- Birth name:
- Ethel Greenglass
- Date of Birth:
- 19 June 1915 New York City, New York, USA
- 4' 11" (1.50 m)
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg was born in New York City to Barnet and Tessie Greenglass. The family was very poor and lived in a shabby, unheated tenement. Ethel, the only daughter, attended Hebrew schools and Seward Park High School, graduating at age 15. She became a clerk for a shipping company, but was terminated for organizing a women workers' strike to combat poor working conditions and low salaries. Ethel later joined the American Communist Party. At a New Years Eve benefit, she met Julius Rosenberg, who had been a civilian inspector for the Army Signal Corps during World War II. They married on June 18, 1939. Ethel became a homemaker for their sons, Michael and Robert. Julius opened a small machine shop in Manhattan with Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, but the business failed and Greenglass left the partnership. In 1950, Greenglass, who had been a low-ranking sergeant at Los Alamos Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, was arrested as a member of a spy ring that had supplied atomic secrets to the Russians. Greenglass claimed that Ethel and Julius were also members of the ring. They were arrested and tried under the Espionage Act, the 1917 law that had been passed to counter the American anti-war movement. The main evidence against them was supplied by Greenglass. He claimed that Julius had given him atomic bomb secrets, and that Ethel had typed David's notes. Despite the dearth of evidence against Ethel, she was found guilty of espionage with Julius, and on April 5, 1951 the couple was sentenced to death. For the next two years, Ethel lived on death row at Sing Sing prison, maintaining her innocence and hoping for leniency. It never came. On June 19, 1953, Ethel was put to death in the electric chair. She remains the only American woman ever to be executed for espionage. Her sons, aged 6 and 8, were adopted by another family. Controversy as to the couple's guilt rages to this day. In 2001, in an interview with "60 Minutes II," Greenglass admitted that he had lied about Ethel's involvement in the spy ring, yet Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs confirmed that the Rosenbergs did, in fact, commit treason.