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Mistress of Herself

Speeches and Letters of Ernestine Rose, Early Women's Rights Leader

Ernestine L. Rose

Publication Year: 2008

Mistress of Herself is the first definitive collection of speeches and letters from early women’s rights leader Ernestine Rose. Rose was unique among the founders of the U.S. women’s rights movement as a Polish immigrant of Jewish background. Her compelling oratory linked women’s rights, the abolition of slavery and religious freedom. She was an indispensible figure within feminism and the early women’s rights movement and is properly placed among the leaders of American feminism’s first generation.

Published by: The Feminist Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xvii-xx

There are many great women in the early history of the American women’s rights movement, but not all continue to invite a kind of personal connection over history and across time. Ernestine L. Rose is one of these few. Paula Doress-Worters characterizes Rose as ahead of her time, meaning that her words, ideas, and life speak to us in modern times, even more perhaps than to her own contemporaries. Indeed, Rose saw the position of ...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xxi-xxix

Ernestine’s story has been calling to me since I began teaching women’s studies courses in the mid-1970s. My interest in Ernestine L. Rose was first piqued by several mentions of her in Eleanor Flexner’s Century of Struggle (1973 [1959]), which I used as a text for a course I taught on the history of women in the United States. Rose’s name appeared six times, most often in a short list of important women’s rights reformers. One reference that was ...

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pp. 1-55

On May 14, 1836,1 Ernestine L. Rose and her husband, William E. Rose, disembarked at the Port of New York as immigrants from England to the United States. Within months of their arrival, a new voice resonated from the reform platforms of the northeastern states. It was a strong, fervent, melodic voice, praising, in foreign-accented English, the Declaration of ...

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Editor’s Note

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Reporting speeches was not as precise an art in the nineteenth century as it is today, perhaps due to lack of sophisticated technology for transcription. Consequently, in some of these documents, taken from both Proceedings of conventions as well as newspaper accounts of speeches, the reporter or transcriber starts off presumably in the mode of direct quote ...


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Toasts at the Thomas Paine Celebration

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pp. 59-61

For the freethought community of New York, celebration of Thomas Paine’s birthday on January 29 was a secular winter “holiday,” but with an undercurrent of serious intent. It was an annual event since 1827, that was similarly celebrated by freethinkers in many states and some territories. The purpose was to honor Thomas Paine, who freethinkers believed had been denied his place in history as a founding father because of his radical ...

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Speech at the New England Social Reform Society Convention: “A Word to My Sisters”

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pp. 62-64

The New England Social Reform Society was created to discuss and compare the many utopian communities springing up in New York and New England, and to attract support in particular for Community Place (1843 to 1846) at Mottville, New York, a suburb of Skaneateles. Community Place was created on the Owenite model, and Ernestine Rose and John Collins often spoke on its behalf, while William Rose ...

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Letter to Robert Owen

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pp. 65-67

This is the earliest extant example of Rose’s writing, and shows that in 1844 she still struggled, as do many immigrants, with written English, especially spelling and style. Rose wrote apparently in reply to Robert Owen, her mentor in public speaking and socialism, while he visited his son Robert Dale Owen at the Owenite community they founded at New Harmony, Indiana. She addresses Owen in both letters as ...

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Letter to Robert Owen

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pp. 68

In this second, brief letter from Ernestine Rose to Robert Owen, sent while she was on tour in Philadelphia, Rose reports her successes and asks for his support as one might of a respected teacher or mentor. However, unlike the earlier letter, where she asks Owen’s advice, this time it is clear that she has made her plans and will continue to carry them out. Both letters refer to small “commissions” or tasks that the Roses ...

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Speech at the Infidel Convention

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pp. 69-74

At the close of this convention, Rose publicly disagreed with Owen and the Convention Committee about the naming of the convention, and urged an identity-affirming approach that was well ahead of its time. She called for the convention to proudly claim the name of “Infidel,” with which the freethinkers had been tarred. They should seek to make a name given in derision respectable, she said, through living ...

