“The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer” by Bonnie S. Anderson— “The Queen of the Platform”

Anderson, Bonnie S. “The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer”, Oxford University Press, 2017.

“The Queen of the Platform

Amos Lassen

Ernestine Rose who was “known as the queen of the platform” was an outstanding orator for feminism, free thought, and anti-slavery. Yet, she would gradually be erased from history for being too much of an outsider because she was an immigrant, a radical, and an atheist.

Rose was the only child of a Polish rabbi but she rejected religion at an early age, successfully sued for the return of her dowry after rejecting an arranged betrothal, and left her family, Judaism, and Poland forever. She went to London and became a follower of socialist Robert Owen and met her future husband, William Rose. Together they moved to New York in 1836. In the United States, Ernestine Rose rapidly became a leader in movements against slavery, religion, and women’s oppression. She was a regular on the lecture circuit, speaking in twenty-three of the then thirty-one states. She challenged the radical Christianity that inspired many nineteenth-century women reformers and even though she rejected Judaism, she was both a victim and critic of anti-Semitism. After the Civil War, she and her husband returned to England, where she continued her work for radical causes. By the time women achieved the vote, for which she had tirelessly worked so hard for, her pioneering contributions to women’s rights had already been forgotten.

Rose was active in the religiously-motivated abolitionist movement and free thought and worked tirelessly to see that ALL people are created equal. What is so interesting is that Ernestine Rose’s commitment to equality and justice is almost virtually unknown. This book changes that and I must admit that before this I had never heard of her before and author Anderson brings the past to us and in doing so gives new perspectives on the present. Rose’s activism came at a time when it was rare for women to speak out on political issues, and certainly not about on their own rights.

She was “a woman of fierce intellect and uncompromising convictions”. Bonnie Anderson makes sure that Rose’s legacy will both inform and inspire those who are still fighting for equal rights.



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