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The history of Jewish women in Colonial Cuba is still wrapped in mystery. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (1903): “Jewish women, forcibly baptized, and sent to the West Indies by the Spanish authorities, seem to have been among the early settlers [of Cuba].” The term “Jewish women” in this context needs explanation: In 1492, King Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Queen Isabella (1451–1504) of Spain signed the infamous edict that ordered the expulsion of all professed Jews from their kingdoms.

Conservative Judaism in the United States

Women have played a pivotal role in Conservative Judaism throughout the twentieth century and have been instrumental on both the grass-roots and national levels in propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education, gender equality and religious leadership. The Conservative Movement’s attention over the decades to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the ]agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual and the ordination of women has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism and its maturation as a distinct denomination.

Colonial Period in the United States

More so than some of their counterparts in England’s Caribbean colonies, Jewish women in colonial North America occupied traditional positions and played traditional roles within the Jewish community as well as in the larger society. They could not serve in positions of leadership in either the Jewish or the general community, and they are not known to have had their own social organizations. Their primary occupation was that of homemaker, although, in an extension, several kept lodgings in which poorer Jewish individuals lived at the Jewish community’s expense.

College Students in the United States

While Jews have traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on education and learning, in the past they reserved the privilege of education primarily for their sons. Religious and cultural ideals assigning women’s place to the home and family combined with societal sexism and antisemitism to make the course charted by Jewish women in pursuit of a college education rocky and in many cases inaccessible. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Jewish women in America achieved parity with their male counterparts on college campuses, but only after many decades of struggle. Indeed, the obstacles facing all American women who sought to enroll in college institutions in the decades surrounding the turn of the last century proved numerous, imposing, and at times, defeating. For Jewish women, antisemitism posed an added challenge that they had to conquer in order to receive the college education they sought.

Fannia M. Cohn

In the first half of the twentieth century, Fannia M. Cohn was one of the leading Jewish women trade union activists in the United States. Drawing on her Russian Jewish cultural traditions, she pioneered in the development of educational programs within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Ultimately, however, male opposition undermined her efforts and diminished her long-term significance. Her life offers evidence of the possibilities and limitations of women’s activism in the American labor movement.

Ruth Louisa Cohen

Ruth Cohen, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge from 1954 until 1972, was the first Jewish Principal of an Oxbridge College, a distinguished agricultural economist and, after her retirement from college life, a dedicated local councillor.

Audrey Cohen

Audrey Cohen, founder and president of Audrey Cohen College in New York City, was an internationally recognized educator who stood at the vanguard of education and social policy for almost forty years.

Clara De Hirsch Home for Working Girls

Concerned about the welfare of young working girls in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, a group of Jewish leaders, mostly women, founded the Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls in May 1897.

Hannah Chizhik

An agricultural teacher and leader of women workers in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], Hannah Chizhik was born in 1889 in Tomashpol (Ukraine).

Cedar Knolls School for Girls

Alarmed by reports of the growing numbers of young females arraigned in New York City’s children’s courts, the concerned women advocated the establishment of a Jewish girls’ correctional facility comparable to the existing Hawthorne School. Working independently, though in consultation with the Hawthorne School directors, the women founders raised the necessary funds and established the Cedar Knolls School for Girls (CK) in 1913.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Schools." (Viewed on November 26, 2015) <>.


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