Monday 12 February 2024

Book Review - The Queen of the Platform: A Novel of Women's Rights Activist Ernestine Rose by Susan Higginbotham

The Queen of the Platform:
A Novel of Women's Rights Activist Ernestine Rose
By Susan Higginbotham

Publication Date: 12th March 2024
Publisher: Onslow Press 
Page Length: 341 Pages
Genre: Biographical Fiction

From the award-winning author of The Stolen Crown and Hanging Mary comes a novel based on the life of the indomitable Ernestine Rose, whose fearless advocacy helped bring about the rights women enjoy today.

Question everything, Ernestine vows while growing up in a Poland ravaged by the Napoleonic wars. Accept nothing blindly.

Rejecting her rabbi father’s religion and an arranged marriage, Ernestine strikes out on her own, arriving in New York in 1836. Distressed by the injustices around her, she takes to the public speaking platform, pressing for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights alongside activists like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But at a time when women are expected to confine themselves to the parlor and the hearth—and when an atheist is best advised to say nothing at all—is Ernestine’s adopted country ready to hear her?

Following Ernestine through triumph and heartbreak and across two continents, The Queen of the Platform brings out of history’s shadows a heroine who braved public scorn to fight for the values she held dear.

The Queen of the Platform, Susan Higginbotham’s fabulous upcoming novel, masterfully tells the remarkable tale of Ernestine Rose - a proud infidel, feminist, abolitionist, and suffragette.

This novel is so great that no words can do it justice. In just 341 pages, Higginbotham recounts the extraordinary story of a woman who defied societal norms. This captivating narrative tells the incredible life story of Ernestine Rose. Not only is her story masterfully retold, but it seems that Higginbotham is determined to arouse every conceivable emotion from her readers, and such writing made this book next to impossible to put down.

Ernestine was born in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland, and the story opens at a particularly distressing moment in her life, the death of her beloved baby brother, Jacob. Ernestine, not knowing what to say, innocently asks her mother if she could perhaps have another baby, without realising it would be dangerous for her mother to do so. Having unintentionally caused upset, Ernestine takes herself on a walk, daring to go past the Jewish quarter and into the Christian domain. This walk leaves a lasting impression on the young girl’s mind, for this is the first time she has come face to face with anti-Semitism and the so-called blood libel. However, as with many things in Ernestine’s life, there is always a silver lining — she is rescued from the taunts and threats of a group of boys by a bookshop owner. The bookshop owner takes Ernestine to his shop and there she chooses a book to take home about George Washington (her favourite American president). Her fascination with all things America as a child perhaps paved the way for her one day becoming a citizen.

Ernestine was a woman before her time. Her ideas and theories have certainly paved the way for womens rights, and yet she would still be in the right place on a modern platform. She realised that progress in women’s rights is not something that will be foreordained. If women want equal rights, then they would have to fight for them. Ernestine is determined that her voice will be heard. Later she would be known as the “first Jewish feminist,” but at the time she was simply a woman with a notion that she could use her voice, and her ability to persuade to make lasting changes to woman suffrage, by writing, lobbying and of course, standing on the platform and using her voice as a tool for reason. Without a doubt, Ernestine was a major intellectual force in nineteenth-century America, but there was so much more to her than her public persona and Higginbotham has presented her readers with a novel that encompasses her personal life as well as her public one. 

I must commend the meticulous attention to historical detail. The author’s commitment to studying this period is praiseworthy. Higginbotham has delved deeply into Ernestine’s life, capturing all the significant events, as well as some of the more mundane daily occurrences. The protagonist of this novel defied her religion, stood up for herself in court, and came out victorious. She travelled extensively and became fast friends with the most influential early 19th-century advocates of utopian socialism — Robert Owen - and finally became an American citizen, Higginbotham reminds the reader that she was also a daughter, wife, mother, sister, and friend. Although Ernestine is remembered for her influential speeches, it was Ernestines personal story that often brought tears to my eyes. 

Ernestine’s story is not just about her, it is about the wider political climate. The Peculiar Institution, Bleeding Kansas, The American Civil War, and the assassination of President Lincoln are driving factors in this novel. Ernestine is greatly influenced by what is going on around her, and at times she finds herself in danger because of the things she dares to speak about (especially when in the South) but she is also steadfast in her determination to achieve the seemingly impossible. The risk she takes makes for some thrilling reading, but in every situation her very dry sense of humour made me smile despite the danger she was in - the incident with the horse was both thrilling and profoundly amusing.  Higginbotham  certainly shines a glaring light on the uphill struggle Ernestine and her fellow activists faced. 

The author’s depiction of Ernestine was sublime but so was the depiction of Ernestine’s husband, William Rose. William is Ernestine’s safe-haven but he is also one of her most ardent supporters. He is as forward-thinking as she is, and their love is deep and true. As a couple, they do face some terrible hardships and a great loss. William was a character that I instantly connected with and adored, his unshakeable love, and his sense of pride at Ernestine’s achievements made him incredibly likeable. He is content to stay in the shadows while his wife shines in her spotlight, and his sense of pride in her achievements is clear for everyone to see. 

The Queen of the Platform: A Novel of Women’s Rights Activist Ernestine Rose by Susan Higginbotham is an undoubtable success. Higginbotham has taken Ernestine’s story and breathed new life into it. This is a story that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. A really great read. 

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
Yarde Book Reviews & Book Promotion

Pre-Order your copy HERE

Publication Date 12th March 2024

Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham's meticulously researched historical fiction brought to life by her heartfelt writing delights readers. Higginbotham runs her own historical fiction/history blog, History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham. She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Maryland with her family.

Connect with Susan:


No comments:

Post a Comment

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx