Ruth Segel reflections - Ruth Fein
I am sorry that I never met Ruth Segel. I do know two of her five children, Jim and Arthur Segel. For me, she represents the generation of women which set about to change the expectations of the college educated woman in the United States. It's important to call attention to women like Ruth who set out on professional paths in a most adventuresome way and, by doing so, led the way for the next few generations of women.
Ruth Segel went to Washington as the New Deal was opening opportunities for college educated women in the expanding government sector. Since the federal government was one employer which did not turn them away because of their religion and ethnic background, many of these women turned out to be Jewish. As jobs expanded in number with American involvement during the Second World War, for many of these women, they became the path to professional advancement. Although most women found their advancement halted as they reached the top of the civil service ladder, they were still able to achieve professional recognition which would not have been available for them in any other environment.
I write all this because I still believe that there is an important story to be told about the role of the federal government in opening doors for women, and Jewish women especially, who aspired to professional careers in which they could contribute to society in a very significant way. I believe that it was the New Deal and the War that followed that, in significant measure, changed the roles women played in our society. For Jewish women especially, who were barred, as were Jewish men, from many fields and from advancement, the government became the employer which set them on their paths of achievement.