Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen’s term as president of the National Council of Jewish Women from 1963–1967 capped a long career of community organizing from the local to the international level. Willen began as a caseworker for New York’s Foster Home Bureau in 1927 and field organizer for the Parent Education Council in Westchester. After earning an MA from Columbia in 1935, Willen helped organize the Southern School for Workers, which promoted literacy among union workers, and chaired the Southern Camp of Pioneer Youth, a camp for workers’ children. Believing that local participation in government was essential to New York’s success, she became deeply involved in the American Liberal Party as chair of their women’s division and vice chair of their State Administrative Committee, and ran for City Council in 1943. In 1951 she visited West Germany to study organizational life there for the State Department. She also served on numerous prestigious boards, including Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the American Red Cross. She led the International Council of Jewish Women for three years and travelled throughout Europe, Asia, and South America training Jewish women in leadership skills. She died unexpectedly in a car accident while on safari in Africa.


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Pearl Willen.
Courtesy of a private collection.
Date of Birth

Chicago, IL
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Pearl Willen." (Viewed on May 17, 2021) <>.


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