If she were still living, my grandmother, Ethel Rosenberg, would turn 100 on September 28th of this year. The same month will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. My Executive Director’s Report in the spring 2015 issue of our newsletter explores how the RFC plans to honor these milestones in a variety of ways as 2015 unfolds, while reflecting on how much has changed and what has remained constant at the RFC over our first quarter century.
In preparing for both of these anniversaries, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother and what questions or lessons her experience raises for us today, particularly for the RFC and our work with targeted activists.
To explore these issues, I’m planning a series of blogs examining how the popular press, the prosecution, the defense, supporters, leading political figures, and the highly charged political and cultural climate influenced how people perceived Ethel then and now. I’ll also discuss how activists, especially women, are facing similar issues today.
Each blog will use an iconic image of Ethel as an organizing principle. Throughout the series, I’ll focus on several themes:
- The strong gendered component of the case: From the time my grandfather, Julius Rosenberg, was arrested until the executions, Ethel was portrayed as simultaneously a supporting player in the alleged espionage and as somehow more responsible than her husband because she was a woman. I’m going to pay special attention to gender as a framework for asking questions about the case both because I think it’s important to understanding how Ethel was treated, and because as a granddaughter trying to understand my grandmother’s trial and conviction, it’s of particular interest to me.
- The fact that my grandparents had children was used to try to force them to cooperate, and this attempted coercion was particularly focused on my grandmother. I’ll discuss this issue in posts as we approach the date of the RFC’s founding in September, since it connects to the RFC and our work with today’s targeted activist families.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog series as well as feedback on issues in my grandparents’ case, especially those related to my grandmother, which interest you.
To get us started, what is the iconic image I’m using for all these posts and how can it help us understand the cultural context of the 1950s? See it, and read the first installment of the series here.
Ethel at 100 (part 1): Ethel in the Kitchen
Ethel at 100 (part 2): Communists in the Kitchen
Ethel at 100 (part 3): "The Ideal Woman" - Ethel Rosenberg and Women's Magazines
Ethel at 100 (part 4): Strong Woman/Weak Man?
Ethel at 100 (part 5): Anti-Semitism and the Rosenberg Case
Ethel at 100 (part 6): Lessons for Supporting the Children of Today's Targeted Activists
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