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Letter to Robert Owen

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pp. 71

This letter from William E. Rose to Robert Owen is included as the only extant letter in William’s words and handwriting. The letter testifies to William’s concern for Ernestine, noting that he has traveled from New York City to Buffalo to be with her and make sure she was recovering and being well cared for after she fell ill on her way home from a speaking tour. William wrote to let Robert Owen know about ...

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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: The 1848 Revolutions in Europe

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pp. 72-74

Ernestine Rose spoke fervently of the revolutions that swept across Europe in 1848, bringing hope for a new age of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”—which she here toasts as “the trinity of humanity.” Following the ceremonial annual praise of Thomas Paine and the Rights of Man, she reminds the audience that the task of their generation is to achieve the Rights of Women, without which the Rights of Man cannot ...

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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: Women in International Freedom Fights

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pp. 75-79

At the 1850 Thomas Paine Celebration, Ernestine L. Rose was introduced by name, not simply with a toast “to Woman” as in prior years. She was toasted with a literally “flowery” introduction: “Mrs. Rose—She was the Morning Glory of Poland; the Lily of England; and she is the Rose of America.” In her speech, Rose reveals a knowledge of American history and an awareness about contemporary events in Europe. ...

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Resolution and Speech at the First National Woman’s Rights Convention: “Woman’s Sphere”

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pp. 80-82

At the first national convention on women’s rights, five hundred women and men were in the audience (Kolmerten 1999, 79) and 267 delegates had signed in, most from the northeast, but eleven from as far away as California (Worcester Women’s History Project). Though Ernestine Rose was the author of at least one important resolution and spoke in its behalf, the proceedings summarized Rose’s comments in ...


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Letter to the Editor: Sketches of Lecturing

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pp. 85-86

Rose occasionally communicated with her friends in the freethought community about her lectures on that subject, using the forum of the letters to the editor column in the Boston Investigator, a publication she could expect most of them to read. It is interesting to note that, although she speaks in opposition to religion, she is sometimes allowed to speak at churches. When she refers to “priests,” it is in the Owenite ...

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Letter from Two French Women’s Rights Reformers

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pp. 87-90

Two Frenchwomen, Pauline Roland and Jeanne Deroine, imprisoned at St. Lazare in Paris for their activism on behalf of women’s rights, were inspired to write to the women’s rights activists in the United States. The demands of French women for equal rights with men dated back to the French Revolution, and following the European revolutions of 1848, Parisian women once again demanded inclusion as citizens. ...

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Speeches at the Second National Woman’s Rights Convention

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pp. 91-103

The Second National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, was considerably better attended than the first, with more than eight hundred signing in, and over one thousand in attendance (Worcester WHP). It was also the site of Ernestine L. Rose’s most famous speech. In this groundbreaking speech, Ernestine L. Rose presented her analysis of women’s rights reform as comprising a broad array of ...

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Letter to the Editor: The Tribune and the Great Accident

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pp. 104-106

When forty-four children and their teachers fell to their deaths after a railing and staircase broke at their school, a report in the New York Tribune suggested that such events took place “in subservience to lofty and benign purposes.” Rose responded to the Tribune in a letter to the editor of another newspaper, the Boston Investigator, calling attention to the human errors and malfeasance responsible for these deaths. ...

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Reviews of Horace Mann’s Two Lectures

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pp. 107-120

Horace Mann was known for his innovations in education and for his expansion of public education in Massachusetts. In 1852, he was serving out the term of the deceased John Quincy Adams as a member of Congress. Eager to hear the views of an enlightened reformer, Rose attended Mann’s lectures in New York City, delivered on February 17 and 29, 1852, on “Hints to a Young Woman.” Listening to his lectures, ...

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Speech at the Third National Woman’s Rights Convention:“A Child of Israel”

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pp. 121-122

Ernestine L. Rose was presented to this convention as “a Polish lady of the Jewish faith,” although she had been an activist and public speaker in the United States for more than a dozen years. Rose’s Jewish origins surfaced here perhaps because of the rise of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing movement, which drew heightened attention to national origins and religious differences. ...

