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Gill Marcus

Gill Marcus, who never married, was born in Johannesburg in 1949. Her grandparents were from Lithuania but her parents, Molly and Nathan, were born in South Africa. Both her parents were members of the South African Communist Party and from an early age Gill was made aware of the iniquities of apartheid; the Marcus home, open to people across the color line, was very different from that of the average white South African household.

Theresa Serber Malkiel

Theresa Malkiel was an activist for labor, women’s rights, and especially socialism. In one of her many published articles, she wrote, “The socialist regime [is] the only true exponent of complete equality and political economic independence.” Theresa Serber Malkiel, one of four daughters, was born on May 1, 1874, in Bar, Russia. The Serber family immigrated to New York in 1891, and although she had been educated, Theresa worked in a garment factory. Within three years, she helped to found the Infant Cloak Makers’ Union.

Clara Malraux

During her long and active life Clara Malraux was motivated principally by her feminist convictions and by her growing awareness of herself as a Jew. In her youth she struggled to escape the stifling role assigned to women of the bourgeoisie, to become a participant in life rather than a spectator. Her determination to create a meaningful and engaged life for herself caused her to reject the role of a conventional wife. After the failure of her attempt to forge an egalitarian marriage, she succeeded in making a life for herself by playing an active role in the French Resistance during World War II, going on to a successful career as a writer and activist after the war. In her middle years, her experiences during the war forced her to confront her identity as a Jew. In her essay on the German-Jewish intellectual and salonnière Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Malraux saw these two concerns as intimately linked. “Respect for women and respect for Jews go hand in hand,” she wrote. Born into the assimilated haute bourgeoisie, with little knowledge of Judaism and little identification with Jews, her experiences as a Jewish single mother of an ailing child during the war transformed her into a passionate defender of Israel often in conflict with other left-wing intellectuals.

Ada Maimon (Fishman)

One of the “spiritual mothers” and historians of Jewish feminism in Israel, Ada Maimon was a teacher by profession and a member of Ha-Po’el ha-Za’ir from 1913 to 1920. She was also one of the founders of Mo’ezet Ha-Po’alot, the General Council of Women Workers in Israel, and its secretary-general from its founding in 1921 to 1926. When she completed her term of office she founded Ayanot, a women’s farm near Nes Ziyyonah. With the establishment of the state, she served as a Mapai party member of the first and second Knessets and was responsible for the legislation of various laws related to women’s equality. Her public activity, together with her role as historian of the feminist movement in Israel, were part of a long, determined struggle on behalf of Jewish women in Israeli society and, even more pronouncedly, in the Jewish religion. This struggle led to frequent conflicts between Maimon and the leaders of the Histadrut and the Labor Party, as well as to arguments with representatives of the religious parties and the Israeli Orthodox establishment.

Rebecca Pearl Lovenstein

In few states did the struggle for women’s right to practice law on original jurisdiction take longer than in Virginia. The effort lasted from 1890 until June 1920 and required a change in the state bar admission statutes. Rebecca Lovenstein, who had campaigned for the statutory change, was the first woman admitted to practice in the state. She took the oath in Richmond on June 28, 1920. Rebecca Pearl Greenberg Lovenstein was the third Jewish woman to open a state bar for women.

Johanna Löwenherz

Even today it is difficult to reconstruct Johanna Löwenherz’s biography in full. She was born on March 12, 1857 in Rheinbrohl and according to her biographer, Wolfgang Dietz, was “the daughter of a well-to-do Jewish family and brought up in the Jewish faith” (Dietz 1989, 31). Her father, Hermann Löwenherz (1811–1897), was a businessman who owned a quarry. Her mother was Fanni, née Jacobsohn (1826–1902). Little is known about her education, though Cornelia Kunze claims that she studied piano and singing at the Conservatory in Stuttgart and was able to teach Esperanto. Although by upbringing she was closest to the middle-class women’s movement, she switched to the socialist women’s movement, on whose behalf she traveled widely in order to raise consciousness. According to Dietz, this change in her political allegiance led her to abandon Judaism. She was one of the most active representatives of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Neuwied region and co-founder of the local Volksbildungsverein (Association for Popular Education). Although her political opinions made her a somewhat controversial figure in the SDP, she was nevertheless elected as a delegate to the regional party conferences in Duisburg (1895), Essen (1897) and Neuweid (1897).

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg was one of the great Marxist theorists of the twentieth century; her radical conception of socialist democracy stands in opposition to both bolshevik authoritarianism and technocratic reformism. Born in the Polish city of Zamosc (75 km SE of Lublin), she grew up in an assimilated, middle class Jewish family. She learned German at home and, undoubtedly, a certain affinity for enlightenment ideals. Luxemburg would never join the famous Jewish socialist organization known as the Bund, and she was basically unconcerned with issues of identity. It was during her high school years that she met Leo Jogiches (1867–1919), who would play a central role in the history of continental socialism. They became youthful lovers, but even after the end of their romantic relationship, they would continue to work together. Her engagement with political issues began while she was still in high school as a member first of the Proletariat, the first socialist organization in Poland. Internationalist in orientation, concerned with building a mass base, it was decimated by the government following the strike wave of the 1880s. Luxemburg fled her homeland in 1887 and later enrolled in the University of Zurich, where she completed a dissertation on “The Industrial Development of Poland” (1898).

Sadie Loewith

“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” the adage states. Those “bedfellows” were joined by a feisty, strong, opinionated woman in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the 1920s. She was Sadie Loewith, teacher, businesswoman, active Republican Party worker, chairperson, organizer, and politician of high repute. Her interests were many and varied, and her ability to lead and to elicit respect was unwavering.

Clara Lipman

Born on December 6, 1869, in Chicago to Abraham and Josephine (Brueckner) Lipman, Clara attended public schools in Chicago and New York, as well as being educated by private tutors. She began acting in ingenue roles and quickly joined A.M. Palmer’s venerable New York theater company. After a stint touring Europe with English and German classical companies, Lipman returned to New York and married fellow actor Louis Mann.

Literature Scholars in the United States

At the start of the twenty-first century, women of all classes, races, and ethnicities are so fully integrated into American literary academia that it is astonishing that, as little as a century ago, the idea of a woman professor teaching, for example, the novels of George Eliot or Henry James to a roomful of young men and women was inconceivable. In all highly literate cultures, secular and religious knowledge used to be the domain of men, while women were in charge of the practical side of daily life and, in the upper classes, of certain social matters.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Activism." (Viewed on October 21, 2016) <>.


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