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Women's Studies

Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

On Purim we dress in costume to create a new persona. We delight in unexpected images. We poke holes in the humdrum everyday roles of men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Our assumptions about people shift, and thus, the holiday transforms us.

Writing Home: A Letter from an Early American Jew

We know little about Rebecca Samuel, the author of the featured document in this guide, outside of what her letters provide for us: a slice of her life as a Jewish woman in early America. In this letter, originally written in Yiddish in the 1790s to her parents in Hamburg, Germany, Samuel describes her life in Petersburg, Virginia. She vividly portrays the challenges of keeping a Jewish household, her wishes for her children, and her excitement about the prospect of moving to Charleston, South Carolina. This Go & Learn guide uses Rebecca Samuel’s captivating letter as a centerpiece for interactive sessions about Jewish immigration and the development of the Jewish community in America.

Benevolent Societies and Tzedakah

How do you give tzedakah (charity)? Although Jewish women’s and men’s religious roles have differed for much of history, Jewish laws and teachings regarding a person’s responsibility to help those in need have always applied to both sexes. This Go & Learn guide explores different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).

Gerda Lerner, 1920 - 2013

Gerda Lerner's life and work so inextricably intertwined, gained prominence thanks to her fearless, continual examination of the world.

"In our culture, and in most patriarchal cultures, we have made an artificial division between thinking and acting, as though the two were mutually exclusive," she said in a 2002 interview with the Wisconsin Academy Review. "The most important thing, the thing I have always lived by, is that you must be engaged in some way in the world in which you live. How, is for each person to choose."

Remembering Gerda Lerner: The "Mother" of Women's History

Gerda Lerner, pioneer in women’s history, remarkable public intellectual, and life-long activist, died this week in Wisconsin at the age of 92. A member of JWA’s Academic Advisory Council, she was enthusiastic about our mission of chronicling and transmitting the history of Jewish women. No historian was more identified with the field of women’s history. Receiving her Ph.D. at the age of 46, she wrote a series of groundbreaking books in which she almost singlehandedly created a conceptual framework for the field.

A few more stories for the road

As I prepare to leave my position as JWA’s Director of Public History after more than 12 years here, my mind keeps returning me back to the summer day in 2000 when I first stepped into the offices of the Jewish Women’s Archive. At the time, I was a disgruntled graduate student, disillusioned with life in the Ivory Tower and the academic study of women’s history. (Was a library really the best place to learn about women’s activism, I wondered?).

Nothing to Fear Here, It’s Just a Little Feminism

After five years of functioning within the pseudo-reality of “Big A” Academia, I often ponder questions of identity formation and self-understanding.

Lynn Gordon, 1946 - 2012

Lynn Gordon, pioneer scholar in women’s history, adamant advocate for women in the academy and in the history profession more specifically, would be pleased to be remembered not just as a dedicated scholar and teacher but as a passionate believer in family, friends, community, “sisterhood,” and the Jewish people. As someone who cared deeply about the world around her, she read everything, attended every possible lecture she could get to.

A Look at JWA at 16

The summer’s whizzed by and so has JWA’s fiscal year (which ends September 30th). As that date approaches, we’ve been taking a hard look at the numbers.

Amy Swerdlow, 1923 - 2012

Amy Swerdlow was a woman so vibrantly alive that all of us who crossed paths with her find it almost impossible to accept that she is gone.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women's Studies." (Viewed on July 27, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/womens-studies>.

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