Ethel and Billie, Again

Guest blog by RFC Founder Robert Meeropol

Six years ago I posted a blog on the RFC website entitled “Strange Convergence” (available here). In it I compared details of the life of my mother, Ethel Rosenberg, to that of Billie Holiday, the singer who made Abel Meeropol’s song, “Strange Fruit,” famous. Ethel and Billie appeared to be an unlikely couple. However, they were both born in poverty in 1915, had excellent singing voices, although Billie’s surpassed Ethel’s, and were precocious.  Ethel graduated high school at 15 and helped lead a victorious strike at 19, while Billie sang in Harlem clubs at 17, and was a successful recording artist by 20. And they both got in trouble with the law, which led to their untimely deaths. Finally, there’s the Abel Meeropol connection; Abel adopted Ethel’s children and wrote Billie’s most famous song.