The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Harriet Lowenstein

December 7, 1879–September 30, 1961

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Harriet Lowenstein until we are able to commission a full entry.

Harriet B. Lowenstein in 1918.
Photo courtesy of the Archives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Harriet Lowenstein gave the Joint Distribution Committee its name and led many of the organization’s efforts to aid those trapped in Europe during both World Wars. Lowenstein graduated from Normal College (now Hunter College) in 1896 and briefly worked as a teacher and inspector of playgrounds for the New York City Board of Education, where she showed her creativity by proposing to fence in school rooftops for play areas. She earned her law degree from St. Lawrence University in 1905 and her CPA degree from the New York School of Accountants in 1906, becoming the first person to earn a perfect score on the CPA exam. In 1914, she became comptroller of the JDC and coined the organization’s name. She quickly created their Transmission Bureau, allowing people to send money to friends or family in war-torn Europe without paying a service fee. In 1919 she became executive secretary of the JDC and travelled to Europe to oversee volunteer efforts and supply distribution, creating the JDC’s Paris office herself. She returned to the US in 1921 and resumed her work as comptroller until her retirement in 1944, then served on the JDC’s board until her death.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Harriet Lowenstein." (Viewed on November 30, 2023) <>.


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