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Debate at the Third National Woman’s Rights Convention on Biblical Authority for Women’s Rights

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pp. 123-130

In her second public appearance at the convention, Rose engages in debate with Antoinette Brown (later Antoinette Brown Blackwell), the first woman ordained as a minister in the United States, about the place of the Bible in women’s rights reform. Their debate, with competing resolutions proposed by each of them, was a significant focus of discussion at the convention. Rose’s resolution was passed following the ...

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Speech at Robert Owen’s Birthday Celebration

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pp. 131-134

This event, on Robert Owen’s eighty-third birthday, was the second freethought community celebration where Rose presided that year, the first being the annual Thomas Paine celebration in January. In her speech Rose sketches, with respect and admiration, the life of Robert Owen. She honors the qualities of character that led Owen, the successful industrialist, to devote much of his life and fortune to shaping a ...

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Speech at the Hartford Bible Convention:“Trample the Bible, the Church, and the Priests”

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pp. 135-144

The Hartford Convention was part of a history dating back to the 1820s of debates on the Bible between the Infidels and the Bibles as the defenders of divine authorship were called. Freethinkers organized the Hartford Bible Convention as a forum for a whole range of reformers, such as William Lloyd Garrison of the abolitionist movement and Ernestine L. Rose representing women’s rights, to address the question: ...

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Letter to the Editor: Describing the Hartford Bible Convention

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pp. 145-146

... Mr. Editor: . . . To any one capable of realizing the spurious and superstitious origin given to that book [the Bible], its falsely assumed authority, and, above all, its pernicious influence, the immense importance of such a Convention must be plainly apparent. It would be impossible for me to give anything like an adequate idea of the amount of heartfelt interest it ...

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Speech at the Anniversary of West Indian Emancipation

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pp. 147-152

This speech was made at an outdoor celebration in Flushing, today’s borough of Queens in New York City. The event was the antislavery movement’s version of an Independence Day picnic, and indeed, the setting brought forth in all of the orators a style of Fourth of July oratory popular during that period. The celebration of “West Indian Emancipation,” commemorated the nineteenth anniversary of the British ...

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Speeches at the New York State Woman’s Rights Convention (“The Mob Convention”)

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pp. 153-156

In the fall of 1853, New York City was crowded with visitors to the first “World’s Fair” to be held in the United States, at a newly constructed Crystal Palace inspired by the famous structure in London. In September of that year, three reform conventions were held in close proximity to one another: the World’s Temperance Convention organized by Susan B. Anthony, an abolitionist convention, and the New York ...

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Speech at the Fourth National Woman’s Rights Convention: “The Double Standard of Sexual Morality”

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pp. 157-162

At this convention Rose spoke several times, but her most eloquent and distinctive speech addressed the double standard of sexual morality for women and men. She spoke of the women who were ostracized and condemned by society for violating strict codes of sexual conduct, often as a result of being victimized by unscrupulous men, who themselves suffered no approbation of any kind. For Rose, such warped and ...

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Testimony Before Select Committee of the New York State Assembly

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pp. 163-164

Following the New York Woman’s Rights Convention of February 14–15, 1854, the first to be held at the state capital, reformers who were able to stay on in Albany presented their petitions to committees of the New York State Assembly. According to a report in the Albany Transcript, “Rose’s speeches . . . were the most applauded during the Convention by the New York Legislature.” Rose addressed the issues “in ...

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Attack in the Albany Register and Ernestine L. Rose’s Response

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pp. 165-168

After Rose had addressed committees of the New York State Legislature in public hearings, she was viciously attacked in the March 6, 1854, edition of the Albany Register. While ridiculing all women’s rights reformers, the paper saved its most hate-mongering invective for Rose. Its diatribe rested entirely on sexist, racist, and anti-immigrant rhetoric, and warned against the infidel Rose’s “efforts to obliterate ...

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Diary of Lecture Tour to the Border South with Ernestine L. Rose

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pp. 169-175

Almost immediately after the legislative hearings in Albany, Rose and Anthony set out on a lecture tour to the nation’s capital and surrounding states in the Border South region, with the goal of “bringing women’s rights to the South.” By then, Rose was already an experienced and renowned orator. Anthony, who was just beginning to be active in the women’s rights movement, used her considerable skills for organizing ...

