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Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

How did Queen Esther and Bella Abzug make change in their communities? What can their stories teach us about costumes and gender? In this online learning program, we examined how the biblical figure Esther and the historical figure Bella Abzug fought for justice and liberation by adopting personas that helped them to achieve their goals. Watch the recording to see examples of how to use the stories of these women in your classrooms as you prepare for Purim.

Session Recording

View the recording to listen in on our discussion on Purim, costumes, and gender and to see modeled close readings of primary sources.

Session Materials and Handouts

Lesson Links

Related Resources from the Jewish Women’s Archive

Abzug, Esther, and Purim elsewhere on the web

Ideas for expanding this lesson plan

  • Marilyn Heiss and Lynn Anne Cutler both observed that this lesson would tie in well to discussions about the strict guidelines in the Torah for how high priests must dress, suggesting that it may help students better understand the relationship between how one dresses and one's role in society.
  • Naomi Sandberg reminded us that Esther changed her name from the Hebrew “Hadassah” to the decidedly Persian “Esther.” On the other hand, Bess Myerson, the first Jewish woman to win Miss America, made the conscious decision to keep her Jewish name even after being told she’d likely be more successful if she did so. This could lead to another lesson on the relationship between names and identity.
Bella Abzug at a New York Press Conference, 1972, by Diana Mara Henry
Full image

Bella Abzug at a New York press conference in 1972.

Copyright © Diana Mara Henry,

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <>.


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