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Women's Rights

Aletta Henriette Jacobs

A pioneer in many realms—birth control, women’s suffrage, peace activism, and envisioning a wider future for women—Aletta Henriette Jacobs was born on February 9, 1854, in the small town of Sappemeer, Netherlands, the eighth of eleven children of Abraham Jacobs, a country doctor, and Anna de Jongh. Her assimilated Jewish family maintained social and intellectual ties with other Jewish families in the area.

Dafna Nundi Izraeli

Izraeli was Professor of Sociology and former Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar Ilan University, Israel. At the time of her death, she was Chair of the Interdisciplinary Program in Gender Studies and head of the Rachel and J. L. Gewurz Center for Research on Gender at Bar Ilan, which she endowed in the name of her parents. The Bar Ilan Program, which she initiated, is one of only two M. A./Ph. D. Gender and Women’s Studies programs in Israel.

Israel Women's Network

To page through the newsletters and annual reports published periodically by the Israel Women’s Network between February 1986 and January 2000 is to become aware of the powerful impact that can be made by a group of well-informed, energetic, articulate and determined feminists. Combining consciousness-raising, education, litigation and lobbying, the Israel Women’s Network was responsible for a veritable transformation in the status, image and self-image of Israeli women which marked the last fifteen years of the twentieth century.

Israel Defense Forces

Israel is the only country where military service is obligatory for both men and women. Women constitute approximately a third of the conscripts and close to twenty percent of the standing professional army. In 2003, the military conscripted some seventy-seven percent of the cohort of eighteen-year-old Jewish men and fifty-nine percent of the cohort of eighteen-year-old Jewish women.

International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR)

An [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:291]agunah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (plural: agunot) is a woman “chained” to a husband either unwilling or unable to grant her a Jewish divorce. Because [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Jewish law) requires that the get (the divorce document) be granted by the husband, an agunah cannot remarry, and any subsequent children she bears are considered mamzerim (illegitimate children) who can never marry legitimate Jews. Legal loopholes exist to allow non-divorced husbands to remarry; none exist to help wives. The plight of agunot has become an increasing problem in contemporary times, with Jewish communities unable to pressure recalcitrant husbands into granting divorces to their wives. In addition, in the State of Israel, both marriage and divorce fall within the realm of religious law; there is no civil alternative.

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.

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.

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.

Higher Education in Central Europe

Many more Jewish men than Jewish women received a higher education in Central Europe before the Nazi era, but once Swiss, and later Austrian and German, universities began admitting women, the proportion of Jewish women among the female student population remained at least twice as high as the proportion of Jewish men among male students.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women's Rights." (Viewed on September 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/womens-rights>.

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