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Letter to the Editor: “Slavery and Reform”

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pp. 176-178

In April 1854, Susan B. Anthony wrote a letter to the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, reporting on her women’s rights tour with Rose through the Border South states. The trip demanded great courage from both women, not only because women’s rights reformers had not traveled south before, but also because Rose was not willing to side-step the issue of slavery when it was raised, as was expected in the slave states in deference ...

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Speech at the Fifth National Woman’s Rights Convention: “A Great and Immutable Truth”

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pp. 179-180

Rose was president at the 1854 National Woman’s Rights Convention, held in Philadelphia. Presiding in the city where the founding documents of the nation were signed provided a perfect opportunity for Rose to link women’s struggle for their rights to the American Revolution and to the founding “principles of the nation.” In this speech, she argues that both the Declaration of Independence and its “great and immutable truth” of inalienable rights, as well as the treasured ...

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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: “The Rights of Woman”

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pp. 181-183

Early in what was to become her most prolific year, Rose attended the annual Thomas Paine Celebration, where she responded to a toast to “The Ladies—May they have the courage to express their opinions, and talent to command attention.” Rose offered a witty dinner speech that nonetheless had serious intent. Lacking neither courage, opinions, nor talent, Rose demonstrated that the “Rights of Man,” as outlined in ...

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Testimony Before Select Committee of the New York State Assembly

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pp. 184-186

In an effort to keep the pressure on the New York State Legislature, begun at the prior year’s hearings, women’s rights advocates returned to Albany in 1855. Under the heading “Just and Equal Rights of Women,” the Boston Investigator, on March 14, 1855, reprinted an account published earlier in the Albany Register, reporting: “The select Committee of the Assembly to which was referred the petition for Woman’s ...

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Speech at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention: “All Free or All Slave”

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pp. 187-193

Rose brought unique perspectives to this convention. As she often did, she called upon her experience as an immigrant, contrasting the bright promise the United States represented to the “dark and bitter” reality of slavery. Her European background and education and her reading in science also gave her confidence to critique the racialized “science” that was used to justify slavery. While some who opposed slavery ...

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Letters to the Editor: Lecture Tour of “the West” and the Legacy of Frances Wright

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pp. 194-196

In this letter, Rose provides an overview of a lecturing tour of some two months’ duration, covering Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, which were then considered “the West.” She traveled with Joseph Barker, a freethinking former minister from England who had shared the platform with her at the Hartford Bible Convention of 1853. Most of this tour centered on the freethought movement, but it included several lectures ...

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Letter to the Editor: “Mrs. Rose and the Bangor Mercury

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pp. 197-199

Rose had been invited to address an antislavery society meeting in Bangor, Maine, but soon found herself caught up in controversy when a local minister hostile to the freethought movement attacked her in the local newspaper. Because the New York Tribune had referred to the Bangor Mercury article, Rose responded in a letter to the editor of the Tribune. In her letter, she included excerpts from ...


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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: Defending Herself, Thomas Paine, and Freethinkers

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pp. 203-206

At the 1856 Paine celebration, a toast, the second of the evening, referred to the recent attacks against Rose in the Bangor Mercury. The toast was made to “Mrs. Ernestine L. Rose—Though a rose to her many admirers, yet she has proved a thorn to her slanderers in Bangor.” According to the account in the February 13, 1856, edition of the Boston Investigator, “The toast was received with thunders of applause, in the midst ...

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Letter to the Editor: “Farewell Letter of Mrs. Rose”

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pp. 207-210

Ernestine and William Rose decided to travel to Europe in the spring of 1856. Ernestine Rose was, by then, a public person and wrote to her constituency to explain her absence and reflect on her contributions to date. She had been ill since the beginning of the year with “an inflammation of the lungs,” probably a bronchial infection, and hoped that a vacation of six months abroad would provide rest and recovery ...

