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Medal by Gerta Ries Wiener (1994), Ernestine Rose, Equal rights pioneer.

Ernestine Rose (1810-1892)

Ernestine Louise Potowski was born in 1810, the daughter of the village's rabbi, in the ghetto of Piotrkov, Poland. She rejected an arranged marriage at 16, and left her home within a year, traveling at first to Germany, then Holland, and finally settling in England. There she began her career as a public speaker in behalf of social reform, that was to lead to her nickname, "Queen of the Platform." Ernestine married William Rose in 1836, and they emigrated to New York.

After Ernestine Rose spoke against slavery in South Carolina in 1847, she was threatened with being tarred and feathered. But she did much more than lecture. By petitioning the New York State Assembly for 12 years, Ms. Rose led a successful campaign for the passage of the Married Woman's Property Bill in 1848, that allowed a woman to control her own assets after she was married.

At the first National Woman's Rights Convention, held in October 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ernestine spoke with "graceful style of eloquence," asking in part, "We have heard a great deal of our Pilgrim Fathers but who has heard of the Pilgrim Mothers. Did they not endure as many perils, encounter as many hardships?"

In 1869, Rabbi Jonas Bondi described Ernestine Rose in The Hebrew Leader as "the earliest and noblest among the workers in the cause of human enfranchisement ... the best female lecturer in the United States." When Susan B. Anthony listed the main causes that led to the formation of the woman's rights movement in America, the educational work of Ernestine Rose was given prominence. And when one newspaper omitted Ernestine from a list that included Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and other "gifted women," an editorial in the Boston Investigator proclaimed that "to omit her name is like playing Hamlet with the character of Hamlet left out."

In a letter written in 1887, Ms. Rose summed up her life: "For over 50 years I have endeavored to promote the rights of humanity without distinction of sex, sect, party, country or color."

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