Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971
This web exhibit was made possible by the generous gifts of a group of Smith College alumnae.
"It is so obvious that to treat people equally is the right thing to do."
Gertrude Weil's passion for equality and justice shaped the course of her long life. Inspired by Jewish teachings that "justice, mercy, [and] goodness were not to be held in a vacuum, but practiced in our daily lives," Weil stood courageously at the forefront of a wide range of progressive and often controversial causes, including women's suffrage, labor reform and civil rights. She worked tirelessly to extend political, economic and social opportunities to those long denied them.
Weil attempted to better society in countless ways. From the 1910s, when she organized women's suffrage leagues, to the 1960s, when she convened a bi-racial council in her home; from championing child labor legislation to creating parks and pools for underprivileged African-American neighborhoods; from teaching religious school to helping rescue Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s, she expressed her dedication to social justice and social welfare.
A lifelong resident of Goldsboro, NC, Weil was strongly committed to improving the life of her hometown, her state and her region. Although her work certainly had national implications, she focused the greatest part of her attention on Goldsboro and North Carolina. She critiqued her society from within, taking advantage of her position as a prosperous white Southern woman to challenge the racism and sexism that characterized much of Southern culture. As member, advisor, leader or benefactor, she took an active role in every aspect of her town's life. Like many other women across the South and the nation, Weil shaped the political and social culture of her community, helping to make it into a vital and meaningful home for all its inhabitants.
- Quotation beginning "It is so obvious…." from Frank Warren, "Miss Gertrude Weil," Goldsboro News-Argus, December 6, 1964.
- Quotation beginning "Justice, mercy, goodness…." from Gertrude Weil, "Talk at Beth Or Temple, Sisterhood Sabbath," May 12, 1944, in the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.