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Travel Letter No. 2: Visiting Robert Owen

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pp. 211-213

In this second letter from abroad, Rose speaks of her visit with Robert Owen and describes his life of mental, physical, and political activity despite his advanced age of eighty-six. She reports that his efforts to convince her of his newfound embrace of spiritualism, and hers to convince him out of it, are equally futile. Yet there is a hint of fun in the contest. This would be their last visit, a fact that, in hindsight, ...

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Travel Letter No. 3: The Tower of London, Symbol of Cruelty

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pp. 214-215

At the Tower of London, Rose expresses her sadness and disgust at the inhumanity of rulers with absolute power over their subjects, even to the murder of children of their own families. In one of her rare references to her fellow Jews, Rose writes of the sufferings of hundreds of Jews crowded into a small space in the Tower’s dungeon. As did her interest in the tunnel under the Thames in her previous letter, Rose’s fascination ...

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Travel Letter No. 10: Manners and Morals of the French

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pp. 216-218

In this letter from her travels, Rose compares French manners, morals, and behaviors with those she has observed in the United States and England. Consistent with her lifelong affinity for the French, she admires their politics, and their wholesome public recreation across class and generation, which she contrasts to countries that pass “Blue Laws” limiting activity on Sundays, a practice which she regards as discriminatory ...

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Travel Letter No. 11: Italy and the Church

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pp. 219-221

In this, her last letter from abroad, Rose gives her impressions of Italy, especially instances of poverty and misery, which she attributes to the power and wealth of the Catholic Church. She takes the opportunity to compare a church-dominated country with the happy state she described in more secular France, to which she had returned. Her letter appeared in the Boston Investigator on December 10, 1856. ...

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Speeches at the Seventh National Woman’s Rights Convention

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pp. 222-237

Less than two weeks following her return from six months of traveling in Europe, Rose attended this convention held in downtown Manhattan with Lucy Stone presiding. Many of her remarks focus on the political aspirations of women in Europe. Rose spoke several times on the convention’s second day, first in response to a resolution stating, “That the close of the Presidential election affords a peculiarly appropriate ...

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Letter to the Editor: “The English Divorce Bill”

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pp. 238-239

Rose’s trip abroad in the prior year brought renewed contact with women in Europe, allowing her to follow more closely the progress of women’s rights in the countries where she had traveled. When this newly passed British legislation gave men rights in divorce and remarriage that were denied to women, Rose was outraged. In this letter, published in the October 21, 1857, edition of the Boston Investigator, she excoriates the “unblushing shamelessness” of male ...

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Letter to the Editor: “England Ruled by a Prayer Book”

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pp. 240-243

In this letter, Rose skillfully addresses and weaves together two of her key issues—the double standard of sexual morality between women and men, and the separation of church and state. By giving free rein to her gifts of sarcastic wit and eloquent logic, she vents her outrage in a manner that shows how religion can be used for the subordination of women. In this letter to the Boston Investigator, published January ...

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Letter to the Editor: “The Free Love Question”

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pp. 244-245

Rose wrote this letter to the New York Times rebutting its inaccurate coverage of her speech to the Free Convention held in Rutland, Vermont, on June 25–27, 1858. The convention was intended to offer cross-fertilization of ideas from various reform movements, with the platform open to all. The article on the convention published in the New York Times on June 29, 1858, is sensationally entitled “A Spicy Time on ...

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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: Separation of Church and State

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pp. 246-248

In this speech at the annual Thomas Paine Celebration, Rose took as her subject threats to the separation of church and state. She decried violations of the Constitutional doctrine in the United States, ranging from Sunday “blue laws” to the use of the Bible in public schools. As an example of the dangers of combining the powers of church and state, Rose points to the Papal States, the region of central Italy where the Pope was ...

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Letter to the Editor:“Rise, Progress, and Fall of a Free Church”

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pp. 249-254

Part of the freethought movement was made up of liberal Christians who wished to attend a church without a set creed, one that allowed free discussion of issues between a minister and parishioners. Rose chose to attend the initial meetings of one such “free church,” under the leadership of a Rev. Noyes. As a radical freethinker opposed to all organized religion and clergy, Rose’s purpose may have been to test just how ...

