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Women's Rights

Esther Herrman

Esther Herrman was born on August 7, 1823, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, to Sophia (Van Ysen) and Emanuel Mendels. She had three sisters, Gamma (b. 1821), Jette (b. 1821), and Adelaide (b. 1825), and came to the United States as a child following her mother’s death in 1827. In 1843, she married Henry Herrman, a native of Baden who was born October 13, 1822. By 1847, Esther and Henry had moved from New York City to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he started a business supplying sailing vessels. Their first children were born there: Sophia (1847) and Henrietta (1848). They moved to Boston, where Henry operated a clothing business and their son Abraham was born (1850).

Frieda Barkin Hennock

Frieda Barkin Hennock was the first woman to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where she became the champion of noncommercial educational television. As a Jewish female of foreign birth, she endured a lifetime of undeserved—largely sexist—attacks for everything from excessive aggressiveness to innuendoes of immoral personal conduct. At the same time, she did not hesitate to take advantage of her sparkling feminine charm, sense of high fashion, and occasional flood of tears to manipulate a male-dominated society. As a committed Jew, Hennock also used her contacts with the Jewish community for professional advancement. She said daily prayers and was fluent in Yiddish. She was a devoted and supportive member of her extended family.

Haskalah Literature: Portrayal of Women

To a large extent, the image of women in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:325]Haskalah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] literature reflects the relationship between the sexes in Ashkenazi Jewish society. Authors, poets and playwrights who wrote in the spirit of the Haskalah movement were affected, in no small measure, by the prevailing attitude toward women in eighteenth and nineteenth-century European culture. But the female characters that they created, whether in Hebrew or Yiddish (the two languages of Haskalah literature), were not simply lifted “as is” from external literary models nor constructed in accordance with some ideological master plan borrowed directly from the European Enlightenment. Most of the extant works from the Haskalah period (it should be recalled that many manuscripts by [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:352]maskilim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] never saw print) were written by men.

Haskalah Attitudes Toward Women

For the men of intellect who burst upon Ashkenazic Jewish society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, starting a cultural revolution of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:325]Haskalah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (enlightenment), the question of women’s status was the touchstone for the validity and consolidation of their innovative worldview. One of the outstanding proponents of the Haskalah was Judah Leib Gordon (1831–1892), who expressed the ambiguity of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:352]maskilim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] toward the “woman question.” Beginning in the 1870s, women Hebrew readers in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia and women students in various cities in Europe considered him one of the few people who showed special sensitivity and empathy with regard to the difficult lives of Jewish women.

Hadassah: Yishuv to the Present Day

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) (hereafter: Hadassah) has a lengthy history of activity in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:432]Yishuv[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] and Israel, going back to 1913, about a year after it was founded in New York, and continuing to this day, with the exception of a short period during World War I. This activity, outstanding in its scope, continuity, stability and diversity, encompasses efforts in the sphere of health and medical services, and in the welfare of children and youth through support of Youth [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:293]Aliyah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], vocational education, vocational training and more.

Halakhic Decisions on Family Matters in Medieval Jewish Society

The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:414]takkanah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (regulation enacted by [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhic[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] scholars supplementing the Talmudic [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) was, in practical terms, a legislative tool of major importance in organizing Jewish communities in medieval times. The Jewish communities of the time felt they were subordinate to Talmudic law, which they saw as sacred and binding. But when urgent needs arose which put the Jewish community under pressure, the sages’ preferred manner of coping with them was the takkanah, which the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:416]Talmud[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] refers to as a legislative tool.

Habsburg Monarchy: Nineteenth to Twentieth Centuries

The experience of Jewish women under the Habsburg Monarchy differed greatly according to the part of this large and extremely diverse country in which they lived. The Habsburg Monarchy was a dynastic state, whose territory had been acquired over many centuries and whose inhabitants spoke a wide array of languages, practiced many different religions, and constructed many different ethnic, national and cultural identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Mary Belle Grossman

Mary Belle Grossman was, in 1918, was one of the first two women admitted to membership in the American Bar Association. After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, she became one of Cleveland’s most successful political activists.

Elinor Guggenheimer

Elinor Guggenheimer first toured New York City day nurseries as a member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies during the 1930s. Horrified by what she saw, Guggenheimer began a lifelong crusade for improved and standardized child care facilities across the country. A veteran of New York City politics, Guggenheimer has also worked to promote women in public office and was one of the founding members of the Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

Ida Espen Guggenheimer

Born on December 8, 1866, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ida Espen Guggenheimer was the oldest child of Jacob and Fannie (Bachman) Espen. She had one brother, Frank, and two sisters, Hannah and Sophie. Her father and his brother were importers of lace. She was educated at the Friends School in Philadelphia and attended school in Dresden, Germany, when her family traveled in Europe.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women's Rights." (Viewed on September 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/womens-rights>.

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