Martyred Motherhood: Ethel Rosenberg and the Gendered Critique of Propaganda in the McCarthy Era
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On June 19, 1953 Ethel Rosenberg became the second woman and first mother to be executed under Federal law in the United States. Ethel was executed with her husband, Julius, for allegedly passing the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Despite the extensive disparaging news coverage, nationally and internationally on the case, the physical evidence the FBI had on Ethel was miniscule, heavily reliant upon the government testimony of her brother and confessed spy, David Greenglass. This thesis will examine how Ethel Rosenberg's unwillingness to conform to the stereotypical gender roles of 1950s American motherhood affected the media's depiction of her and subsequently influenced public assumption of her guilt.