Born in Latvia before immigrating to Baltimore as a child, Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca was one of America’s most remarkable women’s labor leaders. An outstanding union organizer and a captivating speaker, Bellanca understood the problems of the working class—people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds—and sought to improve conditions for workers.
Aline Bernstein was one of the first theatrical designers in New York to make sets and costumes entirely from scratch and craft moving sets. She designed sets for the Theatre Guild and various independent producers, winning numerous awards for her work, including a Tony for costume design for Regina in 1949. She later founded the Costume Museum and began writing fiction.
Jewish women played leading roles in the formative years of the General Jewish Workers’ Bund, which was established in the Tsarist Empire in 1897, and initially participated in the movement in large numbers. However, the Bund had somewhat less success in mobilizing women in independent Poland between the two world wars than it had during the Tsarist era.
Ambivalent about Judaism, passionately Marxist, charismatic, and courageous, Rose Chernin devoted a great deal of her life to securing the rights of disenfranchised citizens: the unemployed of the Depression, farm workers without a union, Black home buyers thwarted by redlining, and other foreign-born leftists, like herself, who faced deportation in the 1950s.
Fannia M. Cohn was one of the leading Jewish women trade union activists in the United States. Drawing on her Russian Jewish cultural traditions, she pioneered the development of educational programs within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).
Esther Dischereit, a German-Jewish writer living in Berlin, speaks for the second and third generation of children of Holocaust survivors. Her prolific production covers all genres, including prose, poetry, sound installations, and concept art. She uses her many talents to fight anti-semitism and racism and to give a voice to the persecuted and forgotten.
Forty-four percent of the approximately two million Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1886 and 1914 were women. Although these women were more politically active and autonomous than other immigrant women, dire economic circumstances constricted their lives. The hopes these immigrant women harbored for themselves were often transferred to the younger generation.
Sandra Feldman dedicated her career to protecting the rights of educators as the first woman president of both New York City’s Union Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Mary Fels used her wealth and her talents to further the Zionist cause, arguing passionately for a Jewish state and helping create both settlements and industry in Israel. Both Fels and her husband, a successful soap manufacturer, felt their wealth gave them a responsibility to reform capitalism and use their money for philanthropy.
Through her writing, Ruth Glazer Gay captured an engaging view of the Jewish community, both past and present. As a writer, journalist, and archivist, she demonstrated throughout her life the possibility of having an intellectually vibrant career while still accommodating marriage and motherhood.
Ray Harmel was a powerful force in the trade union movement in Apartheid South Africa, a committed Communist, an anti-Apartheid activist, and ultimately a member of the African National Congress.
The International Ladies Garment Workers Union was founded in 1900 by eleven Jewish men who represented seven local East Coast unions with heavy Jewish immigrant populations. Initially excluded from the union, women began organizing and eventually developed bargaining power after the Uprising of the 20,000 in 1909.
Jewish American women have played a central role in the American labor movement since the beginning of the twentieth century. As women, they brought to trade unions their sensibilities about the organizing process and encouraged labor to support government regulation to protect women in the workforce.
Like Jewish women everywhere, Dutch Jewish women struggled with issues of assimilation, emancipation, and equality as both Jews and women. This article summarizes the conditions and challenges facing Jewish women in the Netherlands and the paths to progress and change they sought—education, work, activism, and literature, among others—from the nineteenth century to the present, including after the particular decimation of Dutch Jewry during the Holocaust.
Pauline Newman played an essential role in galvanizing the early twentieth-century tenant, labor, socialist, and working-class suffrage movements. The first woman ever appointed general organizer by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Newman continued to work for the ILGWU for more than seventy years—first as an organizer, then as a labor journalist, a health educator, and a liaison between the union and government officials.
Rose Pesotta was an iconic labor organizer and president of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in the early twentieth century. Pesotta saw her union organizing as an opportunity to fulfill the anarchist mandate “to be among the people and teach them our ideal in practice.”
As Chief Women’s Officer of the Labour Party, Marion Phillips was one of the most important figures in the campaign to free women from domestic drudgery at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her work brought a quarter of a million women into the Labour Party.
Hortense Powdermaker explored the balance of involvement and detachment necessary for participant-observer fieldwork in cultural anthropology, stressing the ability to “step in and out of society.” Her secular Jewish identity was apparently a factor in learning this skill, exemplified in an academic career that included thirty years of college teaching and the writing of five major books based on widely diverse fieldwork studies.
Born in Silesia, Eva Gabriele Reichmann studied economics in Germany and, after fleeing the Nazis, in London. A prolific writer, especially after her retirement in 1959, Reichmann focused mainly on Judaism and the social history of German Jewry. She was awarded several medals for her contributions to democracy, freedom, and tolerance and died at the age of 101.