The Encyclopedia features over 1,700 biographies, 300 thematic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations on a wide range of Jewish women through the centuries -- from Gertrude Berg to Gertrude Stein; Hannah Greenebaum Solomon to Hannah Arendt; the Biblical Ruth to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The midrash hardly mentions Maacah daughter of Abishalom, nor does it seek to shed light on her lineage, which is unclear in the Bible. Maacah is mentioned by the Rabbis as the mother of Asa. Most of the midrashic attention is devoted to her singular pagan worship of Asherah, which the Bible (I Kings 15:13) calls a “miflezet [an abominable thing]”: “He also deposed his mother Maacah from the rank of queen mother, because she had made an abominable thing for [the goddess] Asherah. Asa cut down her abominable thing [miflaztah] and burned it in the Wadi Kidron.” The word miflezet is derived from the root plz, meaning trembling, fear. In the verse in Kings, this is a derogatory term for such an object of idolatrous worship. The associative meaning is that the God-fearing were overcome by trembling and disgust when they saw people engaging in the cult of Asherah.
Maacah, the daughter of King Talmi of Geshur, was married to King David and bore him his son Absalom. In the midrashic account, David saw Maacah when he went forth to war; he desired her and he took her as an eshet yefat to’ar (Tanhuma [ed. Buber], Ki Teze 1)—a non-Jewish woman taken captive during wartime and who is desired by her Israelite captor, who wants to marry her. He may do so under the conditions that are specified in Deut. 21:10–14. The woman must first shave her hair and pare her nails, then wear mourning clothing and lament for her parents’ home for a month. Only after all these steps is her captor permitted to take her as his wife. The Rabbis did not look favorably on the man who took an eshet yefat to’ar for himself; they say that the disfigurement of the shaving of her hair was meant to make her repulsive to her captor (BT Yevamot 48a).
The regnal formula of Asa, king of Judah from 908 to 867 b.c.e., claims that his mother is Maacah the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kgs 15:10). This is problematic because the same woman is alleged to be the mother of Asa’s father, Abijah/Abijam (1 Kgs 15:2). An alternative tradition, calling Abijah’s mother Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, is most likely an attempted harmonization of this difficulty (2 Chr 13:2).
Madame d’Ora’s vibrant portraits of twentieth-century artists and intellectuals remain important testaments to European cultural life at the turn of the century and beyond. Not only did her high quality photographs of well-known figures such as Josephine Baker (1906–1975), Karl Kraus (1874–1936), Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931) and Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) receive international acclaim, but her studios in Vienna and Paris also became fashionable meeting places for the cultural and intellectual elite. D’Ora’s achievements also paved the way for other European women’s careers in photography, an area in which many Jewish women in particular found success.
Energetic, stubborn, with an outstanding intuition for business—this was Mary Ann Cohen Magnin, the founder of I. Magnin and Company. Until her death at age ninety-four, Magnin took an active interest in the stores, which specialize in exclusive women’s clothes. Mary Ann Cohen, the daughter of a rabbi, was born in Scheveningen, Holland, in 1850. She immigrated with her parents to London, England. On October 8, 1865, in the Great Synagogue in London, she married Isaac Magnin, born in Assen, Holland, in 1842, a carver and gilder. They had eight children: Samuel, Henrietta, Joseph, Emanuel John, Victor, Lucille, Flora, and Grover.
The Rabbis identify Mahalath with Basemath (based on the exchange of names between Gen. 28:9 and 36:3; cf. “Esau’s Wives”). Some of the Rabbis maintain Esau’s marriage to Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael reflected his desire to repent of his evil deeds and act in accordance with the wishes of his parents Isaac and Rebekah for a proper mate (JT Bikkurim 3:3, 65c–d). Mahalath’s name indicates that the Holy One, blessed be He, pardoned (mahal) Esau for all his wickedness. Her other name, Basemath, also teaches that by this marriage Esau’s character improved (nitbasmah; Gen. Rabbah 67:13).
Margaret Schönberger Mahler, a pioneering child analyst, began her career in Vienna but made her most important discoveries in the United States. She became a leading authority on the mother-child relationship and the separation-individuation process, which she examined in her best-known work, The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant.
