right to control their own property and earnings. Rose drew up a petition, worked for five months to gain supporters, and submitted the first petition (bearing five signatures) on this topic to the state legislature. Passage of New York's Married Women's Property Act was secured in 1848.

Rose became a central figure among woman's rights advocates and a close colleague of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Anthony celebrated Rose’s inspiration to the movement, describing her as the “most eloquent speaker on our platform,” keeping Rose’s portrait over her desk, and adopting her slogan, “Agitate, agitate.”

Rose attended every national woman's rights convention between 1850 and 1869, serving as president of the fifth national convention in Philadelphia from October 17-19, 1854. In Philadelphia, Rose declared, "[I]s woman not included in that phrase, 'all men are created...equal'? ...Tell us, ye men of the nation...whether woman is not included in that great Declaration of Independence?"

Rose worked tirelessly traveling to twenty-three states to speak out for women's rights, against slavery and, eventually, for the rights of freed slaves, until she and her husband returned to England in 1869. Rose was not active as a Jew, but she did engage in a published debate in which she attacked anti-Semitism and praised the contributions of Jews throughout history.

Sources: “More Women’s Rights Conventions,” National Park Service; “About Ernestine Rose,” Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1163-1165.

Ernestine L. Rose
Full image

Ernestine Rose was a pro-suffrage, anti-slavery orator in the United States whose activism was recognized by contemporaries as a key contribution to the suffrage movement.

This photo is in the public domain.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ernestine Rose presides over national women's rights convention." (Viewed on July 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/oct/19/1854/ernestine-rose>.

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