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.
When the large cities of the plain of Jordan are destroyed because of their people’s lack of discernment of good and bad, Lot’s wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt.
Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson, is included among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], 474) and among the twenty-two worthy women in the world (Gen. Rabbati, Hayyei Sarah, 100–101).
Wifebeating is found in all cultures, because women’s status is usually lower than men’s and wives are expected to perform specific tasks to serve their husbands.
The body is omnipresent in the work of Hannah Wilke. Her typically nude body and its self-representation became the vehicle by which Wilke exposed personal, political, and linguistic themes. Like the work of her feminist peers of the 1970s, Wilke’s art has often been oversimplified by critics, yet it continues to influence the complex art of postmodern artists today.
Pearl Willen was a social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.
She filled the next fifty years participating in local Jewish community groups. Wimpfheimer was a member of many other New York benevolent societies including the New York Guild for the Blind, the Amelia Relief Society, the Montefiore Home, and the Godmothers’ League.
Belle Winestine is best remembered as Jeannette Rankin’s legislative assistant, though she served in this capacity for only one year (1916–1917). Nonetheless, her work with Rankin served as an important apprenticeship that created a lasting friendship, profoundly influenced her understanding of the legislative process, and solidified what became her lifelong commitment to reform. For over seventy years, she devoted time, money, and energy to support and enforce legislation pertaining to women’s rights and children’s issues.
Maria Winetzkaja was a renowned opera singer, whose international career spanned twenty years.
Author Thyra Samter Winslow’s sketches of women’s lives reflect her combined feelings of fondness for and restless impatience with small-town life, and later her attraction to the big city.
Shelley Winters’s acting career ranged from a fairy in a local pageant at age four to the eccentric Grandma Harris on television’s Roseanne. She performed in over one hundred movies, fifty stage plays and countless television programs, and won two Academy Awards and an Emmy.
Rachel Wischnitzer was a pioneer in the fields of Jewish art history and synagogue architecture. Her wide-ranging scholarship included books, articles, book reviews, and exhibition catalogs on ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish art.
The second of two “wise women” portrayed in 2 Samuel lived in a fortified city in northern Israel. More straightforwardly than the story of the wise woman of Tekoa (2 Samuel 14), this narrative depicts what must have been typical leadership activities of a woman in this accepted position against the larger political tensions of David’s reign.
The Rabbis praise the wisdom of the woman from Abel-Beth-Maacah, to whom they attribute rhetorical skill, persuasiveness and knowledge of the Torah and its laws. Their esteem is evident in the fact that the Rabbis expound almost every word that she uttered and ascribe significance to her statements far beyond what the Bible relates. The midrash applies to her the verse (Prov. 31:26): “Her mouth is full of wisdom,” since she saved the entire city with her wisdom (Midrash Eshet Hayil, Batei Midrashot, vol. 2).
Tekoa—a Judean hill country village ten miles south of Jerusalem—was home to one of two women designated as “wise,” both appearing in 2 Samuel.
Philanthropist and charity worker Louise Waterman Wise was likely the first American Jewish Woman to be awarded the Order of the British Empire, the equivalent of a knighthood. She was, without doubt, the first to decline the honor. How an ardent Zionist and outspoken critic of Britain’s “ruthless conduct” with respect to Jewish settlement in Palestine could, nevertheless, perform such outstanding service to the British people as to merit official praise, is just one aspect of the “legend of Louise.”
One of Canada’s most highly regarded writers of the second half of the twentieth century, Wiseman was born in Winnipeg to Pesach (1894–1978) and Chaika (née Rosenberg, 1896–1980) Waisman (later Wiseman).
A review of WIZO’s achievements and contribution to building Israeli society reveals the number of areas in which the organization has been involved throughout its existence, investing great effort in them according to society’s changing needs: the status of women; child care from infancy to adolescence; care of the elderly; community work and immigrant absorption. Overall, the organization’s major activity is directed toward improving the status of women in all areas—family, work, society, political life and legal matters. A survey of women’s advancement in the country reveals the enormous changes that occurred and, together with them, flexibility and change within the organization in order to advance women in a more clearly feminist manner.
All WIZO’s activities have one thing in common: aid to immigrant women. The special needs of each wave of immigration and the economic situation of each period dictated the respective nature of actual activity. WIZO was characterized by a pioneering spirit, aspiring to create a civil society (i.e. the transfer of responsibility for certain areas to government institutions) and effective organization. In all these, it has been extremely successful. WIZO’s standing as a worldwide organization, combined with the focus of individual communities on specific projects, provided financial resources for its programs.
Of the approximately eighty women who were instrumental in opening up the legal profession for women in the United States, Frances Wolf was the first Jewish woman in that very select group.
Sally Rivoli Wolf was a woman who took positive steps to advance her interests and talents. She joined the U.S. Navy during the World War I as soon as women were admitted, worked on newspapers when few women did, and spent many years as an active member and officer of three largely male veterans’ advocacy groups. She worked to promote veterans’ concerns, Jewish and American ideals, and women veterans’ place in history.
Martha Wolfenstein is today a forgotten figure in American Jewish literature, but critics of the late nineteenth century believed the young writer had great promise. Before her death at age thirty-six, she wrote with charm, learning and a distinctive woman's perspective.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on February 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/content/W>.