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Letter to the Editor with Text of the New York State Married Women’s Property Act

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pp. 255-259

In 1860, after more than a decade of petitioning, agitation, passage, and rescission, Rose and her women’s rights colleagues at last celebrated passage by the New York State Legislature of a stronger, more comprehensive Married Woman’s Property Act. The new law included the long-sought equal guardianship rights over children, and came closer to Rose’s ideal of laws that equalize the benefits and burdens of marriage ...

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Speech at the Tenth National Woman’s Rights Convention:Political Activism and Women’s Rights

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pp. 260-265

On the first day of this convention, Ernestine L. Rose spoke on the importance of “agitation” in the fight for women’s rights, and the need for women’s rights conventions, where thoughts and ideas could be presented, debated, and then turned into action. She praises Frances Wright as the first to bring women’s rights to a public platform in the United States, and regrets that Wright had to suffer such outrageous ...

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The Divorce Debate

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pp. 266-283

The debate on divorce reform came at a time when this issue was in the news, especially in New York State where the convention was being held. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune had debated Robert Dale Owen, U.S. Senator from Indiana and divorce reform advocate, in the pages of Greeley’s paper for over two months. Against the wishes of many of the women’s rights reformers who preferred not to have the divisive issue of divorce raised at the convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton ...

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Petition: Appeal to the Women of New York

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pp. 284-287

This appeal, signed by many of the leading women’s rights reformers in New York State—and indeed, in the country—celebrates the accomplishments of the women’s rights movement over the prior decade, and sets forth an agenda for the immediate future. We can see Rose’s influence in this jointly signed appeal—its pride in the “agitation” that has brought about so much change, for example, and the bold references to religion as a barrier to women’s equality. Having won a major battle in New York ...


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Speech at the Thomas Paine Celebration: “Freedom or Slavery”

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pp. 291-294

When the annual Thomas Paine Celebration took place in January 1861, Abraham Lincoln had been elected president, although he would not take office until March. South Carolina had begun the drive toward secession, and the United States was just months away from a full-scale civil war over the issue of slavery. Rose begins by addressing victories in the struggle for human rights in Europe, including the unification ...

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Speech: “A Defence of Atheism”

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pp. 295-300

Although Rose had advocated for the radical freethought movement throughout her quarter-century in the United States, her personal views had sometimes been interpreted as Deistic—believing in the existence of a supreme being based upon reason and observation of nature, rather than received doctrine. In this public lecture, given at Boston’s Mercantile Hall, she comes out proudly as an atheist. Ridicule was a favorite tool of freethinkers against biblical narrative. Rose is relentlessly caustic in ...

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Letter and Toast for the Committee of the Paine Celebration, Boston

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pp. 301-302

The occasion of an invitation to the Paine Celebration in Boston provided an opportunity for Rose to make a freethinker’s case for action on the abolition of slavery. The freethinkers and secularists who attended these annual events regarded belief in religion as mental enslavement, the underlying cause of all other oppression. Thus, for ideological reasons or simply due to indifference or racism, they tended not to take action on abolition, preferring to focus first on freeing minds from superstition. ...

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Speeches at the National Convention of the Loyal Women of the Republic

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pp. 303-310

While National Woman’s Rights Conventions were suspended during the Civil War years, women of the Union states formed local “Loyal Leagues” to contribute to the war effort and provide support to the soldiers at the front. In 1863, as hopes for a victory that would expand human freedom seemed at risk, women’s rights advocates Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Ernestine L. Rose called a National Convention of the Loyal Women of the Republic to be held in New ...

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Debate on the Jews in the Boston Investigator

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pp. 311-333

On October 28, 1863, Horace Seaver, editor of the freethought weekly, The Boston Investigator, published an editorial attacking “the Jews” as a people. The Civil War years, 1861–1864, were a time of rising anti-Semitism, and Seaver focused on two prevalent anti-Jewish prejudices: that Jews were more likely to buy their way out of the draft than non-Jews, and that they were war profiteers. Such prejudices had had ...

