American Reformers on Ernestine Rose
Excerpt from a letter written in 1869 to Susan B. Anthony
Mrs. Mott was one of the early leaders in abolition and women's rights in the United States and helped organize nearly every one of the National Women's Rights Conventions as well as the first regional Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848. (The original text includes many abbreviations such as "frd" for friend, "lovg" for loving, etc. Some changes in punctuation have been made to clarify the text for the modern reader.)
"I have not heard of our dear friend Ernestine L. Rose's intention of going to Europe — May her health be restored by again breathing her native air! I have long esteemed her for her honest, out-spoken radicalism, her discerning & discriminating mind and her enlarged charity & forbearance toward the ignorant criminal and wrong doer — as well as wrong thinker. All this before she was associated with us in the Women's Rights movement. Her lectures always attracted me — so rare is candor in unpopular heterodoxy. A warm attachment is the result. She has the best wishes of her loving friend."
Susan B. Anthony, the best-known of the 19th century U.S. women's rights advocates, is also the best organizer, whose work built the bridges between her generation of activists and the next and whose single-minded commitment to gaining the vote led to victory in 1920.
"Mrs. Rose is not appreciated nor cannot be by this age — She is too much in advance of the extreme ultra-ists even, to be understood by them... "
Susan B. Anthony kept a picture of Ernestine Rose on her study wall. When Anthony spoke at Paine Memorial Hall in Boston in 1876, where Rose's picture hung on the wall facing her, she said she was always glad to be in the vicinity of "a picture of that noble worker for the cause of women's rights."
"Generally, I should say begin (the Honor Roll of suffrage workers) with Mary Wollstonecraft as your first great champion— then Frances Wright — then Ernestine L. Rose— they all spoke and demanded (suffrage) prior to Lucretia Mott, Mrs. Stanton, etc."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early and prominent women's rights activist in the United States since the 1840s, a convener of the Seneca Falls Convention and a campaigner with Ernestine Rose for the Married Women's Property Laws. These two excerpts show she acknowledged that Rose's contributions to the movement preceded her own.
"The same year (1848) of the (Seneca Falls) convention, the Married Women's Property Bill, which had given rise to some discussion on women's rights in New York, had passed the legislature. Ernestine L. Rose, Paulina Wright (Davis) and I had spoken before committees of the legislature years before, demanding equal property rights for women. We had circulated petitions for the Married Women's Property Bill for many years…"
"We may date the Woman's Rights movement in this country, to the division in the Anti-Slavery ranks in 1840. Though, before that time, Frances Wright, an English woman, and Ernestine L. Rose, a native of Poland, had spoken nobly on the Equality of the Sexes, and claimed for woman, at that early day, all that we now demand…"
Frederick Douglass was one of Rose's many abolitionist colleagues and friends. Douglass was an abolition leader born in slavery and a women's rights activist as well. He was justly famous through the middle years of the 19th century for his eloquent speeches and larger-than-life personality. Here he speaks of his colleagues in the reform movements.
"It is not alone because of the goodness of any cause that men can safely predicate success. Much depends on the character and quality of the men and women who are its advocates … No good cause can fail when supported by such women as were Lucretia Mott, Abby Kelly, Angelina Grimke, Lydia Maria Child, Maria W. Chapman, Thankful Southwick, Sally Holly, Ernestine L. Rose, E. Oakes Smith, Elizabeth Peabody and the noble and gifted Lucy Stone. Not only have we a glorious constellation of women on the silent continent to assure us that our cause is good and that it must finally prevail, but we have such men as William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, William Henry Channing, Francis Jackson, Gerrit Smith, Samuel J. May, Samuel E. Sewall — now no longer with us in body, but in spirit and memory to cheer us on in the good work of lifting women in the fullest sense to the dignity of American liberty and American citizenship."
William Lloyd Garrison was editor of The Liberator and the leader of the radical wing of the abolitionist movement, which attracted so many women reformers. He was an early supporter of the cause of women, sitting with them in the gallery, when the World Conference on Slavery in 1840 refused to seat the women delegates from the United States.
"Ernestine L. Rose was …one of the most remarkable women of the age; … as the advocate of the rights of her sex, she has no superior."