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Suffrage] Rose, Mrs. E.L.

Address on Woman's Rights…


An Address from the "Queen of the Platform"
[Suffrage]. Rose, Mrs. E. L. An Address of Woman's Rights. Delivered before the people's Sunday meeting, in Cochituate Hall, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 19th, 1851. Boston: J.P. Mendum, 1851.
Slim 12mo.; some foxing throughout; verso of upper cover offset; stained on rear cover; tan wrappers, sewn; printed in black; bottom inch of spine frayed; otherwise crisp. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of this scarce pamphlet, a transcription of Rose's 1851 Address in Boston. Published by J.P. Mendum, a leading free-thought publisher of the Boston Investigator, and Rose's close friend. This book is recorded as being in only one library (see NUC, supplement; also Brown and Stein's Freethought in the United States, pp. 33-34; DAB; and Vol. III of William Lloyd Garrison's Letters). Cochituate Hall was located in Boston.
Rose was a reformer who championed free school and thought, abolition, temperance and woman's rights; this pamphlet specifically addresses the last category. In October, 1850 she attended the first national Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she introduced a resolution calling for "political, legal and social equality with man" (Suhl, p. 112). Unfortunately, a stenographer was not in attendance to record her speeches. As Suhl notes in his biography of Rose, "The published proceedings of the convention contain a footnote commenting on this regrettable fact: 'The rich gems of thought and the thrilling eloquence of the extempore speeches are lost to those who were not present to listen…Ernestine L. Rose of New York, gave utterance to her clear, strong thoughts in her own peculiarly graceful style of eloquence'" (pp. 111-112). In her 1851 Address, delivered almost exactly a year later, a few days after the second Women's Rights Convention, she continues her support for these freedoms; this time, thankfully, a stenographer was present. Suhl praises, "It was a brilliant speech and its effect on that large audience was so profound that twenty years later when Paulina Wright Davis recalled that event she wrote, 'In this convention Mrs. Ernestine L. Rose made an address of an hour in length, which has never been surpassed'" (p. 120).
It appears that Rose borrowed some elements from her earlier speech; certainly, however, the same problems for women that she originally addressed still persisted; "It is high time, then, to denounce such gross injustice, to compel man by the might of right to give woman her political, legal, and social rights. …Away with that folly that her rights would be detrimental to her character - that if she is recognized as the equal to man, she would cease to be woman!" (Rose, p. 11).
Her passion for this cause is evident throughout; her arguments are clear and her manner direct, and she is thoughtful and persuasive in her approach. One can imagine the effect her words might have had on an audience, especially in this paragraph:
Do you not yet understand what has made woman what she is? Then see what the sickly taste and perverted judgment man now admires in woman. Not health and strength of body and mind, but a pale delicate face; hands too small to grasp a broom, for that were treason in a lady; a voice so sickly, sentimental, and depressed, as to hear what she says only by the moving of her half-parted lips; and, above all, that nervous sensibility that sees a ghost in every passing shadow - that beautiful diffidence that dare not take a step without the arm of a man to support her tender frame, and that shrinking (mock) modesty that faints at the mention of a leg of a table! I know there are many noble exceptions that see and deplore these irrationalities, but as a general thing it is so, or else why set up the hue-and-cry of 'manish,' (sic) 'unfeminine,' 'out of her sphere,' &c., whenever she evinces any strength  of body or mind and takes part in any thing deserving of a rational being? (pp. 16-17)
She continues in this vein, promising to "point out the wrong done to woman and its evil consequences, and would all in my power to aid in her deliverance" (p. 19).
Rose aptly describes women's oppression as a form of "superstitious darkness" imposed on them by men; she urges women to throw off this "oppressive yoke of superstition" with which they have been wrongfully burdened, or else they will "ever remain a slave" (p. 21). In her conclusion, she is palpably disgusted with the current state of women's lot, but remains confident that, with effort, future generations will be able to embrace and thrive through equality:  
Women, then, must cast it off as her greatest enemy; and the time I trust will come when she will aid man to remove the political, civil, and religious evils that have swept over the earth like some malignant scourge to lay waste and destroy so much beauty, harmony, and happiness of man; and the old fable of the fall of man through a woman will be superseded by the glorious fact that she was instrumental in the elevation of the race toward a higher, nobler, and happier destiny.  
In his biography, Suhl explains that writing about Rose's life was particularly challenging for the lack of primary documents she left behind. But he describes a vibrant, passionate personality when he explains,
Clergymen denounced her as an Infidel. Newspaper reporters jeered at her foreign accent. Editors called her a menace and a foreign propagandist. Legislators quailed in her presence. Slaveholders nearly tarred and feathered her. But thousands flocked to hear her speak; and many who came to scoff remained to cheer and applaud. Even her enemies could not deny her rare gift of eloquence and her charm. On the platform she was queen and her large audience did bestow upon her the title: Queen of the Platform. But today Ernestine L. Rose is virtually forgotten.
Rose (1810-1892) was born in a Jewish ghetto town in Russian Poland; she was the daughter of the town rabbi. Her family name was Potowski, and she probably anglicized her first name as a substitute for a Hebrew or Polish name once she arrived in England. Her mother died when she was 16, leaving her with a substantial inheritance of land. Her father then arranged her marriage to an older man, but Rose protested, going to a Polish court and speaking in her own defense to receive her inheritance; an endeavor in which she succeeded. The next year, she gave her father the inheritance, and left Poland for England, by way of Berlin, Holland and Paris in the interim.
In England, she met and became friends with Robert Owen, with whom she formed the Association of All Classes and All Nations, and also met her future husband, William Rose. After their marriage in 1836, the couple left England for the United States. Almost immediately upon her arrival in the States, Rose became involved in free-thought and suffragist groups, joining a group of utopian socialists led by John Anderson Collins, and working together with Paulina Wright Davis and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is at this time that she began contributing to J.P. Mendum's Boston Investigator. Her interests and activism at this time also branched out into the temperance and anti-slavery movements.
In the 1850s Rose worked with and became close to Susan B. Anthony. NAW explains, "Some of the more pious feminists were troubled by Mrs. Rose's irreligion, but Miss Anthony's support and friendship never wavered. All contemporary accounts indicate her popularity and praise her voice, her delivery, and her appearance." (NAW, p. 196). Rose, Stanton and Anthony were all involved with the Women's Loyal National League and the American Equal Rights Association after the Civil War; and, later, helped form the Equal Rights Association into the National Women Suffrage Association. Anthony even wrote that she considered Rose - along with Mary Wollstonecraft and Frances Wright - a pioneer of the suffrage movement.
After a series of illnesses in the late 1860s - early 1870s, Rose curtailed much of her activism; she delivered her last public speech in 1873. She died in London in 1892.
A scarce copy of one of Rose's speeches; all of her printed speeches are rarely seen in commerce. OCLC locates two copies.
Notable American Women; Vol. III; pp. 195-6.

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