One of the “spiritual mothers” and historians of Jewish feminism in Israel, Ada Maimon was a teacher by profession and a member of Ha-Po’el ha-Za’ir from 1913 to 1920. She was also one of the founders of Mo’ezet Ha-Po’alot, the General Council of Women Workers in Israel, and its secretary-general from its founding in 1921 to 1926. When she completed her term of office she founded Ayanot, a women’s farm near Nes Ziyyonah. With the establishment of the state, she served as a Mapai party member of the first and second Knessets and was responsible for the legislation of various laws related to women’s equality. Her public activity, together with her role as historian of the feminist movement in Israel, were part of a long, determined struggle on behalf of Jewish women in Israeli society and, even more pronouncedly, in the Jewish religion. This struggle led to frequent conflicts between Maimon and the leaders of the Histadrut and the Labor Party, as well as to arguments with representatives of the religious parties and the Israeli Orthodox establishment.
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Rambam) was born in Cordova, Spain in 1138 and died in Fostat (old Cairo), Egypt in 1204. During his lifetime he traveled with his family from Spain to Fez, Morocco, where he studied medicine and practiced as a physician, and from there to Erez Israel, finally settling in Egypt, where he became the leader of the community. Maimonides’s vast legal and philosophical writings touch on many topics related to women and their status. Some of his restrictive and negative attitudes seem deeply influenced by the surrounding Muslim culture and women’s socio-economic status within that society. However, his strong philosophical rationalist belief system enabled him also to see women as beings with spiritual potential and at times motivated him to defend and improve their legal rights.
“Duty is pleasure,” wrote the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). Selma Mair (Schwester Selma), who laid the foundations of nursing at Sha’arei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, lived accordingly. A short, dynamic woman, she lived and worked at Sha’arei Zedek for sixty-eight years until her death at age 100 on February 5, 1984.
Hannah Maisel was born on December 12, 1883 to an affluent family in the city of Grodno (Horodno, Belarus). Her father, Yitzchak Maisel, an exporter of wheat and furs to western Europe, emigrated to Palestine after World War I and died c. 1936–1937. Her mother, Reizel, a homemaker, died in 1927. Hannah was the fifth of their twelve children and the fourth daughter. Eight of the children ultimately emigrated to Palestine. One daughter, Rachel, committed suicide in Jaffa in 1910. Leah, who married on the same day as Hannah, was a teacher in Safed. She became one of the founders of the Hebrew Women’s Organization (Histadrut Nashim Ivriyyot) and later treasurer of Wizo. She was also a candidate for the Knesset. Others who came to Palestine were David Misha Baruch, Liza and Dora. The latter committed suicide after losing two children in World War I. Sarah, who went to Switzerland to study medicine, also committed suicide. Two brothers, Gershon and Motke, emigrated to the United States, where Hannah visited them in the 1950s.
Personifying the 1960s countercultural challenge to traditionalism, self-proclaimed anarchist and pacifist Judith Malina once likened herself to a biblical prophet, railing at but never dissociating herself from her people. Founder, with Julian Beck, of the experimental Living Theatre, she aimed at dissolving the separation between actor and character, cast and audience, art and politics.
Sarah Malkhin, one of the first women agricultural laborers of the Second Aliyah (1904–1914), died at the age of sixty-four in the first year of the State of Israel. Since she had been ill for many years, she was not even aware of the dramatic events transpiring all around her. Her death prompted many veteran Israelis to recall the achievements of the small group of trailblazing female laborers of the Second Aliyah, who had faced immense opposition and challenges in their lifetimes and whose influence would be felt only many years later.
Theresa Malkiel was an activist for labor, women’s rights, and especially socialism. In one of her many published articles, she wrote, “The socialist regime [is] the only true exponent of complete equality and political economic independence.” Theresa Serber Malkiel, one of four daughters, was born on May 1, 1874, in Bar, Russia. The Serber family immigrated to New York in 1891, and although she had been educated, Theresa worked in a garment factory. Within three years, she helped to found the Infant Cloak Makers’ Union.
During her long and active life Clara Malraux was motivated principally by her feminist convictions and by her growing awareness of herself as a Jew. In her youth she struggled to escape the stifling role assigned to women of the bourgeoisie, to become a participant in life rather than a spectator. Her determination to create a meaningful and engaged life for herself caused her to reject the role of a conventional wife. After the failure of her attempt to forge an egalitarian marriage, she succeeded in making a life for herself by playing an active role in the French Resistance during World War II, going on to a successful career as a writer and activist after the war. In her middle years, her experiences during the war forced her to confront her identity as a Jew. In her essay on the German-Jewish intellectual and salonnière Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Malraux saw these two concerns as intimately linked. “Respect for women and respect for Jews go hand in hand,” she wrote. Born into the assimilated haute bourgeoisie, with little knowledge of Judaism and little identification with Jews, her experiences as a Jewish single mother of an ailing child during the war transformed her into a passionate defender of Israel often in conflict with other left-wing intellectuals.
