Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg was born September 28, 1915 in New York City to Barnet and Tessie Greenglass. Her father ran a repair shop for sewing machines, but was barely able to provide for his wife and four children. The Greenglass family lived in a shabby tenement that was unheated. Ethel, the only daughter, showed that she was a strong willed and intelligent girl. Ethel attended a religious school, Downtown Talmud Torah, and then Seward Park High School, where she graduated at the age of only 15.
Ethel became a clerk for a shipping company immediately after finishing school. She remained at this job for the next four years until she was let go because of her role as the organizer of a strike of 150 women workers. Ethel was not just an activist at work, she was also interested in politics. Ethel joined the Young Communist League and eventually became a member of the American Communist Party. In addition to her clerk job, Ethel enjoyed singing, alone as well as with a choir. Ethel was waiting to go on stage to sing at a New Years Eve benefit when she first met Julius Rosenberg. The couple was married not long afterwards in the summer of 1939.
Although mentally tough, Ethel Rosenberg's body was weak. She was not healthy enough to work after the Rosenberg's were married. Instead, Ethel stayed home with their two sons Michael and Robert. By the summer of 1950, Ethel's younger brother, David Greenglass, had named Julius as a participant in the spy ring. The FBI questioned her husband and eventually placed him under arrest. On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg was herself arrested. At trial Ruth Greenglass, Ethel's sister-in-law, implicated Ethel in the atomic spy ring by testifying that Ethel had been the one to type the notes provided by David Greenglass. This testimony sealed Ethel's fate. She was found guilty of espionage along with Julius Rosenberg and on April 5, 1951 was sentenced to death. For the next two years, Ethel Rosenberg 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.