When Ethel Rosenberg was executed in New York in 1953, she was 37 years old and the mother of two young sons. Julius, her husband, had been executed not long before her. They were both found guilty of espionage crimes on behalf of the Soviet Union. But did you know what happened during her execution?
The execution of Ethel Rosenberg in the electric chair did not go as planned. After three shocks, the attendants removed the strappings, only for doctors to discover that her heart was still beating. Eyewitnesses reported smoke rising from her head after two more shocks were administered.
The Early Life of Ethel Rosenberg
After graduating, Ethel began working as a national New York Packing and Shipping Company secretary. During this time, she became an active labor union member, helping organize strikes and protests. In addition, she was a member of the Young Communist League. In 1936, she met Julius Rosenberg through her activism and involvement in the Communist Party. In 1939, the two married. (Source: ABC Network)
Ethel Rosenburg’s Spy Life
By 1942, Ethel’s husband Julius had become involved in Soviet Union espionage. He recruited other spies, including Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, a member of the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos, in addition to providing classified documents to the Soviet Union. David Greenglass testified during the Rosenbergs’ trial that his sister Ethel typed the notes her husband passed to the Soviet Union about the American bomb project.
In 1950, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested and charged with espionage conspiracy. On March 29, 1951, the couple was convicted and sentenced to death for violating Section 2 of the 1917 Espionage Act, which forbids providing classified information related to US national defense and security to foreign governments.
On June 19, 1953, Ethel was executed by an electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, shortly after her husband. Michael and Robert Meeropol, who were six and ten years old at the time of their parents’ execution, were the couple’s only children. (Source: ABC Network)
Who Testified Against Ethel Rosenberg?
David Greenglass, Rosenberg’s brother, testified against the couple during the 1951 trial. To back up his wife Ruth’s account, he claimed to have seen his sister typing up information to be passed on to the Soviets.
Greenglass negotiated immunity for his wife and served nine years of his 15-year spying sentence. But, decades later, it’s clear he lied and committed perjury.
My wife is more important to me than my sister.David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s Brother
According to Sebba, the media also judged Ethel based on her clothing and demeanor.
If you couldn’t believe your wife or secretary to be a good American patriot, what on earth was the future for America? Why had they fought World War II if these wicked women were using typing to subvert what a natural good patriotic American housewife should be doing? It was a deeply misogynistic attack on Ethel. She didn’t cry, so she must be some kind of unnatural mother, some kind of witch.Anne Sebba, Author of Ethel Rosenberg’s Bio
(Source: ABC Network)
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