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May 17: The Impious Ernestine L. Rose

May 17, 2014
eroseAs reported in William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist paper, on this date in 1850, Ernestine L. Rose was booed at a meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society by a crowd of hecklers led by a Tammany Hall operative, Captain Rynders, who shouted, “I have always respected the presence of ladies, but I doubt very much whether white women who cohabit and mix with the woolly-headed Negro are entitled to any respect from a white man.” Rose, a famous public speaker from Poland, looked “like patience on a monument,” the newspaper said, but was ultimately forced off the podium by her opponents. According to Carol A. Kolmerten’s The American Life of Ernestine L. Rose, Rose, a rabbi’s daughter who had sued her father to avoid an arranged marriage, “was not pious, and her sarcastic wit made her seem impure, at least by 19th-century literary standards . . . Her atheism and her Jewish background” and her “lifelong urge to argue — particularly about matters of piety — separated her, irrevocably, from the other women who were to be her colleagues throughout the 1850s and ’60s.” “All that I can tell you is that I used my humble powers to the uttermost, and raised my voice in behalf of Human Rights in general, and the elevation and Rights of Woman in particular, nearly all my life.” -Ernestine L. Rose