Ellen Chesler

Ellen Chesler is a senior fellow at The Open Society Institute, the international foundation founded by George Soros. From 1997 through 2004, she directed the foundation’s $35 million program in reproductive health and rights and now advises on a range of other grant making and policy development concerns. She is the author of the highly-regarded Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, for which she was awarded PEN’s 1993 Martha Albrand citation for the year’s best first work of non-fiction, and she is co-editor of Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality and Women in the New Millennium (2005). From 1997 to 2003, she chaired the board of the International Women’s Health Coalition. She now chairs the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, and also serves on the board of the Planned Parenthood Foundation. Early in her career she served as chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, the first woman ever elected to serve in a citywide office in New York. An honors graduate of Vassar College, Chesler earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in history at Columbia University.

Articles by this author

Lena Levine

Lena Levine was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 17, 1903, the youngest of seven children of Sophie and Morris Levine, Jewish emigrants from Vilna, Lithuania. Educated at Girls High School in Brooklyn, Hunter College, and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Levine graduated in 1927, married fellow student Louis Ferber, and established a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Brooklyn. A daughter, Ellen Louise, was born in 1939, followed three years later by a son, Michael Allen, who developed viral encephalitis in infancy and was left severely retarded. Tragedy struck again in 1943 when Louis Ferber died of a heart attack.

Birth Control Movement in the United States

The dedicated commitment of great numbers of American Jewish women to their country’s long and controversial crusade to legalize birth control had its origins in 1912, when the movement’s formidable pioneer Margaret Sanger—baptized a Catholic, and married to a Jew, but by then calling herself a socialist—was working part-time as a visiting nurse in the immigrant districts of New York City’s Lower East Side.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ellen Chesler." (Viewed on April 19, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/author/chesler-ellen>.


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