Lane Bryant Malsin was a fashion entrepreneur and pioneer in the best sense of the word, long before Donna Karan or Liz Claiborne. She pioneered niche marketing and mail-order merchandising, as well as innovative work practices and progressive advertising.
Judith Pinta Mandelbaum was an important part of the Mizrachi Women’s Organization of America (American Mizrachi Women) from the 1930s until shortly before her death in 1977, by which time the organization was known as Amit. She also achieved professional acclaim as an outstanding teacher and is remembered fondly as a woman with a wonderful sense of humor and a rich family life.
The daughter of Jonas and Charlotte (Goldscheider) Adler, Emma Adler Mandl was born on December 16, 1842, in Pilsen, Bohemia. At the time of her death in 1928, she was survived by a brother, George. It is unknown whether she had any other siblings. She was educated in Pilsen and immigrated to the United States with her family at age fifteen. During the last sixty-nine years of her life, she lived in Chicago. She married Bernhard Mandl on November 26, 1865; they had two children, Sidney (b. 1868) and Etta (Mrs. Sol Klein) (b. 1870).
Though Rosa Manus was one of the leading Dutch feminists before World War II, her memory has since been overshadowed by more famous contemporaries such as Aletta Jacobs. The fact that her life was also interwoven with pacifism, the struggle against fascism and the decline of Dutch Jewry, has largely been forgotten. More than other feminists, Rosa Manus suffered from the difficult position in which Jews were placed following the rise of fascism in Germany, when many women’s organizations were anxious to avoid being perceived as too Jewish. Carrie Chapman Catt, who regarded her as a pupil, assistant and adopted daughter, remembered her as one of the first to die for “the cause,” ignoring the fact that Rosa Manus had been arrested for her pacifist activities and deported as a Jew. And although her name appears on the memorial to those who died in Ravensbrück, there are several witnesses who testify to her having been taken, gravely ill, to Auschwitz.
Gill Marcus, who never married, was born in Johannesburg in 1949. Her grandparents were from Lithuania but her parents, Molly and Nathan, were born in South Africa. Both her parents were members of the South African Communist Party and from an early age Gill was made aware of the iniquities of apartheid; the Marcus home, open to people across the color line, was very different from that of the average white South African household.
A logician and philosopher who made pioneering contributions to modal logic and metaphysics, Ruth Barcan Marcus has for almost fifty years been a key figure in philosophical debates. Early in her career, she proposed the widely discussed Barcan formula, a postulate in quantified modal logic. Her later work includes influential papers in the philosophy of logic and language, epistemology, and ethics. A widely lauded collection of her essays, Modalities, was published in 1993.
Regina Margareten was known as the “Matza Queen” and the “matriarch of the kosher food industry,” according to her obituary in the New York Times. Born in Balbona (Miskolcz), Hungary, on December 20 or 25, 1863, she came to America as a young bride in 1883, with her husband, Ignatz Margareten, and her parents, Jacob and Mirel Chayah (Mary) (Brunner) Horowitz. Regina, also known as Rebush and as Hannah Rivka, was the Horowitzes’ third child and second daughter.
Rosa Lebensboim, better known by her pen name of Anna Margolin, is regarded by literary critics as one of the finest early twentieth-century Yiddish poets in America. Her poetry, translated by Adrienne Rich, Kathryn Hellerstein, and Marcia Falk, among others, appears in many Yiddish poetry anthologies in English. Captivating, temperamental, and intellectually gifted, Anna Margolin influenced the work of several major writers and thinkers of her time.
Mariamme was the daughter of Alexander, Aristobulus II’s son, and Alexandra, Hyrcanus II’s daughter. Her grandfathers were the two rival Hasmoneans who invited Rome to intervene in Judaean internal affairs and eventually brought about the downfall of the Hasmonean kingdom. Abraham Schalit calculates that her father and mother could have been married only between 55 and 49 B.C.E., after Alexander’s revolt against Rome was crushed and before his own execution at the hands of the Romans (Ant. 14:125). She was thus probably born in 54 B.C.E.
Fania Marinoff was associated with one of the most vibrant artistic circles in the United States and Europe. She numbered among her friends writers such as Gertrude Stein, playwrights such as Eugene O’Neill, and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe. Fania Marinoff and her husband, Carl Van Vechten, played a prominent role in the bohemian social and artistic life of New York, particularly of the Harlem Renaissance.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on January 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/content/M>.