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Founding of labor Zionist group Pioneer Women

February 1, 1925

Sophie Udin and six other women who had been active in the labor Zionist organization Poale Zion, created the Pioneer Women’s Organization of America on February 1, 1925. The organization was renamed Pioneer Women in 1947 and Na'amat (a Hebrew acronym for "Movement of Working Women and Volunteers") USA in 1981.

Udin and her colleagues had previously attempted to raise money from American women in support of the creation of agricultural schools in Palestine. The male leaders of Poale Zion argued that their organization offered women full equality and that there was no need for a separate women’s organization. The creators of Pioneer Women, however, pointed to Poale Zion’s small number of female members and its domination by male leaders. Moreover, the middle-class orientation of the rapidly expanding Hadassah, founded in 1912, made that organization seem less than welcoming to many immigrant, working-class, and Yiddish-speaking women Zionists. The creators of Pioneer Women believed that a women’s labor Zionist organization would engage immigrant and working women who might otherwise be unable to find a home for their Zionist energies.

Post 1948, the organization focused on helping female pioneers and working women in Israel, largely by raising money for necessities ranging from laundry equipment to wells for irrigating fruit trees. Feminism and class consciousness were also crucial components of the Pioneer Women philosophy. Its leaders stressed the importance of women's contributions to the Zionist enterprise and encouraged each member to become a "coworker in the establishment of a better and more just society in America and throughout the world."

Today, Na'amat works on a wide range of issues relevant to women in Israel, the U.S.A., and internationally, from seeking an end to domestic violence to improving workplace conditions, and from child well-being to peace in the Middle East.

To learn more about Sophie Udin, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1071-1077; www.naamat.org; Shulamit Reinharz and Mark A. Raider, eds. American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise (2005), pp. 114-132; www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/6033.htm.

1 Comment

There is a photo in our family's album of my grandmother, Etta Winkeller (1889-1987)at a luncheon or dinner meeting with 20 other women in a room where a Magen David is built into a high window. My mother identified the photo as a meeting of the Pioneer Women at the Jewish Community Center in Tuscon, Arizona. Your article helps me make understand its meaning since my grandmother was, indeed, a Yiddish-speaking immigrant. The photo must have been taken shortly after the organization began calling itself Pioneer Women since my grandmother does not appear to be older than her late 50s or early 60s. If there is someone working with you who could identify the date, some of the other women or anything else about the organization at that time, I'd be happy to send you a copy of the photo. Is there an e-mail I could use to attach the photo? Thanks for the good work. Miriam

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Founding of labor Zionist group Pioneer Women." (Viewed on April 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/feb/01/1925/sophie-udin>.

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