This Week in History


Ernestine Rose presides over national women's rights convention

October 19, 1854
Ernestine L. Rose
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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.

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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.

To learn more about Ernestine Rose, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

See also: This Week in History for January 29, 1848 Ernestine Rose presides over national women's rights convention; Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs; Women's Equality Day and the Legacy of Jewish Women Fighting for Suffrage on Jewesses with Attitude; Timeline: 1654 to 2004 Marking Jewish women's experience in North America; Ernestine Rose in the Virtual Archive.

Sources:;; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1163-1165.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Ernestine Rose presides over national women's rights convention." (Viewed on April 21, 2014) <>.