The women honored by the passage of healthcare reform

Last night the House of Representatives passed the healthcare reform bill in what is being called a historic victory for progressives and healthcare activists, despite the inclusion of abortion restrictions. Still, the bill will make healthcare accessible to many who could not afford it under the current system and will curb some of the most unethical practices of insurance companies, such as dropping coverage when a child gets sick. Sarah Seltzer has a great analysis of the gains and losses for women's health at the Sisterhood.

This morning, amid all the celebrations, punditry and political analysis, I kept hearing about the late Sen. Kennedy, his dedication to healthcare reform, and how this bill honors his memory. I couldn't help but think of the number of Jewish women who have also dedicated their lives to healthcare activism. The passage of the healthcare reform bill is a tribute to their legacy as well. Here are some of the women we honor today, some of whom you will recognize, and others you may not. If you can think of other Jewish women who should be on this list, please add them in the comments!

  • Margaret Gene Arnstein (1904-1972) Renowned for her work in public health, Arnstein also advanced nursing education and research. Learn more >>
  • Sarah Bavly (1900-1993) Sarah Bavly played a major role both in establishing nutritional services and, even more significantly, in developing nutrition education as a recognized and respected academic discipline. Learn more >>
  • Heather Booth Active in the women's movement, founding the first campus women's movement organization in 1965 and beginning JANE, one of the country's first abortion counseling services. She has organized for childcare, health care, and women's rights in many arenas. Learn more >>
  • Naomi Deutsch (1890-1983) A leader in the field of public health nursing. Learn more >>
  • Eve Ensler Obie-Award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues, a play based on Ensler’s interviews with more than 200 women. With humor and grace, the piece celebrates women’s sexuality and strength. Learn more >>
  • Amelia Greenwald (1881-1966) As an international public health nurse during World War I and between the wars, Amelia Greenwald was a leader in the field of public health. Learn more >>
  • Nancy Miriam Hawley Founder of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Inc., the organization responsible for writing the best seller Our Bodies, Ourselves. Learn more >>
  • Regina Kaplan (1887-1957) “Woman of valor” and “a tiny dynamo”—these phrases describe Regina Kaplan (nicknamed Kappy), nurse, teacher, hospital administrator, and health care innovator. Learn more >>
  • Nita M. Lowey (b. 1937) As cochair of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey made women’s health issues a priority. Learn more >>
  • Bessie Louise Moses (1893-1965) Gynecologist, professor, and family planning pioneer, Bessie Louise Moses spent a long professional life as a public health advocate and women’s health specialist. Learn more >>
  • Sophie Rabinoff (1889-1957) A pediatrician and professor of medicine whose innovative work helped to establish the fields of public health and preventive medicine in the United States and Palestine. Learn more >>
  • Esther Rome A coauthor of Our Bodies, Ourselves, a classic women’s resource book, Esther Rome came of age with the onset of the modern feminist movement and was a leader in shaping modern American notions of self-help and advocacy for women’s physical and mental health. Learn more >>
  • Rachel Skidelsky As a doctor and reformer at the turn of the century, she strove to improve the moral and health conditions of Jewish immigrants in South Philadelphia through improving their environment. Learn more >>
  • Lillian Laser Strauss Performed pioneering work in public health and child welfare in Pennsylvania. Learn more >>
  • Lillian Wald Dedicated to providing health care, education and social services to the poor and immigrant members of her Henry Street Settlement, and beyond. Learn more >>
  • Eva Salber Devoted her life to working on behalf of the world’s poor and oppressed people. As a physician, she promoted the health of poor communities by empowering patients and populations. Learn more >>
  • Barbara Seaman Advocated for informed consent, warning labels, and other ways to give women control over their own healthcare. A pioneer in women's health. Learn more >>

For an overview of Jewish women in American feminist health activism, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

Topics: Medicine
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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "The women honored by the passage of healthcare reform." 22 March 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 13, 2024) <>.