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Speech at the First Anniversary of the American Equal Rights Association: Voices for Votes

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pp. 334-339

The Equal Rights Association was formed to advocate for votes for both African American men and all women on the basis of a belief in universal suffrage. Women’s rights advocates had expected that they, too, would benefit from the drive toward expanding suffrage. When the universal rights strategy faltered in the Reconstruction era, women’s rights reformers began to speak of themselves as a Women’s Suffrage Movement. ...

Final Letters 1869–1880

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Letter to the National Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C.

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pp. 343-344

Rose was invited to speak at a National Woman Suffrage Convention held in the nation’s capital on January 19 and 20, 1869, and sponsored by a group called the Universal Franchise Association. This meeting was called The National Woman Suffrage Convention because there was no National Woman Suffrage Association until its founding in May of 1869. Its primary objective was universal suffrage, including votes for women. Rose ...

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Letter to Susan B. Anthony:Reflections on the United States Centennial

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pp. 345-346

By 1876, Rose had been living in England for seven years. Missing her women’s rights friends and colleagues, especially during the centennial celebrations of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States, Rose was moved, on the Fourth of July, to write to Susan B. Anthony, asking that her letter be read to the Convention at Philadelphia on July 19 so that she could continue to contribute to women’s rights. She urged the women to keep up the fight to “reassert in 1876 what ...

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Letter to Susan B. Anthony: A Life of Activism

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pp. 347-349

Ernestine L. Rose wrote from London, a few days before her sixty-seventh birthday, in reply to a request from Susan B. Anthony for a summary of her participation in the women’s rights movement in the United States. Anthony’s request apparently came as part of her research for what was to become the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage (1881–1888), which she coauthored with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslin Gage. Despite Rose’s disclaimer that she lacked documentation, she manages ...

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Letter to the National Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Rochester, New York

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pp. 350

In one of her last letters from England, Rose wrote to salute a celebration “at the close of the third decade of organized agitation in the United States.” The call to the 1878 convention explained that the Seneca Falls Convention of July 19, 1848, was adjourned to meet again on August 2 in Rochester. Rose acknowledged the aptness of the celebration site in her nostalgic recollection of that second lesser-known convention of 1848. Rose was not present at the Seneca Falls Convention, and we do not ...

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Letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton for the National Woman Suffrage Association Convention of 1880

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pp. 351

Rose wrote from England to Stanton in the spirit of their shared decades-long experience as founding members of the early women’s rights movement. She devotes her letter to the significance of suffrage as a human right, one that will serve as a “moral elevator” to bolster self-respect in women, and encourage higher aims in the improvement of society. ...

Obituaries and Tributes

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Obituary for William E. Rose

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pp. 355-356

William E. Rose, husband of Ernestine L. Rose for forty-six years, was known to be unreservedly supportive of her work, personally as well as financially. In the women’s movement he was known primarily by reputation, as a sympathetic and devoted husband (Kolmerten 1999, 173). In the freethought movement, William was an active and highly esteemed member in his own right. His portrait was one of four chosen to grace Paine Memorial Hall, the “Temple of Freethought” in Boston, along ...

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Eulogy for Ernestine L. Rose

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pp. 357-358

Ernestine L. Rose died in London on August 4, 1892. George Jacob Holyoake, successor to Robert Owen as leader of the British cooperative socialist movement, spoke at a graveside ceremony attended by Rose’s friends and a niece. Oddly, Holyoake’s eulogy focuses almost exclusively on Rose’s antislavery advocacy and completely overlooks her work for women’s rights and freethought. One of the participants listed in ...

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Tribute to Ernestine L. Rose at the 25th Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association

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pp. 359-360

This moving final tribute by Elizabeth Cady Stanton demonstrates her admiration and regard for Ernestine L. Rose as “the woman who could reason with logic and wisdom.” Stanton acknowledged Rose’s pioneering work on the Married Women’s Property Act petition in the 1830s and continuing through the 1850s. She was pleased and grateful when Rose supported her controversial resolution on divorce ...

Works Cited

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pp. 361-364


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pp. 365-369


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pp. 370-389

E-ISBN-13: 9781558617919
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558615434

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Feminists -- United States -- Correspondence.
  • Women's rights.
  • Rose, Ernestine L. (Ernestine Louise), 1810-1892 -- Correspondence.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
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