The Rab­bi’s Athe­ist Daughter

  • From the Publisher
January 3, 2017

Known as the queen of the plat­form,” Ernes­tine Rose was more famous than her wom­en’s rights co-work­ers, Eliz­a­beth Cady Stan­ton and Susan B. Antho­ny. By the 1850s, Rose had become an out­stand­ing ora­tor for fem­i­nism, free thought, and anti-slav­ery. Yet, she would grad­u­al­ly be erased from his­to­ry for being too much of an out­lier: an immi­grant, a rad­i­cal, and an athe­ist.

In The Rab­bi’s Athe­ist Daugh­ter, Bon­nie S. Ander­son recov­ers the unique life and career of Ernes­tine Rose. The only child of a Pol­ish rab­bi, Ernes­tine Rose 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. In Lon­don, she became a fol­low­er of social­ist Robert Owen and met her future hus­band, William Rose. Togeth­er they emi­grat­ed to New York in 1836. In the Unit­ed States, Ernes­tine Rose rapid­ly became a leader in move­ments against slav­ery, reli­gion, and wom­en’s oppres­sion and a reg­u­lar on the lec­ture cir­cuit, speak­ing in twen­ty-three of the thir­ty-one states. She chal­lenged the rad­i­cal Chris­tian­i­ty that inspired many nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry women reform­ers and yet, even as she reject­ed Judaism, she was both a vic­tim and crit­ic of anti­semitism, as well as nativism. In 1869, 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 tire­less­ly advo­cat­ed through­out her long career, her pio­neer­ing con­tri­bu­tions to wom­en’s rights had been forgotten. 

Vis­it­ing Scribe: Bon­nie S. Anderson

Agi­tate! Agi­tate! Read­ing Ernes­tine Rose and the 2017 Wom­en’s March

How Jew­ish Was Ernes­tine Rose?

Ernes­tine Rose, Juden­schmerz, and Me

Discussion Questions