Ernestine Rose Society

"European Socialism: the American Dream of Ernestine Rose"

Carol A. Kolmerten, PhD

Carol A. Kolmerten, Rose's biographer, argued that Rose's socialist beliefs were key in "placing her outside the standard narrative of the struggle for women's rights.

Speaking on "European Socialism: the American Dream of Ernestine Rose," professor Kolmerten described Owenite socialism as based on the belief that people are constructed by their environment, as opposed to the Christian belief that people chose whether to sin or to live moral lives.

In America, most of the radical abolitionists, influenced by evangelical Protestantism, believed that slavery violated God's law. Rose argued that slavery violated natural law and therefore should be abolished by human law.

Rose met resistance from other abolitionists because of her reliance on natural law rather than religion. This pattern was later repeated in the women's rights movement when Rose emphasized the equality of women with men rather than the virtue of women as an argument for equal rights under the law.

With a love of argumentation, honed in her Judaic heritage, Rose delighted in arguing fine points of differences with other reformers. She believed this was the way for principled advocates to reach the Truth. Her fellow reformers often perceived Rose as divisive, her arguments as distracting from the main purpose.

With her atheism, her foreign accent and her blunt outspoken style, Rose was a 'barometer' that registered the anti-Semitism, xenophobia and unconscious racism of many of her colleagues, causing Rose to be 'forever out of place' among American reformers.