You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

JWA - Queen Esther: A Purim Heroine

"Esther y Mardoqueo escribiendo la primera carta del Purim" by Aert de Gelder
Full image

"Esther y Mardoqueo escribiendo la primera carta del Purim," by Aert de Gelder (1645–1727).

Image Source: Wikimedia.

Esther, a young Jewish woman who becomes a Persian queen, is an unusual biblical heroine. Initially a passive and obedient girl, she follows the instruction of Mordecai, her cousin/adopted father, hiding her Jewish identity and joining King Ahaseurus' harem, where her beauty and docility make her a favorite with the king. When Mordecai informs her of a genodical plot against the Jews by Haman, the king's evil vizier, at first she refuses to intervene, demurring that she is forbidden from approaching the king without invitation.

This crisis transforms Esther from a docile girl into a courageous leader. Taking charge of Mordecai's effort to stop Haman, she devises a risky plan that uses her beauty, charm, and political astuteness to save her people. In doing so, she reveals her true identity as both a Jew and a woman of action, and shows us how even people on the margins can marshall their talent, strength, and wit to change the course of history.

Many other historical and modern Esthers carry on the queen's legacy of courage, resourcefulness, and activism. Discover the contributions of the Esthers below. Tell us about other Esthers whom we should celebrate on Purim—and every day.

Esther Brandeau: French Canada's first Jewish resident

Esther M. Broner: Novelist, playwright, ritualist, and feminist writer

Esther Eggleston: The first female executive administrator of Temple de Hirsch Sinai, Narrator for Weaving Women's Words: Seattle

Esther G. Gottesman: Zionist who played an important role in acquiring the Dead Sea Scrolls for Israel

Esther Hautzig: Children's writer

Esther Kasle Jones: Jewish communal activist, life-long mentor

Esther Kustanowitz: Writer, consultant, Jewish communal professional, social media maven

Estée Lauder (born Josephine Esther Mentzer): Founder of Estée Lauder Cosmetics, philanthropist

Esther Lederer, aka "Ann Landers": Famous advice columnist

Esther Raab: Israel's first "native" woman poet

Esther Rome: Health activist, writer, co-author of Our Bodies Ourselves.

Esther Ruskay: Writer and speaker

Esther Shumiatcher-Hirschbein: Poet and essayist

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Queen Esther: A Purim Heroine." (Viewed on January 18, 2017) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews


Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs