You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share


International Ladies Garment Workers Union

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union was founded in 1900. The eleven Jewish men who founded the union represented seven local unions from East Coast cities with heavy Jewish immigrant populations. This all-male convention was made up exclusively of cloak makers and one skirt maker, highly skilled Old World tailors who had been trying to organize in a well-established industry for a couple of decades. White goods workers, including skilled corset makers, were not invited to the first meeting. Nor were they or the largely young immigrant Jewish workers in the newly developing shirtwaist industry recruited for the union in the early years of its existence. But these women workers still tried to organize.

Beba Idelson

Beba Trachtenberg was born on October 14, 1895 in Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, then part of the Russian empire. Her parental home was poor and unattractive and the family lived in hardship, primarily because her father, Yitzhak, had no regular means of income. The Trachtenbergs provide a good example of the changes undergone by East European Jewry at the time. Beba’s mother, Rivka, was a pupil at the progymnasia, a kind of state junior high school. Her father, who was religiously observant, studied [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:416]Talmud[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] but was also well-versed in the customs and practices of modern life. He sent his sons to heder and hired a private tutor for his daughters.

Historians in the United States

American Jewish women have been prominent within the historical profession. Indeed, many have been on the cutting edge of historical scholarship since the 1960s. In particular, Jewish women were at the forefront of developments within social history and in the creation of women’s history. While women generally, and Jewish women in particular, rarely made careers as historians in the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish women represented a significant proportion of academic historians both in American and European history as discrimination against Jews and prejudice against women lessened in the decades after World War II. Perhaps because of their sensitivity to the situation of powerless groups, most of them focused their attention not on traditional power elites but rather on those social groups traditionally ignored by academic historians: ordinary people, workers, peasants, minority groups, Jews, and especially women. They helped create, and were influenced by, new trends in historical scholarship that favored the study of such groups.

Histadrut Nashim Ivriot (Hebrew Women's Organization)

Though the Hebrew Women’s Organization was founded in Palestine only in 1920, a great deal of women’s activism preceded it by several years, both on [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:342]kibbutzim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] and in cities and settlements. The years after World War I and the Balfour Declaration, which followed the British takeover of Palestine from the Turks, were the beginning of a new era in the building up of Palestine. The Zionists felt in their bones that two thousand years of exile were coming to an end, and in this thrilling atmosphere set to work to build the national homeland.

Dorothea Hirschfeld

Too old, lacking an appropriate educational background, of unsuitable family background, a member of the Social-Democrat Party and—worst of all—a woman, Dorothea Hirschfeld, a Jew without any legal training, nevertheless succeeded in entering the civil service at the age of forty-three. In 1919 she was the only woman among twenty candidates recommended for a position at the newly founded Reich Ministry of Employment and, a year later, the only one appointed as ministerial adviser.

Jenny Hirsch

No lucky star reigned over Jenny Hirsch’s youth. Born in Zerbst, Anhalt on November 25, 1829, she was the daughter of a poor Jewish peddler. Her mother died when Jenny was only eight years old. Together with her two siblings she grew up in her father’s household, whose basic needs were cared for by her aged grandmother. At the ducal girls’ school in her home town she received an excellent education from the ages of seven to fifteen. This served as the basis for continued self-education in later years. But as a Jew she had to endure antisemitic hostility. In time she overcame these difficulties, only to encounter family opposition to her love of books and her early literary efforts, which they rejected as an inappropriate luxury.

Rivka Guber

Rivka Guber (née Bumaghina) was born in Novo-Vitebsk in the Ukraine and went to high school in Yekaterinoslav (Dnipropetrovsk) intending to continue her studies at university. The outbreak of the revolution disrupted her plans and forced her to return to Novo-Vitebsk where she worked as a teacher. In 1920 she married Mordecai Guber, who was born in 1893 in the town of Gorodik near Bialystok. They immigrated to Palestine in 1925. The couple settled in Rehovot, where Mordecai taught Hebrew. They were among the founders of Kefar Bilu (1933), later leaving to join Kefar Warburg, where they raised their two gifted sons, Ephraim (b. 1927) and Zvi (b. 1931).

Selina Greenbaum

The life of the turn-of-the-century working girls of New York City’s Lower East Side was often one of austerity and exhausting drudgery.

Edna Goldsmith

Edna Goldsmith was a driving force in the establishment of the Ohio Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. A founder of the federation, she served as its first president from 1918 to 1923 and then served as honorary president until her death. Throughout her life, Goldsmith was active in welfare organizations, concentrating particularly in the educational field.

Pauline Goldmark

Pauline Goldmark was a social worker and activist, part of a group of women seeking the vote and reforms of the urban and industrial excesses of the early twentieth century. A major method of social reformers was to investigate, accumulate facts, present these to the public and lawmakers, and assume that, once educated, the public and legislators would enact the desired changes. Goldmark pioneered in methods of social research central to these reform efforts.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Labor." (Viewed on October 9, 2015) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews


Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs