Rose Laub Coser was born to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. Her parents, immigrants from Eastern Europe, were both committed leftists and members of the Spartacus League with their friend Rose Luxemburg, for whom their daughter was named. In 1924, the family left the rising political turmoil of the Weimar Republic and moved to Antwerp, Belgium. Rose attended high school, worked in her father's printing business, and joined the local socialist youth movement. In 1939, the Laubs emigrated to the USA, and she settled in New York City. In 1942, she married Lewis A. Coser, a fellow socialist and refugee from Nazi Europe, who also became a prominent sociologist. She studied philosophy at the École Libre des Hautes Études, a French institution relocated during the Nazi years to the New School for Social Research. She served as a research assistant to psychoanalyst and experimental child psychologist René Spitz and sociologist David Riesman for his work on The Lonely Crowd (1950) and Faces in The Crowd (1952). She earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1957. Few women were admitted to the higher ranks of academia in that era, and she worked for many years as a research associate at Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard Medical School, before becoming an instructor and then assistant professor at Wellesley College. She went on to become associate professor at Northeastern University and a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she remained until her retirement in 1987. She made major contributions to medical sociology, sociology of the family, and gender roles. Her works included Life in the Ward (1962); The Family: Its Structure and Functions (1964); Life Cycle and Achievement in America (1972); Access to Power: Cross-National Studies of Women and Elites (1981); In Defense of Modernity: Complexity of Social Roles and Individual Autonomy (1991); and Women of Courage: Jewish and Italian Immigrant Women in New York (published posthumously in 1999). She was also a founder and frequent contributor to the journal Dissent and active in social justice and feminist causes.