A champion of progressive causes, Alice Goldmark Brandeis was outspoken on behalf of woman suffrage, industrial reform, organized labor, the legal rights of children, and the fledgling American Zionist movement.
She was born in 1866 in Brooklyn to Viennese immigrants Dr. Joseph and Regina Goldmark. Alice and her three sisters and one brother were raised in New York City. She married attorney Louis D. Brandeis. The couple had two daughters, Susan (b. 1893), and Elizabeth (b. 1896).
The Brandeises moved to Boston, where Louis Brandeis’s legal activism soon gained him a reputation as “the people’s attorney,” and Alice Brandeis assumed an increasing role advising him on strategies for promoting progressive causes.
After Louis was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1916, the Brandeises moved to Washington, D.C., where their home became a gathering place for liberal politicians and intellectuals. Despite their prominence, the Brandeises maintained a notoriously modest life-style; the Zionist leader and Chicago judge Julian Mack once joked that meals at the Brandeis home were so sparing that guests knew they should eat before and after each visit.
Alice Brandeis was not one to shy away from a controversial cause: She assisted in the campaign on behalf of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and embraced the third-party presidential campaign of Robert La Follette (1924). During World War II, Brandeis stirred some controversy by associating herself with militant critics of American policy toward European Jewry and Palestine.
Alice Brandeis died on October 11, 1945.
AJYB, 48:485; Mason, Alpheus Thomas. Brandeis: A Free Man’s Life (1946); Obituary. NYTimes, October 13, 1945, 15:3; Strum, Philippa. Louis D. Brandeis: Justice for the People (1984); Urofsky, Melvin I. Louis D. Brandeis and the Progressive Tradition (1981).
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Medoff, Rafael. "Alice Goldmark Brandeis." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 8, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/brandeis-alice-goldmark>.