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January 29: Ernestine Rose and Thomas Paine

January 29, 2013

Speaking at the annual Thomas Paine Dinner in New York on this date in 1848, Ernestine L. Rose, the "Queen of the Platform," expressed not only her feminist and abolitionist beliefs but her anti-religious views when she denounced "superstition [that] keeps women ignorant, dependent, and enslaved beings. Knowledge will make them free. The churches have been built upon their necks; and it is only by throwing them off, that they will be able to stand up in the full majesty of their being." Rose, a utopian socialist and intellectual powerhouse who had been in the U.S. (from Poland) for a dozen years, was best known for her work with Susan B. Anthony to win passage of a New York state law that protected married women's property rights. She was a regular speaker at the Thomas Paine Dinner and in 1853 became the first woman president of the Thomas Paine Society, sponsor of the annual winter holiday for for freethinkers, which the New York Times sneering described that year as the “strong-minded of the weaker, and the weak-minded of the stronger sex . . . gathered to the number of two hundred.”

"Do you tell me that the Bible is against our rights? Then I say that our claims do not rest upon a book written no one knows when, or by whom. . . . Books and opinions, no matter from whom they came, if they are in opposition to human rights, are nothing but dead letters." —Ernestine L. Rose