Women of Valor


Local Change

Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971

As member, advisor, leader or benefactor, Weil took an active role in every facet of her community's life. As the president of Smith College said in awarding her one of the first four Smith College medals in 1964, Weil's "career of public service [was] so extensive that it is difficult to find in the State of North Carolina a cultural, charitable, welfare, civic or educational organization with which [her] name...has not been connected." Her affiliations ranged from the local Woman's Club and Temple Sisterhood, to state suffrage organizations and Jewish groups, to the Art Society and the Literary and Historical Association. In addition to countless private acts of philanthropy, she financed a county nurse before a public health system existed, created parks and pools for underprivileged African-American neighborhoods, provided scholarships for poor students, taught religious school, and worked with Girl Scouts.

Weil's active involvement in the most pressing issues of her day created effective change at the local and state levels. As the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina commented in 1952 when awarding Weil an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters, she was "in the forefront of every forward movement looking toward a progressive social and economic program for North Carolina.... [a]lways generous in the giving of her time, effort and money in the promotion of various enterprises for the good of the city." Like many women in small towns and small Jewish populations, Weil played an integral role in shaping her local society, helping to make it into a vital and meaningful home for all its inhabitants.

  1. Speech given at the awarding of the Smith College Medal, 1964, text in "The Smith Medal," Smith Alumnae Quarterly, November 1964, p. 24.
  2. Notes for Citation of Gertrude Weil for the honorary degree of Doctor of Human Letters, conferred by the Women's College of the University of North Carolina, June 2, 1952, at the North Carolina Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Gertrude Weil - Local Change." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/weil/local-change>.