Abigail, the intelligent and beautiful wife of the wealthy but boorish Nabal, intervenes to prevent David from committing a bloodbath and eventually becomes one of David’s wives (1 Samuel 25). She prophesies that David will establish a dynasty, but neither she nor her son play a role in future struggles over rule or succession.
Abishag is an unspeaking Bible character involved in the story of the power struggle between King David’s sons. She is used as a tool to move along the plot concerning Solomon and Adonijah; her story conveys the importance of male honor, as Solomon asserts his right to determine the sexual fates of the female members of his household.
Achsah is the daughter of Caleb. She succeeds in gaining some of her family’s land and water resources, which were normally not available to women in ancient Israel’s patrilineal system. Nevertheless, she remains vulnerable within the patriarchal system.
The daughter of Caleb, Achsah is depicted in rabbinic tradition as both beautiful and practical.
The Hebrew Bible character Adah appears in Genesis and is one of the two wives of Lamech. Her sons are in the seventh generation of naturally born human beings, and they are the founders of the civilized arts.
The Hebrew Bible character Adah appears in Genesis 36 and is the daughter of Elon the Hittite and the wife of Esau. Her character demonstrates the importance of women and marriage in understanding kinship groups in the Book of Genesis.
Ahinoam is a Hebrew Bible character appearing in the Book of Samuel as King David’s wife and mother of his eldest son, Amnom. Since Ahinoam’s name usually precedes the name of David’s other wife Abigail, it is suggested that the name order signifies Ahinoam’s elevated status as the mother of David’s firstborn son.
Anda Pinkerfeld-Amir was a Zionist poet, and author whose works reflected the tension between Judaism and feminism in the early twentieth century. In her youth, she was a member of Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir in Poland, and in 1920 she immigrated to Palestine to write Hebrew verse. She is best remembered as a children’s writer who tackled complex topics with humor and compassion.
Anath (Anat), a maiden/warrior goddess, is a prominent figure in the Canaanite mythological texts. Despite her prominence in the Ugaritic texts, she rarely appears in the Hebrew Bible. However, the naming structure used in references to Anath in the Bible indicates that she may have been honored among some Israelites.
For centuries, art has portrayed biblical women in ways that reflect society’s attitudes towards women and their role. Depictions of female biblical figures fluctuate according to historical and social perceptions. Jewish art often features heroic and worthy women who, through their courageous deeds, helped to triumph over Israel’s enemies.
The minor character Asenath, mentioned in the Bible as Joseph’s wife and mother of Manasseh and Ephraim, became the heroine of an ancient Jewish novel written between 100 BCE to 200 CE, likely in Egypt. In the text, the daughter of an Egyptian priest falls in love with Joseph, turns to the God of Israel, marries Joseph, and is saved by God and some of Joseph’s brothers from attack by Pharaoh’s son.
Asenath is mentioned in the Torah as “the daughter of Poti-phera,” an Egyptian priest. Whether she actually descended from the Egyptians or Israelites is a contested matter in the Rabbinic tradition.
Astarte is the Greek form of the name Ashtart, who, along with Asherah and Anath, was one of the three great goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon. Astarte is well known as a goddess of sexual love and fertility but also has associations with war.
Queen Athaliah lived in the ninth century B.C.E. and was the wife of Jehoram of Judah. After her son’s brief rule, she kills the remaining members of the dynasty and reigns for six years, when she is overthrown. She is viewed negatively in scripture, which describes her actions as wicked, and her ability to harness power is not mentioned.
Athaliah was one of the few women to rule Israel, which she did for six years. She was very powerful and is described as evil, as she radically changed traditional practices and executed almost all of the members of the Davidic lineage.
The Hebrew Bible tells six stories of barren women: three of the four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel); the unnamed wife of Manoah/mother of Samson; Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; and the Shunnamite woman, an acolyte of the prophet Elisha. Each woman suffers a period of infertility, in some cases exacerbated by the presence of a fertile, though less beloved, rival wife. Eventually, God intervenes and the woman conceives, but the beloved son is then dedicated back to God, either in service or in sacrifice.
Bathsheba is the married woman whom King David takes in adultery and who, though initially passive, becomes the pivotal figure in his downfall. The king has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, slain in battle and then takes her as a wife. While her first child, conceived in adultery, dies, the second, Solomon, becomes heir to the throne as a consequence of Bathsheba’s maneuverings.
As in the Bible, Bathsheba plays a secondary role in the midrashim about her husband, King David, and her son, King Solomon. The rabbis view her as a righteous, guiltless woman, both during David’s life and as an advisor to Solomon.
The Ben Ish-Hai, R. Joseph Hayyim b. Elijah, was a well-known Baghdadi Torah scholar. He wrote many responsa and halakhic books, which included his rulings on women’s halakhot.
Rayna Batya Berlin was a Lithuanian woman committed to religious study who argued that women should be able to study the Torah and the Talmud. The only source of her life was written by her nephew, who describes her frustration with her subjugated status in her community and how she generally suffered in silence.
Bilhah is given to Rachel as a maid and would later serve as a surrogate mother for Rachel when she could not conceive. Though the story records none of Bilhah’s thoughts or words, she gives birth to two of Jacob’s sons for Rachel, Dan and Naphtali, and is remembered as one of the ancestresses of the Israelites.
Bilhah was the maidservant of Rachel and mother of Dan and Naphtali. The rabbis fill in details about her life, her relationship with Jacob, and the confusing incident between Bilhah and Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son.
Katherine M. Cohen was a sculptor and artist dedicated to advocating for equality for women in the arts. Comfortably situated in the community of Philadelphia’s Jewish elite, Cohen created many commissions for the community reflecting Jewish themes and illustrated a Jewish children’s book. Cohen made a speech at the Chicago World’s Fair advocating for the support of artists, and specifically female artists.